Sunday, October 31, 2010


Here he is, the no-name-buck (‘cause so far no names have stuck), all eyes, ears, sniffing, and ready to bolt. We’re glad he’s made it this far considering he was orphaned likely within a week of his birth. He provides a fair share of entertainment and we marvel at his ability to hear us sneaking up on him (I know, I know...that doesn’t require a terribly high degree of skill), see in the dead dark of night, and the speed and agility with which he races around our yard, always stopping on the top of some rock--any rock, regardless of its size or height, to take a fresh inventory of his surroundings.

It always pays to be aware.

I'll give a quick heads up here, for those of you who are more sensitive, that this blog post is backwards from my usual where I would normally put the “ewww” things at the end. This time, “eww” is coming, well, right away here. So if you’re looking for more important news and would really rather give the bugs a miss, you’ll have to close your eyes momentarily and toggle further down.

This time of year is the season for many things: heat, fire, and bugs, primarily. This is our dry-heat season, before the rains come. It can get up to 40C or more, and if you don’t use Celsius, 50C is half way to boiling point. So yeah, hot! This semi-torching of the land by the sun seems to bring about the inevitable in nature: new life. From tender new leaves budding on all the trees to bugs and more bugs. That these events happen simultaneously is very convenient for the bugs because they emerge from whatever crevice, cocoon, or shell they’ve been holed up in

Cidada shell

Cicada (after emerging from a shell)

and, voila! a fresh, tasty green harvest awaits them and the chomping begins in earnest. Thankfully the trees produce new leaves prolifically otherwise they'd go completely bald.

And as if the volume of leaves being devoured isn’t bad enough, some bugs use the leaves for other things, like to wrap stuff in.

Is nature not amazing?

I found these outside the other morning on the ground under one of the trees. There were hundreds but I only brought in this handful of them, all neatly wrapped like a cute little gifts with the ends all sealed down. Curious sort that I am, I had to open one up to investigate.


I found nothing. Or so I thought, until I took a closer look and noticed 2 wee tiny yellow things. I took a close-up shot and discovered they were eggs. Moth eggs, maybe, but I have no clue.

The klipspringer discovered them too and figured they must have been prepared just for him. ☺His favorite leaves all wrapped up, just like cabbage rolls.

That same morning, I stepped onto the veranda to find hundreds, maybe even thousands, of worms on the floor. They were dropping from the trees and being blown onto the veranda with the wind, on fine strands of silk.

I (and they) don’t know where they were going but I wasn’t too impressed at the sight of them—especially those that were wiggling under my doors into the house. It was the sort of sight one wakes up from relieved to find that it was just a dream. But no such luck here. It made for lots of repeated floor sweeping and washing. Thankfully their numbers diminished after 24 hours.

This is the last “eww” picture, although chameleons aren’t really gross.

This is a baby flap necked chameleon who was making his way across our yard. Seems like a very dangerous thing to do when one is so small and slow-paced, so he was “rescued” and brought inside for a few hours to hang out with us. His choice spot to hang out? The top of Dwight’s head.

Invariably, the season of heat and bugs is accompanied by widespread and uncontrolled brush fires. The fires are started intentionally for several reasons, including land clearing (preparation for planting season) and easier game viewing for hunting.

Snares and traps used to catch wild game. These were found on the mission's land.

Although we try our hardest to protect the mission from these fires, it’s difficult to be on the watch out everywhere, all the time. Last week a fire raged across most of the mission property and destroyed many hectares of grazing for cattle and sheep, and singed the outermost trees in the litchi orchard.

On a more positive note, the guys finished putting the roof on the mission school’s clinic this week…no mishaps either, so that was nice :).

Community members watch while the guys work.

Now all that needs done is to finish plastering, putting glass in the windows, putting doors and shelves in, and painting. I guess that’s still quite a bit of work, but with the walls and roof up it always feels like it’s almost ready to use.

The Mercy Air house roof is coming along nicely too...

With the health department’s current tuberculosis (TB) awareness campaign and freshly painted clinic walls in mind, I’ve been busy this week making stencils, posters and signs to help promote health and decorate walls. Since education about not spitting or how to spit “more safely” is incorporated in the prevention aspect of the TB poster, finding appropriate visuals has been an amusing activity. I went online and found many possibilities. I rather liked this one. Seems obvious enough.

I also found a picture of a well-known soccer player...spitting at the time of the photo. So I took a picture of a tin can with sand in it, as it should be, and pasted it below him so it looks as if he’s spitting into the can. I hope he doesn't mind, though he'll likely never know anyway, but I think I just earned him a new reputation as part of the TB awareness campaign in Africa.

Sometimes, and at least in his case, what you don't know won't hurt you. And it may even help someone else.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


“Actions speak louder than words.”

Some of the kids at school made mini-posters this week as a special project. I had to smile at the oxymoron (an unwitting one, I'm sure) contained in this one. But to appreciate it, you have to live in Mozambique and depend on MCEL (a cellular service provider). You’ve heard of “bad hair days”? Well, MCEL has many “bad-to-absolutely-no-service days” where there is no cellular action whatsoever. It gets very frustrating.

But that’s not what this poster is about, of course. It’s about how you can’t accomplish something (love people, bring change, etc.) simply by talking about it, we have to do it. Our actions speak for us--and about us--all the time. That’s disturbing, in a good sort of way, and it gave me a lot of food for thought this week.

So let’s jump into some of the week’s action.

The Chitundo Health Post is having final touches done to it while the socorristas finish up their training at Vanduzi Hospital. We think it makes quite the impression, especially against the very red dirt backdrop of the surrounding landscape.

Here the kids perform just a bit for the camera. The health post is an exciting development for this community and it’s opening will happen none too soon either!

There’s been action at the Zuze (mission school) health post as well as roof installation got underway.

First, you measure the building...

Then, you cut your wood and put it on top

And you walk up there, verrrry carefully lest you fall.

(Dwight’s tip of the week: If the edge you step on gives way and you DO fall, land on all fours like a cat. And yes, that’s what happened as described to me by Jorge. “How could you let him fall, Jorge?! You’re supposed to look after each other when I’m not around.” I had to tease him a bit. He smiled and responded with, “I knew you would say that, Senhora, so I’ve been racking my brain thinking of a good answer all afternoon. But I don’t know how it happened, just that he landed very nicely. Just like a cat.”)

Jorge and Charles

When the wood is all in place, you put the tin roof sheets on top.

Voila! Lovely.

That wasn’t the only roof work done this week. The Mercy Air house also got its roof underway.

Ron, Bernie and Dwight sizing up the truss design and measurements.

Trusses and reflective foil going up.

Unfortunately, the sun decided to crank up the heat these past few weeks (up to 41 C), so the guys working up on the roofs got well basted and roasted. So sorry guys, but we sure do appreciate those roofs once they’re up!

There was a different kind of action on another front as well as we applied for “permanent residence” visas (aka 5-year work visas) in lieu of the 1-year renewable ones we’ve had up until now, and which have gone up horribly in price. There’s quite a bit of paperwork involved which is normal with immigration-related matters anywhere. You have to fill out the right forms, have them photocopied, stamped and authenticated, get photos, submit letters, do up requests, and the list goes on. So we did it all, and then some, and submitted our bulging paper file to the immigration office.

After 5 days’ deliberation, we were granted the new visas. After 17 years in Mozambique, we're finally on something other than a renewable annual visa. So off we went to town (for the 3rd or 4th time in 7 days), and sat in the immigration place for nearly 2 hours waiting for the next step: collection of our Biometric data. First, we waited for people ahead of us to get done. Then, just when it was our turn, the fluorescent light bulb stopped working and needed to be repaired.

Judging from the amount of effort that went into its repair, it must have been in bad shape. First, the repairman got up on his bench, then down off his bench, then up on his bench again, then the bulb was twisted this way, then that way, then the starter was slid in, then slid back out again, then he was down off his bench. When that sequence had been completed, he'd start over again with new, different parts.

While we waited, Dwight and I had a mini-staff meeting (to discuss business we hadn’t been able to during the busy week), played games on my cell phone, had conversations with immigration officials we knew, and so on. As our waiting time extended beyond the 45-minute mark, and because of all the steps involved in trying to get that fluorescent bulb to work, the Hokey Pokey song came to mind, "You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about…" I’m sure the repairman felt like he was doing the hokey pokey right about then.

In the end, he had to dismount the ENTIRE light fixture and left just the wires hanging down from the ceiling. We were relieved that our wait was about to end, but what a shame to end such noble effort in defeat. After the repairman left, the housekeeping staff came in and feather-dusted the place clean and then, finally, we got to go inside the special Biometrics room and proceed with having more photos taken, being finger printed, etc. And now, we wait for our new visas to arrive.

And with that, I'll wrap up this post. But before I go, here's a few photos on some bug action for you bug/reptile/icky-thing enthusiasts out there.

Dwight happened to leave his book "Good To Great" on our veranda for a few days recently. When I noticed a rather large looking bee come buzzing under the cover repeatedly my suspicions were aroused. We opened the cover to find she had been smuggling a gazillion green larva inside, probably to feed her young who were to be deposited in there as well.

(Poor focus, sorry, but you get the idea.)

Yeah. Noble attempt there too, lady. But--no. Actions may speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean words are totally useless either. The book is not yours for the taking.

Thank you very much.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Village Home Visits

On our way to do several home visits in a community the other day, a local pastor, one of the socorristas and I got into an interesting conversation about curandeiros (witch doctors). Here, curandeiros are often the first place a person will go to seek “help” for any number of things like illness, to guarantee success in life, etc. There are many curandeiros in these parts and many of the very sick people that are seen in the health posts only come as a last resort after having gone first, and unsuccessfully, to the curandeiro. As you can imagine, I have many questions about curandeiros. Since home visits afford us extra time en route for chit-chat, I started asking questions about curandeiros: their fees, how they build their clientele, how busy this keeps them, and what they do with the exorbitant fees they charge. As we talked, I couldn’t help but wonder at the strangeness of it all but especially of me, in the car, having this discussion.

We were greeted happily by several of the mission’s sponsored students when we arrived at our destination. When they heard we were doing two home visits, and since they know the village residents fairly well, several of them volunteered to lead us down the right path. The homes weren’t too far away, but it was a particularly hot day, in the high 30’s Celsius, and the heat made the dirt trail through the village seem that much longer.

“Are we going to walk all the way to Vanduzi? We could have driven…” I joked.

“It’s not far. We’re almost there. Down by the papaya trees.” They replied.

To these guys, a long walk is one that takes more than 2 hours. (I’m such a wuss!)

The last home we visited was that of a single lady. She looks after of her 4-month-old orphaned nephew who receives milk from the milk program, which is run out of the health post. She lives on the edge of the community, beside the open fields, in a small but nicely painted hut. When we told her this was a well-baby visit, she quickly ducked into the hut and brought the baby out. The baby came out yawning, stretching his arms, and blinking in the bright sunlight.

He had obviously been sound asleep. After a brief chat and a look at the baby, we told her that if she walked to the vehicle with us, we could leave some more formula with her that day.

As she tied the baby to her back, one of the sponsored boys showed us his notebook he had with him. The writing was all in local dialect though, so I asked what it said.

“Um, it’s a song we sing here in our local dialect. It’s about our names being called.” The socorrista responded.

I assumed it was a school song until, while making our way back to the car, I heard them singing it to the very old, familiar tune of “When the roll is called up yonder.” That was a rather strange moment for me too. Strange, but wonderful at the same time, and it made the walk to the car seem much shorter.

We’re working through the process of visa renewal right now, so we spent the better part of last Tuesday in town filling out forms, taking photos, and submitting said forms. (It’s called a “process” for a reason :P) While we were in town busy with forms and photos, Matthew (our office administrator) called to say that a young lady who was so ill she couldn’t walk had been brought to the health post. She had been ill for a while and had been to a curandeiro, but her condition had progressively deteriorated. Dwight gave him the okay to use our old Isuzu to take her to hospital.

When our business in town had been all attended to, we headed home. On the way, we had one last stop--a sick-home visit we’d promised to do earlier that day. This home was also a ways down an earthen track, but at least this time we could get there by car. When we approached the hut, we were given small, broken chairs to sit on while we waited. “I’m sorry about the chairs, but we are poor.” The pastor apologized.

Within a few minutes, the young lady we’d come to see emerged from one of the nearby huts. She walked, with obvious difficulty and breathing heavily, to the clearing where we waited. A quick check revealed that she was profoundly anemic (she’d had a baby 7 days prior) and feverish. It was imperative that she get to the hospital for treatment right away. We called Matthew knowing he was headed for the hospital and hoping he was nearby. Sure enough, he was very close by so he swung in to pick up his 2nd patient. While she gathered her things, there were smiles and comments about putting a red cross on the Isuzu and calling it the mission ambulance.

Sadly, the first young lady lost her life that same night. The 2nd one was admitted to hospital for treatment.

Last but not least in this post, Ron Wayner arrived last week with a guest from the U.S. to work on the Mercy Air house. It was 39 Celsius the day they arrived, so how's that for a warm welcome?

Ron, Bernie and Dwight

And by way of a fun update, here's a recent photo of the little orphaned klipspringer we took in a month ago. He's discovered he's built for bounding up and down rocky cliffs, but he's not so sure about being Mushu's friend yet!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Things Go *Boink*

Sometimes, a week starts off with a *boink* experience and then it keeps going that way.

For me, it started off with trying to buy an MCEL starter pack from a street vendor for a pay as you go line. (For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a cell phone SIM card. MCEL is the Mozambican owned cell phone company.)

Me: “How much are your pay-as-you-go SIM cards?”
Vendor: “I’ll make it Mt. 100” (Mozambican money)
Me: “Ok, so what’s the normal price?”
Vendor, smiling sheepishly: “Mt. 80”

I paid the Mt. 80 but we all had a good laugh about his unpolished sales tactic. We laughed even more when a 2nd street vendor (his friend) rushed breathlessly up to us to offer his MCEL start up packs, too. When I asked him how much he was charging for his, he looked at his friend and said, “What price did you say?” ☺

Another boink this week happened yesterday. I was busy working on something inside when I noticed a pair of hornbills hanging out in the trees in our backyard. In my opinion, these are the clumsiest and most comical birds God made, so if I get the chance to photograph them from so close up, I most certainly do.

I hid behind the window curtains with only the camera lens peeking through so as not to scare him off. While I was busy snapping shots, he promptly spread his wings, and pushed off into flight…directly into the windowpane where I was standing. *BOINK!* He wasn’t going very fast, and he was a big bird with a humungous beak, and the hit hardly seemed to faze him. He just used the impact of it to change direction and flew straight back into the tree. He sat there for several minutes with a look of utter disgust. (Mind you, hornbills are born looking that way…it’s part of what makes them so comical.) And once he’d recovered from his boink, he flew away.

The biggest boink of the week though, happened when Dwight sat down to do up a thank you presentation, using video, for an annual event that generates the bulk of funds for our child feeding program.

Mug of fresh coffee in his hand, he settled in behind his desk, ready to put audiovisual media and creativity to work! Then from the dining room I heard, “Ohhh nooooo! ….Aaaarrrgggghhhh! My computer crashed a few months ago, I’ve lost the video editing program I need to do this!” Oh no, indeed. Especially because the time available for us to do this was short.

Turns out the big boink had other smaller boinks too.
1. The original program disks were in Canada, so no re-loading it.
2. The internet-downloaded copy made the computer shut down with a scary error message.
3. Even upon rebooting, the program wouldn’t work anyway.
4. This kind of software is not available locally.
5. The sound track we chose was in m4a format, and the program only recognized mp3. (Though we managed to work around this.)
6. The archaic version of Ulead Video Studio we happened to have on hand couldn’t seem to maintain photo or sound quality.
7. Boink, boink, boink!

Some things went right though:
1. The video footage worked great.
2. The school kids were cute and so patient as we took tons of pictures of them, both candid shots as well as many of them lining up in formation to spell “T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U”

3. Hey, the fact that we have a reason to say “thank you!” That's a real good thing.

4. And can I just slip in here on a somewhat unrelated note, to say that the health post is looking amazing! Can’t wait ‘til it’s done!

Anyway, although it may not be Hollywood quality, in the end, we managed to get the presentation done.

It’s a simple message, really. Just, "thank you" to all who make it all possible.

Enjoy your (Canadian) thanksgiving everyone, and we will enjoy ours as well.