Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just Do It. (Nike has a point.)

There is a time for thinking and planning, but there is also a time for seeing an idea to completion. Even if it's a bit of a stretch.

This week, we're happy that my niece and her husband "just did it". After some thinking about it and planning, they finally came to visit us. From the bustling metropolis of Seattle, U.S.A. to the rural bush in Mozambique. In more than one way, this is a stretch!

Landing in Beira (after several long distance flights)

Boarding the Cessna to go "more rural"

Dwight, Royden and Ruth
(I tried to get myself in the shot but didn't quite pull it off.)

Closer to our destination

It's been a great week getting caught up and showing them around. One of our stops was to visit the mission school. Since Royden is an award winning photographer, illustrator and animator, and Ruth is a registered nurse, we used the opportunity to encourage the kids to follow their example--stay in school, have a plan (a dream) for their lives, then "do it".

Drawing a giraffe for the first class.
I bet he's never had to draw on a cement plastered blackboard before!

Drawing a smiling cartoon child's face for the 2nd class.

No one bored here!

One of the boys took the "do it" challenge quite seriously and copied Royden's giraffe drawing on the back of his notebook. Now that's what we like to see :)

After all the class visiting and drawing, it's lunch time.

Helping Pastor Tome dish up food


Today, we visited a church in the Nhanhata area which is not too far from our home. The pastor of this church is studying with the mission's leadership program. It was quite the event, even for us who have been here for many years...

The joyful drumming, shaker shaking and hand clapping was pretty loud
inside this humble bush church. (The shakers above are made by filling about 5 tin cans with seeds, puncturing the tops and bottoms, then sliding them onto a stick.)

We each gave a greeting and then Dwight shared a word of encouragement with the congregation--that God is always with us to help and enable us. We are never alone.

This church, like most churches out here, is crudely built out of poles, plastic and grass. But they have a dream for a better structure one day. Here's the building plan all approved, authorized, and stamped. (As all matters official must be out here.)

Nice thing is, not only do they have a plan, but they're already busy making the necessary bricks out of mud. They're all ready to be baked and once that's done, construction can get underway.

That was pretty nice to see too.

And after all that singing, clapping, and visiting, it was lunch time.

We were honored and offered a good meal of food typical to this area: stiffly cooked maize meal served with stewed chicken. Eaten not exactly Seattle-style, but rather with one's fingers.

That was a stretch too, but we did it :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fire, Smoke, and Back to School.

You knew a post about fire was coming, right? This is the season of fire after all, so it was just a matter of watching and waiting and the yearly "fire story" would come along.

Well, for the past while we've also been watching and waiting for fire. This is September and the bush is dry and brown--the perfect tinderbox. And wild fires are all around. Huge tracts of land have already been torched around us. We do our best to maintain a wide, clear swathe along the boundary. We have animals, and agriculture projects (not to mention people, equipment, etc), and we really don't need all that going up in flames. So needless to say, day after day and night after night, we have all kept a watchful eye on the horizon for smoke.

On Tuesday, we did some watching and waiting of another sort as we awaited the arrival of the nation's First Lady. She was visiting a neighboring community and we had been invited to meet her and set up a display showing mission's various programs.

Women's Ministry Display Table

Pastor's Training Display Table (note health manual in bottom right of photo :))

By noon, things were ready and in high gear. The crowd's excitement was palpable as many ululated (high-pitched singing) and danced in circles around drummers beating on raw-hide drums. This created a fair bit of sweat and huge clouds of dust. Then the wind would blow and in its indecision about where to take all that dust, it would blow first this way then that, and in doing so gave us all our fair share of grit several times over.

The display tables were set up on one side of the entry road, and Dwight and I were placed in the long and very packed elbow-to-elbow receiving line-up on the other side. So there we all were outside in the hot sun and wind and dust celebrating our expected VIP's visit.

Several hours went by this way and as we stood and waited and watched for the First Lady, a rising column of smoke over the mission farm caught our eye. A quick call home confirmed that the fire was inside our boundary line and rushing toward the cattle pen. Several dignitaries had still not arrived at the VIP event, so we decided it was safe to peel off for awhile to help organize firefighting.

Rick and Dwight take a moment to size up and decipher the direction of the fire and the wind before putting a plan into place.

One group of guys rushes off to beat flames.

While all this was happening, a couple came walking up the road. The husband went on ahead to check on safety while his wife and small baby stayed behind and waited. I found out she'd just given birth the previous day, and already here this new mom was walking many kilometers out into the bush to her home.

I believe the estimate of area burned was about 100 hectares that day, but mid-burn we were called back to our spot in the line up. The dignitaries had arrived and the First Lady was soon to arrive. And so we left the fire to rejoin the crowd.

Kids are back in school now after their breaks, as they are everywhere it seems. Every morning during our devotional/work coordinating time, this little guy walks past us on his way to school. I love seeing kids going to school :)

Here's the mission truck after its last run to town for supplies. Among those supplies are a few bikes for students who have a very long walk to school. Aren't they going to be happy!

Bikes for students, check.
Brooms for clinic/warehouse, check.
Diesel for generator, check.
Paint for construction, check.
Chipboard for building, check.
And that's just the start. Truck trips to town are always full-day events.

Students helping to harvest vegetables in the garden.

We had some very warm weather for several days last week, and I guess that's the signal for all spiders to come out from their burrows. We discovered this guy by one of the bookcases in our house the other night. Ack!

Pity to kill him (for several reasons),
so Dwight caught him and put him back outside where he should be.

Pinned under a plastic container.
Yes, plastic containers are useful in many ways out here!

Just to give you an idea of size.

As if spider #1 wasn't bad enough, we discovered spider #2 crawling onto our cutting board!

And as if that wasn't bad enough, he sprinted onto the sliced bread!

Anyway, I'm late with this post and I really need to run. Here's hoping for fewer fires and spiders this week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Searching for Signal

“Were you searching for ET?” a friend jokingly asked when I posted some of these photos on facebook this week.

Well, no, not exactly. We were searching the heavens for strong “RX” (receive) and “TX” (transmit) signals with our internet satellite dish. Strong signal = lock-on quality which makes the RX and TX lights on our modem go solid green = internet. But they have to be green, and solid. No flashing lights. And no yellow lights. Those aren’t so helpful.

So why all this? Well, it’s a long story. In short, about a month ago we decided to try a new satellite internet system. That didn’t go so well so we decided to switch back. Problem was, somewhere along the way our BUC (pronounced “buck”, and an essential component in the system) got misplaced.

The BUC is the part behind the "microphone" (my term)

Without a BUC, basically you have no internet. So the search was on. It took several weeks, many phone calls, much discussion, and finally a replacement was found. We knew our problems weren’t over yet. What we didn’t know was the degree to which they weren’t over. Connecting a complex internet system out here in the bush without the necessary technology or savvy isn’t very easy!

So this is how it went:
Day 1

Took us the entire day as we:
1. Replaced the BUC,
2. Downloaded the programming software,
3. Loosened and tightened bolts,
4. Tilted the dish this way, that, and the other searching for strong signal. (But no. RX was solid green, but TX was bent on flashing. You have to have ALL solid green lights to have internet.)
5. Phoned technicians far away for new ideas on what to try next.

Even so, dusk found us standing outside staring at the dish feeling rather perplexed and a bit defeated

while the TX light flashed on the modem inside.

The next day was supposed to be a stat holiday but we knew we wouldn’t spend it sitting around in the shade sipping coke.

Day 2
Took us the entire day, again:
1. Moving the dish into every possible position and contortion 1/16th of an inch at a time. (It was a long, hot day in the sun.)

When moving a satellite dish, there is Axis 1, Axis 2, Axis 3, and so on.
Side to side movement is "azimuth" if I recall correctly.

Turns out, a hair-line move here on earth translates into a miles-wide gap in space.

2. Re-running the software and carefully following all the steps.

Dwight and Rick in our "internet office"

Even so, dusk found us still searching for the illusive solid TX green light, but at least the software helped narrow down our search. While the guys pushed and pulled at the dish outside, I watched the monitor and shouted encouraging numbers out through the window.

The black space is, well, "no signal". Yellow is "better, but keep trying". Green is "good". Green peaks are better than green valleys. This is where we ended Day 2. Even though TX was still flashing, we felt we'd made good progress.

Day 3:
Took very little time at all. When the power came on, miraculously TX and RX were both solid green. Yay!

The modem.

Age-old lesson learned: If it’s not (real) broke, don’t mess with it.

In other news, here’s Celestino searching for the bridge we usually depend on to get supplies to the mission school. Oops...

There have been many fires in the area, as there always are at this time of year, and the bridge Dwight and some hard working staff built several years ago had burned to nothing more than a hole in the ground. Good thing it wasn't dark when they came upon this!

Celestino and Joao managed to move some of the burned logs into place to get through the dry riverbed.

We sure have our work cut out for us before rainy season comes along.

Before I sign off, a few shots of local wildlife.

We noticed a leaf stuck to one of our walls the other night.

A closer look revealed not a leaf, but a moth. Clever disguise, little fellow. But it would work much better outside…where all the leaves are.

African Black Sunbirds finding sweet nectar in my flowering aloes. The black one is the male and the beige/yellow one is the female. (Talk about opposites!)

Here, the male gives me a brief stare-down while I train my camera on him. Sorry to disturb you buddy, but really, it could be worse. It could be an internet satellite dish.