Saturday, May 28, 2011


Dwight and I were enjoying a 10 minute expresso at the end of our day (and week) yesterday at what I think is the only gas station in Chimoio that sells them. They're probably the best in town, too. Anyway, as we sat and sipped from the small paper cups I noticed some cute, fluffy birds nearby. They were busy flitting and hopping around, pecking at this and that speck on the ground. Tasty morsels, I'm sure. And I couldn't help but marvel at how they live their lives pretty much oblivious to the human world around them. Politics, progress, international crisis--even the latest electronic gadgets--have little effect on them. All's well so long as their nest and food are in order. It's just that simple.

I've been using a Nokia cellphone for the last little while and took some of this week's photos with its whopping 2.0 megapixel camera. (Note to self: only use the Nokia for daylight outdoor shots.) If I recall correctly, our first digital camera took 2.0 megapixel pictures. We thought we were on the cutting edge of technology back then. Now, 2.0 megapixels barely cuts it. That's progress, I guess.

Anyway, onto the week's events--some of which were captured with 2.0 megapixels.

This is Monday-ish morning and an elderly lady in one of the mission programs receives a new set of crutches. Her old ones were too short and one of the handles was just a straight piece of wood. That would be ok for someone not entirely dependent on crutches, but for someone who needs them for everything but sleeping...ergonomic hand grips are important. She lost one of her legs to a landmine incident.

The crutches came from Barb. She needed them at some point in the past, but not anymore.
Don't you love those moments?

I snapped this quick shot while picking Celestino up to go do burn dressings on a very likable elderly gentleman. This is the line-up for vaccinations just outside the health post. The health department vaccinated for 2 days until supplies ran out.

This is one of many visits to this old man's home. It always amazes me how when we change his dressings, he never even so much as winces. I'm guessing he's been through a lot. His name is Robert. When I asked him, "Robert...Mugabe?" He smiled and said, "Oh no, I was born LONG before he was!" Thankfully, his burn wounds are recovering very well. Sadly, I won't get to see him many more times.

This was Friday (wee jump in time). Dwight and I were headed to town and received a call that someone urgently needed to get to the hospital. The lady we helped was very sick, indeed. We fixed a bed for her so she could lie down in the back. It took awhile for the family to gather her things and get her ready. While we waited, I took a few photos.

Facing north on the Tete corridor.
When we dropped the patient off at the nearest hospital, the director asked if we wouldn't mind transporting 2 other patients since we were on our way to Chimoio anyway. "Our only ambulance is broken at the moment." he said apologetically. And so we loaded up a pregnant woman in labor (who was toxic--pre-eclamptic), and a woman struggling with an asthma attack. Thankfully we were able to deliver them safely to the Chimoio hospital for further care.

The container with a tractor and backhoe arrived this week (from the U.S.) It's been en route for several months now, so this was a very happy moment! (It was also captured on my 10 megapixel Lumix :) Yes, progress is good.)

First, the tractor and some small stuff got unloaded.

Then the backhoe.
Looking at it made Heather and I reminisce about the Dr. Seuss book "Are You My Mother?"

It took Ron a bit of work to get this thing out. It was in there pretty tight!

We were all relieved when it was completely out. No mishaps, no injuries. Yay!

On the inside looking out.

Mercy Air has had a team here this week. Besides helping unload the container, they've been busy working on the Mercy Air house.

Here they are hard at work :)
(Ok, they WERE hard at work just before we got there!)

The training center got its first few lines of roof tiles put on the other day. In my mind I can see the running of classes inside those rooms already! Classes that will prepare young people for a better future, classes to help young mothers prepare for a safer delivery, classes that better equip church leaders for leading their people, classes to help equip school teachers, etc.

Yes, progress is good, indeed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


In order to achieve important (for that matter, most) things in life, connections of all sorts have to take place.

Some take a good ear.

And some, a good eye.

Actually, Ernesto and I had an interesting week last week. First, we spent some time doing health checks on school kids. We've been working at getting the new health post organized and functional, and things are going well. There's been one rather big obstacle though--there is no easy way for us to connect with him (a good 20 or so km away from the mission base) and vice versa. So if he or the school staff have trouble of any sort, they have to try to communicate via bush telegraph (aka: sending messages with people on foot).

Recently, with the arrival of Vodacom to our area, we've had better cell phone contact. In other words, we have reception in our yard and there is also reception at the mission's school and clinic. So I asked Ernesto if he still had the cell phone that he bought a year or two ago. "Yes, but the battery swelled after its last charge so it doesn't fit in or work in the phone anymore." I checked it out and sure enough, the battery was bulging. It probably didn't help that his cell phone's brandname was something like "SNARFBLAT". Apparently it was cheap. Anyway, I took it when I left and promised I'd look into getting things working again so we could be in better contact.

I guess I wasn't quick enough because the very next day, he showed up at our house on the mission base. He'd received a letter saying that he was to attend a meeting in Vanduzi (nearest hospital to us) and he wanted to arrange his travel plans.

As Dwight was about to step out of the door to greet him, he noticed a juvenile spitting cobra on the steps between himself and Ernesto. Hearing Dwight saying, "Whoa-a-a...espera, espera! Tem cobra aqui! (Wait, watch out, there's a snake here.)", is what brought me running with my camera. A snake in the yard always generates a fair deal of excitement in these parts.

The young spitting cobra, obviously feeling insecure, spread his hood and eye-balled us menacingly as he back-tracked his way up the steps.

That's him on the left.

Unfortunately this photo is not very clear and I got him with his back turned looking not very threatening at all. No spread hood or beady eyes. We did catch it on video though and I'll post that as soon as I have the bandwidth to do it!

In these parts, a spitting cobra is everyone's enemy. That's because they can either spit their venom with amazing accuracy at their "attacker's" eyes, or bite, if need be.

By the time this guy got to the top step though, Ernesto had his slingshot loaded, taut and ready. A few zinging stones, flying dust, dancing feet, squiggling snake and a fair bit of adrenaline rush later, and the connecting shot that stopped the snake dead in his tracks was fired. This is not the first poisonous snake Ernesto has killed in one of our yards. He's earning quite the reputation for himself!

Ernesto's small collection of perfectly shaped stones, for self protection of course.
He smiled when we called him "David", for short.

Once the hype of the moment was over and we finalized the question about the meeting in Vanduzi, Dwight and I headed to town. I took Ernesto's cell phone (of unheard-of-before-brand-name) and the swollen battery to an electronics shop. The shop owner had never heard of that make of cell phone before either and suggested that if we were looking at replacing the battery, why not just pay a little more and replace the entire phone? It did make sense. And if it meant we'd have better communication with Ernesto and the school staff, it was worth it. Not that I mind having him pop around now and then, especially during snake migration season...

I don't even know if there is such a thing as snake migration season but they're definitely on the move right now, that's for sure. We've found quite a few snake tracks through our yard this week. I've darkened the photos to help the tracks show up a bit better:

One of the shepherds figured this was a Python track.

I'm not sure about that one. Could be.

This track is squiggly, so likely another spitting cobra or maybe a mamba. Just as well I didn't see him.

Anyway, that was some of the excitement in my week.

But before I go, two last photos. This one is of the bridge to the landing strip. The hardwood planks are now being oiled and nailed into place. What a huge project this has been, but it's a wonderful feeling to walk on the bridge and lean over the sides. Carefully though...those side guards aren't solidly in place yet.

Today, a small group of us here from the mission went to the hotel in Garuso (located between where we are and Zimbabwe) for lunch. It was a nice afternoon after a hectic week. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the pink walls, red waxed floor, and white door to one of the suites.

But I better run for now. This post is quite long, and besides, I promised Ernesto I'd try to send a test message on his new phone and phone line. Here's to hoping the message gets through.

Take care, ttyl, and if you live in Africa--keep your eyes peeled for snakes.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I had to smile when I read this t-shirt message worn by one of the staff this Friday. Those are great goals, though I thought they may be a bit lofty for the end of the week. Who gets inspired on a Friday? :)

Our week started off by welcoming the arrival of guests Delinda and Bruna from Brazil. Delinda and I were MK's (missionary kids) together for several years when we were younger. I have fond memories of her family and recall her parents as being people who were inspired, motivated and involved. This impacted many young people, including me.

Visiting Africa has been a life-long dream of Delinda's, and for me it has been a privilege to be part of seeing that fulfilled.

Delinda with kids (her passion) at the school

Bruna, a dentist who specializes in working with children, enjoying connecting with kids too

There were other guests at the mission this week as well, so we loaded everyone up in two cars when they first arrived and went to see the school.

For the remainder of the week, Delinda, Bruna and I kept very busy going to the school and to community and orphan homes.

They told stories and shared "The Wordless Book"...

And did lots of fun activities, like make balloon giraffes. I did my best to help with that, but I'm afraid that in my inexperience with such things, my giraffes looked more like sausage dogs! The kids didn't seem to mind though.

While the ladies were busy doing sessions with school and community children, I did some sick-home visits and helped Ernesto get things better organized in the new health post.

Walking down the highway on one of the home visits. Celestino leading the way.

Doing dressings on a very sweet, elderly man who fell into a fire last week.

The new health post taking shape.

It's amazing how putting up a few shelves transforms a place!
(It's also amazing how much this felt like settling into a new home.)

Ernesto serving the community in the new health post.

It was a busy week, but the involvement with people and seeing progress also made it a good week. And yes, I even felt inspired on a Friday. :)

Personally, I think it's easier to feel inspired AFTER getting involved rather than the other way around. And so, it seems more logical to reword the lofty-ideals t-shirt this way:


Bye for now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

On The Far Side

Yes, I made it to the far side of the globe safe and sound. My trip went exceptionally well and I didn't even have to pay for the extra piece of luggage that my flight itinerary warned me about. Flying into Beira was the diciest part of the journey since a storm hit just as we were approaching and we were forced to circle in fairer skies a few times until the winds and torrential downpour died down a bit.

In Beira we don't get those walkways between the airplane and terminal building that protect you from the elements, just portable steps that lead down onto the tarmac. So if it's sunny and hot, you get a really hot walk. And if it's rainy, you get a wet walk. And so, my walk into the building was a rather wet affair. Once inside, clearing customs and immigration went smoothly enough and I was soon warmly greeted by Dwight, Dawson and Winona (friends from Fort McMurray, Canada).

Dawson and Winona had spent nearly a week on the mission by the time I arrived, and since they were due to depart again from Beira in just a day and a half, we stayed in Beira with them and saw some sights and enjoyed the last bit of time together.

Night view from our hotel room in Beira

View of hotel ceiling in Beira.
(I couldn't help but take a shot of this. Never seen a ceiling like it before.
It looked like a whipped dessert topping.)

Once we'd said farewell to our friends, we left for home. It's taking me a few days to spool up and pick up where I left off, but I did a quick tour of the place to see the changes that had taken place in the 2 months I was gone.

The bridge to the airstrip is being reinforced and having finishing touches done.
Obviously workers use the log to the right as a walkway to the other side, but I wasn't about to.

More trusses are ready for the training center roof. Dwight was emphasizing here that the wood weighs a ton!

Foundations, although extremely important, are seldom exciting to look at.
(Unless, of course, it's YOUR building that's going up.)

This building plan for the maintenance shop will give you a bit of an idea what you're looking at in the previous photo. The shop will be used not only to do vehicle maintenance in but teach it as a skill to older students as well.

Some of the colours in my African back yard (Passion Fruit flower).
This has Edmonton's post-winter brownish-gray beat by a long shot!

And last but certainly not least in the photo line up of changes on this side of the globe...Buddy the klipspringer. Obviously he still enjoys a relaxing cud-chew on our veranda.

I don't think his body changed too noticeably in size, but yikes, look at the length of those pointy horns. No more bunting games on my legs for you, mister.