Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Unexpected

Much to my mom’s dismay, I used to take in homeless animals when I was young. They were irresistible to me, all forlorn and miserable. None were ugly, in my opinion. Cats especially were cute. It usually took a fair bit of begging and pleading to get a “Well, ok, but you’re going to be the one to feed it” out of my mom. I always readily agreed to the feeding part, but I must admit, it did get tedious after awhile.

One of my boldest and most memorable rescues was a big, black German Shepherd-looking dog. My parents were away on a trip when his need for a home came to my attention. Them being away made bringing him home all the easier. No immediate begging and pleading involved, just some explaining to be done later. I knew mom didn’t expect to come home to a big, black dog. And I didn’t really expect she’d let me keep him, either. But I was willing to try.

When they got home, she was "surprised", of course. And after some lengthy explaining, pleading, and promising on my part, she let me keep him. I guess you could say that we both got the unexpected. I was the happier of the two initially, but in time, I think she actually grew to like the dog too.

So what’s the moral to the story? Well, sometimes the unexpected turns out ok. Sometimes it’s ok right away, but sometimes you have to wait for that. (And maybe my mom will add a moral of her own in the comment section at the end of this post!)

It’s been an interesting week here in the bush.

Rick and Heather have officially left on furlough, although they will be in South Africa for several weeks while they work with the Canadian embassy on Tendai’s (their adopted daughter’s) visitor’s visa. There have been several unexpected bumps and delays, but we continue to trust with them for good to come of it.

I commented last week that Dwight would be gone and I planned to get LOTS of work done. Although I didn’t get to the tiling and painting, I did get other important things done.

Among these, I tackled organizing the school health curriculum visuals into folders and boxes, and now have revised lists of items I need to take to South Africa for scanning, printing, and laminating.

(9 units x approx 10 visuals/unit x 3 sets = quite a few pictures!)

I also followed up on getting school child sponsor letters organized to send back with Rick and Heather.

Now, this is a much bigger task than most realize. First, because our school kids don’t write the letters in their mother tongue but rather in Portuguese, Mozambique’s official language. So some fluency is lost there. Then staff members, whose first language is also something other than Portuguese or English, translate those letters from Portuguese to English. One of the staff who does some translating was trying to write with his left hand because his right arm is in a cast.

He did a great job, considering. But those letters then needed to be typed and edited so North American sponsors could read and understand them better. I love reading these letters though because they are so unique and they represent the realities, hopes, and dreams, of these young lives.

Oh yes, and we had an unexpected visitor this week.

Raimundo wasn’t very happy when he almost stepped on this Puff Adder lying in our yard yesterday. It was a warm day and the Puff Adder seemed to have come to cool off in the sprinkler. (Well, it’s a theory…) In contrast to last week’s snake, this one IS poisonous. He’s also beautiful.

Strikingly so, if you’ll forgive the pun.

And so wraps up another week. Yesterday, as I headed out on a walk at sunset, I expected to see the usual sights. Lots of orange sky,

green and red autumn leaves,

golden-brown field grass

and red dirt.

I saw all of those things plus a few unexpected surprises along the way too.

A Hornbill (Zazoo-bird, for those familiar with Disney's "The Lion King")

Several hornbills seem to have moved nearby to feast on the fruiting wild fig trees. To me, they are the clumsiest and most humorous of birds to watch.

I also saw a black and white butterfly in an otherwise colourful world.

Who would have thought?
God would, that's who :)

And last but not least,

A few forgotten relics in the bush which I retrieved and took home. I love old things like this because:

1. They can clean up and show off quite nicely.
2. They've stood the test of time, and that always challenges me.
3. I don't have to beg, plead or explain in order to keep them. I don't have to feed them either.

And that's ok with me.

Have a good weekend and ttyl.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A snake is a snake

Let me start by saying that I have this friend. I like him quite a bit, but, he’s grumpy and demanding. He’s always whining about something. Either his food isn’t tasty enough, or his bed isn’t soft enough, or whatever. He often snaps at people, too. You’d swear he gets up on the wrong side of the bed every single day.

Granted, he has his problems including a special mental condition that has never been officially diagnosed. He doesn’t hear or see so well either, and he’s losing his teeth. Poor buddy. He’s getting old. My friend is our little dog, Mushu.

So why do I like him? Well for one thing, he’s quite cute. This is when he was young.

He's aged a little, as you can see.

He’s also very protective and loyal. If he thinks anyone, in any way, is a threat to me (this includes making any quick moves or even walking in rubber boots behind me), he goes berserk. He shadows me night and day and is always game for a long end-of-day walk, even if I pause for 100 sunset photos.

August sky

He has a real attitude toward strange dogs and snakes, too.

(Snake track we came across on our walk.)

If he discovers either of these in his territory, he switches to attack mode. Now, attack mode is dangerous for him because when he goes there all logic, and apparently some of his remaining faculties, are suddenly lost.

1. He goes deaf (as in, save your breath, yelling won’t help).
2. He becomes oblivious to size (his moto: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.)
3. He is immune (in his mind) to snake venom or vicious bites from other dogs that actually have teeth.

This can be a problem, especially because we do have strange dogs or snakes coming by or through our yard off and on. So yesterday when some of the staff came to let me know there was a snake in our woodpile, my first move was to put Mushu behind closed doors. He wasn’t very happy about that. If there was a snake in our yard, he had business to do!

Guy at door: “Senhora, can you give me the snake spray please? There’s a snake in the woodpile.”

Me: “Snake spray?”

Guy: “Yeah, you know, that pesticide 'DOOM'.”

Me: “I’m not sure pesticide is going to kill a reptile…”

Guy: “Well, but it could scare him out from under the logs, right?”

Me: “Hmm, maybe. So let’s use something I don’t mind wasting. I have some mosquito repellent that smells so strong it makes me gag, let’s try that.”

So off we went, armed with a can of mosquito repellent, to hunt a snake. Two other guys awaited us by the woodpile. Guy #1 stepped up carefully and emptied about half the can of repellent into the woodpile. Nothing.

Guy #1: “We’re going to have to pull the wood off the pile, piece by piece, to find him.”

Thankfully, there wasn’t a lot of wood on the pile and they used a long iron rod to do the job.

Then suddenly, “There he is! There he is!”

Snake's tail.

Guy #1 managed to jab the snake with the iron rod on his first try.

“Got him!”

These guys have deadly aim. Had it been me with the rod, it would have been *poke* “agh, missed!” *poke again* “aagghh...missed again!” *pokepokepokewhapwhapwhap*.

When we were certain the snake was quite incapacitated, we stepped in for a closer look.

Me: “He doesn’t have belly stripes, does he? So he’s not a ‘cuspideira’ (spitting cobra).”

3 guys in unison. “No, he’s not a cuspideira.”

Me (checking his mouth with a stick after rinsing it with water--very funny thing to do, apparently): “His mouth isn’t black, so I don’t think he’s a black mamba either. Maybe he was a totally harmless snake.”

Guy #1 “But if you’re wrong, and you get bitten, things can go very badly. A snake is a snake, Senhora.” Other guys nod and express their agreement.

Had Mushu been there, he would have sided with them as well.

Otherwise in life this week, I took a run up to the mission school to check on several things including progress on the new health post that’s being built there.

We can’t wait til this building is ready!

Apparently, the school kids had been painting rocks.

That's quite the splash of color!

This coming week, Mushu and I are on our own here at the house since Dwight is on a trip north holding seminars.

Getting supplies ready is always quite the undertaking.

I plan to use the time to get caught up on my course and other work. I may even get around to tiling and painting where it’s still needed in the house.

And Mushu? Well, I’m sure he plans to be right here with me, keeping strangers at bay.

And going on walks with me

while I take an endless number of nature pictures.

Hopefully, there'll be no more snake incidents.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I saw something new in the sky this week as we flew Keren to Beira in the Cessna 182.
The day was a rather miserable one, all cold, cloudy and rainy. But there was sunshine above those clouds, so that’s where we headed as the small plane took off. At one point, where the clouds broke enough to let the sun shine down, we noticed a large 360 degree (round) rainbow in the sky below us. To me, ‘normal’ rainbows are semi-circular archways, the kind you see on the horizon after it rains. They’re half circles, not whole circles.

I did my best to get a shot of the round rainbow with the camera on my cell phone, but as you can see, didn’t come anywhere near to capturing it.

Edge of rainbow in the top left corner

Edge of rainbow in the bottom left corner

That’s all I have as proof. (Serves me right for leaving my trusty Panasonic at home ☹.)

I did find a fairly good shot online though, just so you have an idea of what it looked like:

Apparently, several conditions must be in place in order to see the full circle of the rainbow in the sky:

1. The sun must be shining.
2. The sun must be behind you.
3. There must be water drops in the air in front of you.
4. You have to look down on the drops. (You pretty much have to be in an airplane for that).

So if conditions are right, you can see the full circle (or, continuity). Simple, yet profound.

The day before Keren left, another young lady arrived to spend a few days with us. She got stuck into several jobs in the short time she was here, one being to help us finish coloring Keren's visual aids for the health curriculum (for primary schools). We made it a ladies' Saturday coffee time activity and got in a nice chat as well. No photos of that event, but here is the finished product.

Otherwise, this week has been busy with playing catch-up on a number of fronts, like sorting through used clothing for distribution, updating and introducing milk program and consultation forms for the health posts, checking in on some orphan homes, visiting with students who've popped by to chat, etc., etc. In all of it, I've been thinking about that rainbow and the element of continuity but in "people" terms, where someone does something which impacts someone else to do something which impacts somebody else. And it's very nice to see...sort of like seeing a full-circle rainbow :)

I'll close with that thought and a link to Dwight's blog since he's done a great job of relating some of the events of this past week.

Take care and ttyl.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hello and Goodbye

Something about this week reminded me of the book "Go Dog. Go!" by P. D. Eastman.

I read this book to my little brother many times as a child, and later, to my own kids as well. The story doesn't have much of a point, really. Basically, it is about dogs of all sizes, shapes, and colors,
coming and going, here and there,
and keeping very, very busy with work, play, and sleep (or not).

It seems they're on a journey to some mysterious place which, in the end, turns out to be a huge dog party. In a tree, no less.

So what made me think of this book? Well, maybe it was the hello's and goodbye's, the comings and goings, and the busyness around here last week.

Let me start with the week's first "hello's". On Sunday, we welcomed guests from the UK and from Mercy Air South Africa.

Chimoio airport

They only spent a few days with us, but it was a very busy few days for them! They visited the school,

and orphan homes.

They helped distribute food,

and got stuck into painting.

They visited many of the mission's sites, like the garden which supplies the school and orphan homes with vegetables.

They even attended a sick call with me. Here, Cathy Middleton (also a nurse), works with me to clean and dress a young man's 3rd degree burns. He was later taken to hospital.

It only seems fitting that their week ended with a party with the orphan kids. I'm not sure it was an official party, but there were balloons, games, and popcorn, so...close enough.

Oh, and there were a few other hello's as well.

Keren has been quite involved with this orphaned little one and his aunties who recently started on the milk/formula program. She brought him by the other day to say hello.

Hello also to the new thatched camp dining area/gazebo/machesa (whichever term you'd like :P). Isn't it beautiful?

Funds have come in to build a new school clinic which will be situated right beside the school. Here we are, choosing the site. Hello to more building!

And hello Mr. Green Mamba as well. He was hanging out in the litchi orchard which is not the litchi staff's preferred hang-out spot for biting/poisonous snakes. Too dangerous. Let's just say it was a short hello for him.

And last but not least, hello to the newest member of my growing stuffed animal collection (compliments to Keren's creativity). I'm pleased to tell you that I made this one, which means he's not exactly perfectly made! He has no name yet either. Suggestions are welcome, but none that pick out his defects...please. :)

Here's Keren teaching the ladies how to make these cute little animals so they can teach the school kids. The idea is that the this could be a project to help generate income needed to keep kids (specifically girls) in school longer.

This is Eunice's hippo in the making

Keren has been busy during her entire 10 (or so) months here, but even more so in the past couple of weeks. That's because her time at the mission is soon coming to an end, sadly enough, so she's wrapping up last minute details on the health and craft projects she's been developing. We've so appreciated her work with us!

Yesterday, after a busy week, it seemed very fitting (and in line with the Go Dog, Go! story) that we have a party. It was to commemorate Dwight's 50th birthday and to say goodbye to Keren as well.

Goodbye, Keren. Go well, and come back again one day!

And goodbye to the rest of you for now, too.

PS: Thank you to Paul Middleton who flew the group up here and took many of these photos!