Sunday, October 30, 2011

Exciting moments, other types of moments, and bugs.

I know some of you will want to skip right down to the bug photos. Not most of you though. So let's start with the non-bug stuff:

This week we celebrated the arrival of our new, long-awaited backup "Genny" (generator). That may not sound so exciting exciting to you, but for us it's as exciting as getting a new toy. Especially considering the mission had a power blackout last week when the main generator's starter burned out. Without a generator here, you have no electricity. Not fun.

Because the new backup is real easy on fuel, it'll get used anytime it can handle the workload.

2 liters of diesel/hour

Vs. 4 liters of diesel/hour (main big genny in the background)
It's sure nice to know there's a more "no power" type surprises.

Finally getting "SAM Ministries/ASAM" embroidered shirts for key guys here at the mission created a bit of excitement too. Nice smiles, and these guys sure help to keep things running too!

New sunglasses are exciting too.
(Right: Celestino, socorrista, my right-hand-man in the health program.)

The guy on the left struggles with eye problems caused by leprosy. These sunglasses are primarily protective with the perk is that they're pretty trendy too.

And there was more excitement when Peter (in blue), our main bricklayer, was selected to receive a plow (and 2 cows to go with it).

Most people out here prepare their fields by hand. These fields must produce enough maize (corn) to feed them and their family for the entire year. That's a tremendous amount of work so every member of the family participates in some way.

What back breaking work. Imagine what a relief a cow and plow are!

Another celebration this week is that SCHOOL'S OUT! Summer and festive season holidays get wrapped up into one for students on this part of the planet. They won't go back to school until late January or early February.

Preschool year-end party.

One of the not-so-exciting moments recently was when the mission's trusty old Isuzu, which has put on over 300,000 tough kilometers, is critical for everything from transporting orphan food to lugging bricks, and which has been resuscitated many times over...broke down. Apparently the back end started to make a loud whistling sound. That's not a good sign.

Matthew was on his way home after picking up students' school supplies when the Isuzu (nicknamed "Izzy") broke and left him stranded at the side of the road. I don't have the full story yet but somehow he dismantled and reassembled the back brakes, then Izzy limped home. This is Izzy now, with bricks behind her wheels.

Izzy's rear left wheel.

Note the black oil spattered pretty much everywhere and the smudge on the fender made by the pinch-hit mechanic as he labored to patch Izzy up enough to get home.

We all agree--it's definitely time to replace Izzy!

Ok, onto the bug part of the post.

African Cicadas, noisiest ones in the whole world.

It's hot right now in Moz. Like +35 to +41 hot. And in heat like this, we start getting thunderstorms.

And cicadas emerge from their cocoons by the thousands.

Cicadas on our kitchen screen.
Can you see all 10 of them? (Hint, look closely at the bars and wooden frame.)

Cicadas are our favorite bug even though their constant and deafening "zweeeee"ing around the clock almost drives newcomers insane.

We like them because they have an amazing life cycle and because their clumsy flight and bumping into walls makes them entertaining to watch. We also like that they seem to respond with a short little "zwee-zwee-zwee" when you rescue them from the floor and toss them back toward the trees. As if to say, "gee, thanks!"

A few more bug shots. I found this mud wasp's nest in our shoe cupboard today.
Each mud hump holds a larva plus several paralyzed spiders that are its "fresh" food.

That's a lot of mud for one little wasp to carry!

Those wasps get everywhere. These wasp larvae fell out of a lawn chair's hollow legs the other day. Don't care so much for these particular bugs! :(

Anyway, let me sign off for now. Much work awaits me. We're revamping our website, preparing for intensive seminar again, and trying to organize an upcoming furlough.

And I think there are a few more cicadas that need rescuing from last night's wall bumping fiasco, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making Things Fit

One of the joys of heading out on the long trip home is packing the vehicle. I use the term “joy” loosely because it’s actually a big chore to ensure that all the stuff we need to take home will

a. Fit.
b. Pass South Africa/Mozambique border inspection without too much ado.
c. Be safe all the way home (no water damage from rain, no breakage over bad roads).
d. Be packed so essential items for our stopover are accessible without unpacking and repacking more than absolutely necessary.

Here, Dwight and Andy pack things in as tightly as possible to make them fit. The back was half filled with boxes of study books.

These are essential items after our mid-trip overnight stop though, not the initial pack. That happened the day before and was not done during daylight hours, nor in such pleasant weather. It was done at 9 pm during a nasty thunderstorm. Darkness, pouring rain, lightning, howling wind and falling branches sure make for an unpleasant packing experience. We had an awful lot to cram into the vehicle, but somehow it all fit in.

Once we get packed up, it’s an 18 hour trip home that we split into 2 x 9 hour days. We don’t stop much along the way, but on this trip both Andy and Dwight had to pop in to their respective embassies to get the necessary signed letters in order to process their Mozambican driver’s licenses.

This meant navigating Maputo streets and crazy traffic.

Dwight checking out some High Commission literature while waiting for his official signed letter. We got to meet and shake hands with our High Commission Counsellor too.

But back to the trip.

There are several marked differences between Day 1 and Day 2 of this trip. On day 1, we’re still in the south’s highly populated areas where, simply put, there is more money. Gas stations have better supplies like ice cream and yogurt that is still safe to eat, and their restrooms are fairly decent.

On day 2 of the trip we enter what is more truly rural Mozambique with its poorer communities and limited supplies.

There are few places to stop and order food along the way so I took a few photos of the almost one and only food stop.

Looks like prices have gone up.
Looks like their menu writer had a challenge making things fit too.

Here's some of the decore:

This is just plain funny. A live chicken displaying a roasted chicken :)
Ok, he's a rooster.

As a nurse, I'm glad to see the "no smoking". Most places here don't worry about that.

The front serving counter.

We knew if we ordered hot food we'd be there awhile so we just ordered sandwiches.
Pretty sure the chickens were happy for that.

Note the large Cerebos salt shaker on the right. It's tough getting just a sprinkle out of that.

The 2nd day stretch of highway is cashew nut and pineapple territory so you can usually find them for sale along the way.

If you’re brave enough to put your window down and face the-battle-of-the-vendors, that is. Next challenge is, yes, to find a place where they'll fit!

During our absence, our main generator (the "Genny" mentioned in Ruth’s post) went on the blink for several days. This was made worse by the fact that our back-up generator hadn’t been delivered and hooked up yet.

When the generator’s not running nearly everything comes to a standstill. No power = no machines working. Very importantly, no water gets pumped either. Thankfully the guys at the mission managed a work around. The back up has been delivered since and will soon be hooked up.

It can be quite a hassle, this generator business. That is why we rejoice in scenes like this along the highway: power line poles!

They’re not quite in our neck of the woods yet, but it looks like they’re headed our way so we’re very hopeful.

Let me close with this morning’s excitement. We woke up to no water in the taps even though the generator ran the usual hours yesterday and would have pumped the 10,000 liter tank full. After some scouting around, Dwight found the broken underground pipe where most of that water leaked out overnight.

He and Rick did their best to repair the break with some pipe connectors, but the sizes were a bit off and wouldn’t fit. The only solution was to tie off the end of the pipe thus cutting off water supply to one of the homes.

Here’s hoping that pipe/connectors that fit can be bought this week. Oh the joys...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Game Viewing

"Staring right back at you."
(Female Kudu, Kruger Park, South Africa)

Today I noticed some kids jumping and waving their arms ad infinitum in front of a TV screen in a computer store. They had no controls in their hands so it took me awhile to realize they were actually playing an interactive game. It kept them occupied for a long time and kept me pretty entertained just watching them.

But that was nothing compared to the game we saw at Kruger Park this week with our family (who we have since bid farewell to). Game viewing at Kruger Park is different to visiting a zoo. At a zoo, animals are in their pens and you wander around at your leisure checking them out. When you're bored (like if they're napping), you move on. In a wildlife park like Kruger, however, there's one very large natural "pen" and you're in it with the animals. This is one very good reason to stay in your vehicle.

When viewing animals in a game park you have to do a lot of driving and actively search for them. Once you find them, if you get bored with a particular sight, you drive and actively search some more. It's a totally different experience to visiting a zoo and every visit presents its own unique sights. Like these:

Elephants having a "pool party".
Note the guy on the right, bottom down, tusks facing the sky. Is he doing a back flip?

A giraffe, lost in thought.

Smoochy giraffes

A mossy crocodile. (Talk about a long wait for dinner!)

Yawning baby hippo.

Cape Buffalo staring right back at us.
Kind of like the Kudu but with an attitude.

Cute yellow bird taking his umpteenth sip of ketchup.
(Yes, little guy, we know. We're in "your" pen.)

The much-poached rhino. Rough skin, thorn bush scrapes, horn and all.

Zebra with a fascinating stripe pattern.
Did you know that each zebra has a set of stripes that are as unique to him/her as a finger print?

Mom and baby baboons. Very entertaining.
It's a bit disconcerting though how much these animals
act like humans (compared to the others) :)

A particularly protective mother elephant gently keeps us at a safe distance
by walking towards us.

(When an elephant walks directly toward you, you back up. Quite a ways, if necessary, in case you're wondering.)

I'll close with this next one.

A certain tourist taking the "we're in their pen" thing a bit seriously.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Leaving the bush

Well, in all truth, we’ve left the bush already. We’re on our way south to take our visiting family to Joburg since their time here is nearing an end. We have a few scenic detours planned along the way though since it’s a very lo-o-ng ways to go and there are some good places to stop and catch a breather.

First though, a few shots of last Sunday’s service. We attended a little bush church that also ended up being a lo-o-ong ways. But out into the bush. I always say that if a rural person says your destination is “right there, not far”, you can bank on a good half hour of bouncing over bad roads. If they say “Eesh, that’s a lo-o-ong ways off!” you better pack your tent. Thankfully last Sunday’s service was a case of “right there, not far”. We had to pick our way through a few dry river beds which added a bit more excitement to the drive.

This old granny attended the service and we were quite captivated by her. She must be over 90 and is sharper and more vivacious than many younger than she is.

Here’s a pic of the church congregation after the service.

Anyway, Thursday morning we packed up and headed out of the bush. At about the half point in our 9+ hour Mozambican road drive (not the same as a 9+ hour north American road drive), we discovered we had a flat-ish looking tire so had to look for air. There are few gas stations along the way, and even fewer air pumps. But we came upon this little roadside business just across the Save river.

They had to prime the air compressor's old engine and give the cord a few good yanks to get it started, but start it did. And was it ever loud! But that didn’t matter, we were just happy to have found air.
While there, a little boy rode past selling “meat”.

Upon closer inspection we discovered what we is referred to as a “cane rat” in these parts.

Dwight couldn’t help hamming it up for the photo :)

We’ve now had a few days to show our family one of the loveliest spots along Mozambique’s coast.

It's turned out to be a rather typical experience as the power went off for over 24 hours and we then went without water for over 20 hours. Ah, such adventure!

Here's Ruth making toast over a flame on the gas stove.

Tomorrow we head for Kruger to see African animals. Here’s hoping the big 5, plus all those lesser but still beautiful others, will venture out from behind the bushes so we can see and photograph them.