Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Good, the Odd and the Timely

It's funny how odd things catch our attention, and we out here in the bush sure saw some odd sights this week! Thankfully most of the odd sights were good too.

We incorporated our week's work with introducing our guests to the various mission programs (since their time here was short), so here's a bit of what we did and what we came across. (And yes, this next photo fits into the "odd" category!)

Steve and Dwight fumigating

The orphan/widow and student homes got fumigated this week for mosquitoes and ants. The ants were small, but there were gazillions of them and they were everywhere. Poor kids could hardly sleep, they said! Let's hope things have settled down for them.

Painting inside walls at Chitundo Health Post. The socorristas go for their training over the next few weeks, so the final touches need to get done.

While we were busy painting, a bunch of kids gathered outside and peered in through the windows. They were bored, and we were an odd sight to them I suppose, so they hung around and watched us paint while they chattered away at each other and at us. At one point, when they were getting rather noisy, I asked them to sing. They sang us a very nice song about their "beautiful school" (in Portuguese). Little did we know that as we worked away, they were dabbing their fingers in paint and smearing it on their faces. Good thing it washes off easily!

Chitundo kids pose for photo

We had a chance to visit one of the women's literacy/craft groups. They sang and danced so nicely for us, then busied themselves with their crafts while their babies toddled around them.

And older kids hung out by the windows peering in at the odd visitors inside!

Lauralee sharing a moment with the kids outside

The bush fires have been raging, as they always do at this time of year. We decided to visit the home of a widow who lost a hut in the fire. It was a bit of a walk to her place.

She told the story of what happened and what help she needs.

While she and the men talked, her grandson and his friends chatted with the ladies and got some sweets.

I'll lump the next photo into the "timely" category. Here, some pastors receive a plow (a Unique Christmas Gift item) which they'll use to plow their fields. Our weather is warming up nicely now and it's time to get those fields ready. Usually all the field work is done by hand, so they were very pleased to see these plows right now, indeed!

I came across this child's toy guitar, carved out of wood, laying in the yard.

We made quite a few health related home visits too. Bero needed his dressings changed, one of the staff needed treatment for pneumonia, and there were other needs as well.

Here, Lauralee (a labor and delivery nurse), checks a newborn. He's healthy! Beautiful too.

Tamara hands this young man a new set of clothes and a coloring book. Later, we went back with some medicine that he and the family needed.

We got to pop in at the school and check on progress at the health post there too. It's looking good! So I guess this photo goes to the "good" category.

While in Vanduzi on one of our home visits, we stopped in to visit the hospital. The staff there were welcoming and friendly, as usual, but were faced with the challenge of having recently run out of rubber gloves and needles. Turns out, we've had plenty of those donated this year, so we promptly went home and sorted through our supply so we could deliver some to them later in the week. They were very happy about that!

Sorting through supplies. Many hands make light work!

I'll wrap up this post with our visit to a church and orphan program in Honde today.

Kids playing on the playground equipment the pastor made and put up for them.

And playing ball with a locally made soccer ball. (A balloon covered with plastic bags and string.)

Turns out, our visitors brought some balls along with good, and timely!

Posing for the photo while the balls are new, fresh and shiny! But not for long...since balls are made to be played with

sat on

and handled, as much as possible.

Now here's the odd part of the day: a north american football was given out too. Hmmm. What WERE they thinking, to make a ball with pointy ends?

The kids soon got the hang of throwing the odd shaped ball.

But soon resorted to volleying it back and forth! Turns out, an american football can be used for many different games.

Then it was lunch time for us: salad sandwiches along with Mozambique's favorite drink, Coca Cola.

Mmm, good. Timely. And not all that odd either :)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sharing the Experience

One of the things people like to do as they get older is tell stories of their life experiences, especially to younger people. I like these kinds of stories, partly because I find they often help lend meaning to my current experiences.

One of Dwight’s grandpa’s, whom we were very fond of, used to like to tell us about his life experiences. If the event was particularly charged with emotion, and if he had a point he wanted to get across as well, he’d wrap it up with, “Oh, I can tell you a thing or two…”

As we came through the South Africa/Mozambique border posts this week with Bero, we found ourselves talking about some of our past experiences as well.

Entering Lebombo border post, South Africa

We first came through these border posts between Mozambique and South Africa in 1993 with my parents. We were coming on a “look-see” type visit to decide if we felt this was where we should be and, if so, to decide if we thought we could actually manage to live here (in Maputo, initially). The war had only just ended and things were rather in shambles.

Due to fighting and the constant threat of ambushes, the main highway connecting the two countries was a deserted, ruined strip of tarmac through no-man’s land, and the border post was all but abandoned. We were one of a small handful of cars to actually travel that road back then. At the border, a tired soldier begged for a cigarette and something to drink before he lifted the boom to let us out.

Today, that same highway is a beautiful toll road.

And the border posts have been ramped up to accommodate the increasingly heavy flow of traffic passing through both day and night.

Yes, we had a thing or two to say about the changes we’ve seen right there in particular.

Turns out we’re not the only ones reflecting on the way things were back then. Our son recently decided to write some of his memories of that era as well. He wanted to locate the one old house we lived in using Google Earth, but was having a hard time identifying it. So we figured that since we were going right past the old place, why not take a little detour in to find it and take some photos for him. The turn-off from the main highway near Maputo was a no-brainer

But after that, no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t find it. I thought it was to the left. Dwight thought it was to the right. And so we went left and we went right and we went up and down through nearly the entire town. But nothing. Finally we gave up and left because we still had a very long trip ahead.

It takes roughly 18 hours to get from Nelspruit to Chimoio, and because most of that drive is on less than ideal roads, it is a very long and wearisome trip. Roads that are smooth, have narrow shoulders and heavy traffic (plus pedestrians, plus animals). Roads that are being repaired so they will be smoother are treacherous because there are no shoulders, and there is heavy traffic AND heavy duty work equipment. Passing each other can be quite the tight squeeze.

And then there are the single lane, dusty dirt detours. As we were driving along one such stretch, we noticed black smoke billowing in the sky ahead of us above the dust. "This can't be good..." we thought.

When the guys ahead of us started reversing, we and those behind us had no choice but to reverse as well. I think we backed up for a full kilometer before we found an escape route off the detour road.

That huge white truck had a real time of it :(

This was the reason why. It seemed no one was hurt so we didn't stop to ask any questions. Time was too short and our trip much too long for much other than a quick photo on the way past.

Thankfully the rest of the trip, though drawn out as it always is, was uneventful. We had to smile when, as we pulled in close to home, Bero (the young man in the back seat) piped up and said, "Phew, that was a long trip! Am I ever exhausted!"

Here he is, happy to be back home with family again.

But there was another surprise in store for us before we even reached our entry road. Someone by the side of the road was selling an orphaned baby Klipspringer. I keep saying I don't want to raise anymore orphaned wild animals...too much work. But my pleas fall on deaf ears. (Maybe because I'm not entirely convinced myself?)

And last but not least, on Friday some guests arrived from Grande Prairie, Canada. They'll be here for just over a week to visit the different projects, see some sights, and meet the wonderful people of Mozambique. And most probably they will have some experiences to share at a later date as well!

Training Center under construction


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Buddy Taping

So, apparently my husband has a broken toe. It happened about a month ago while he was out jogging on one of the bush trails that criss-cross the mission farm. I realize that city biking or running can be a bit like flirting with danger considering the traffic or criminal element. But bush running has its risks too. They’re just different.

1. Traffic on bush trails takes more the form of snakes. Thankfully you don't encounter them that often, but when you do, you want to do some fancy high-stepping or put the brakes on.
2. Stumps. This should actually be #1 since we come across way more stumps on trails than snakes.

Funny that health literature for travelers does not include facts on the dangers of stumps in Africa, just malaria, snakes, crocs, and such. But stumps have caused several injuries to our family (and others) over the years, like toe-stubbing, leg gashes, and sole punctures (which testifies to the fact that wearing a coat of armor could come in handy now and again :P). You see, there are many, many stumps in rural Mozambique because people clear land and trails by hand. It’s a huge job all that chopping, never mind trying to dig the root out too. Believe me, I've tried, and I gave up. As a result, there are hundreds and thousands of stumps of all shapes and sizes to be found just about anywhere--in planted fields, in yards,

and on trails.

I’ve even seen one INSIDE a classroom. I kid you not. Gotta do something about that.

As I was saying, these stumps can be dangerous because they’re everywhere, mostly where you don't expect them. If you have to drive a vehicle off-road to a village to visit someone…beware of biggish stumps lurking in the tall grass. They can really ding your vehicle. (Heh.) And if you’re out walking on bush trails…beware of shorter, smallish stumps that lie in the dirt as if to ambush the next unsuspecting passerby.

We know the trails close to home quite well and have stubbed our toes on the stumps along them often enough to remember more or less where they are. So usually, though not always, we avoid kicking them. But there are the times when we’re distracted or busy talking and suddenly *thwack!*

That’s what happened to Dwight about a month ago. He was jogging alone on one of these trails and didn’t see a stump. *THWACK!* I guess he limped home in a great deal of pain, then over the next few days sported an amazing rainbow of colors around the knuckles on his foot.

(This is someone else's foot but is how his foot looked)

Medical services are limited out here so I suggested maybe splinting, or bed rest with bathroom privileges, and taking anti-inflammatories until the next trip to South Africa when it could be x-rayed. Dwight opted to carry on with life, albeit "carefully", and take the anti-inflammatories when it hurt. Turns out it hurt often.

We made our scheduled trip south this week so he finally got to see our family Dr. An x-ray was done and it showed a spiral fracture of the large bone of the great toe.

(a spiral fracture)
Not good. After considering several ways to treat it, he decided on anti-inflammatories and to “buddy-tape the great toe to the neighboring toe for support. That way, the neighboring toe will do some of the work and the great toe will do less = better chance of healing.”

The term “buddy-taping” makes me smile. Partly because it just sounds funny to me, and partly because in life in general, we all need to be buddy-taped from time to time.

There were several main objectives for this current trip. For one, Bero was scheduled to have surgery on his other arm.

Bero and I grabbing a quick lunch in Vilanculos where we clear customs and immigration.

This is his 3rd such trip to South Africa this year and his 2nd surgery, and he’s still smiling.

In the hospital waiting room

Pre-op vital signs, arm band, next: flashy OR pj's

Ready to go and pretty calm about it all.

Many people have contributed to make these reparative surgeries possible for him, from kind sponsors in Canada to kind people on the ground here in South Africa. We, and Bero, extend our warmest thanks to you all for coming alongside and supporting this whole process!

3 days after surgery was his birthday. We took him to dinner and a movie. At the restaurant (Spur), the waiters all came out singing to him with a sparkler stuck in a lemon. He loves lemons. Was he ever surprised!

Another reason for the trip is that the Cessna also needs some attention since its engine is timed out and needs to be replaced. It'll be here for quite awhile, so we'll be returning home by road next week. It's a 2 day long, hard trip by road and if Dwight struggles to use our stiff clutch too much, I guess I'll be a "buddy" and step in to help do the work of driving. :) But please, no tape.


PPS: Just discovered this on youtube. Although I'm listed with photo credits, there are photos from others in there as well. The song fits well with today's theme.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Riots, Fire and a Good Ending

Mozambique made CNN news. Unfortunately, the news was not good. There have been riots this week in several major cities, our nearby provincial capital of Chimoio included. The riots were sparked by reports of a 25% increase in the price of bread, as well as price increases for fuel, water and electricity. Tough news for a nation still trying to pull itself free from the grip of poverty. Yesterday, Dwight tried to go to Chimoio to pick up supplies like fuel so the work here could continue. The clinic also needed to refresh its stock infant formula for orphaned babies in the milk program. But no such luck. Because of the rioting, looting, and the stoning of vehicles, the whole city of Chimoio was in a state of lock down. Nothing was open. No business to be done. He turned around, empty handed, and returned home.

I guess it’s just been one of those weeks. Because of some or other problem at the cement factory, there has been no cement available since last week to carry on with our various building projects. So staff have kept busy doing other chores like hauling bricks/stone/sand, cleaning up building sites, digging holes, etc in preparation so that when cement is available again, things can go forward. We trust this shortage is short-lived. Here are photos of the clinic construction as it currently stands.

It’s also been a week of wild, uncontrolled fires.

That’s not unusual for this time of year though. As soon as our weather warms up and snakes start making their appearance and seed pods on the trees start popping, brush fires start burning in full force. For days now, ash has been blowing around and floating around and settling on everything.

They're like the huge snowflakes we get sometimes in winter in Canada, except these are black. And it’s warm outside. :)

And, of course, we’re in Africa.

We’ve done our best to protect our boundaries and are thankful that so far, mission land has been spared from burning to a crisp. The sheep, cows, litchi trees, etc are much happier this way. ☺

On the bright side, the week started off with a trip to town with one of the orphan boys who had fallen during a soccer game and hurt his elbow. His granny brought him to us Monday morning saying he hadn’t slept at all that night due to pain. His elbow, which he kept securely guarded in a sling, was quite swollen. We were going to town anyway so took the boy and granny along so he could get his elbow x-rayed.

The provincial hospital has seen some improvements since I was last there. The shiny new floors, chairs in the waiting area, and even a TV to watch while you wait, impressed me. We left the two, rather wide-eyed in their new surroundings, while we ran to get some things done. (Looking for cement being one of those things. Only one shop was selling it, but they wanted double the normal price.)

When we were done we headed back to the hospital. I fully expected to see a little boy, arm bound all up in a hard, white cast. Instead, he and his granny were strutting toward the gate looking pretty much the same as when they went in.

“So, did you get seen by the Dr.?” I asked, looking at him. Had to make sure, of course.

“Yep. And the arm’s not broken.” His granny answered with a big smile. The boy smiled too. As we drove home, he munched happily on cookies in the seat behind us

while the sun set red on the horizon ahead.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.

To wrap up the week, today Dwight and I decided to head to town to see if peace had prevailed and if businesses were open again. It had, and they were, so we picked up the essential items and came home.

Tomorrow we get ready for our trip to South Africa. The Cessna’s engine is “timed out” and needs to be replaced, and Bero goes for his 2nd round of restorative surgery on his right arm.

Here’s to the new week.


(Click top photo for photo credit.)