Friday, November 25, 2011

Bare Necessities

Walls and floors full of bugs aren't my idea of life's bare necessities, but well, it rained and so they're here. So I'll just start this post off with them.

Two days ago, after a few weeks of sweltering heat, we finally got the blitzing thunderstorm. We were expecting it because rain usually follows intense heat at this time of year. In fact, when it's real hot (like into the 40's Celsius), the local people say "It's cooking up some rain."

I would like to add one other predictor of rain: ants. They emerge by the millions just before heavy rains and take over our world in their panicked search for food. They form wide swaths and go anywhere they want--be it inside or outside your house. They march across floors, into garbage cans, pet dishes, the shower, you name it. Outside, they're any place you step, look, or sit. And they'll crawl all over you too if you're in the way. (Which you always are because they're everywhere.)

So to sum it up and move on to more important things, this is how our rain cycle goes. Intense heat + billions of pesky ants > a storm (which should be measurable on the Richter scale) > cooling off + the emergence of a whole host of bugs that the rain unleashes > intense heat again.

Bugs on the veranda the morning after rain.
Where's my broom? Now that's a bare necessity!

With another pastors/monitors intensive seminar upon us, we've been flat out busy ensuring the training center had the bare necessities needed to host the event. So for the first time ever, it will be hosted at the new training center. Right where it should be.

If things still looks under construction, well, they are. But certain parts are finished enough to use. It beats the more rustic conditions everyone has had to put up with over the years while this has been in the planning and initial stages of development. Another major perk is that it's right here on mission property rather than a 30 minute bumpy drive away. So for all concerned, this definitely is a thumbs up.

Here's the latest tour:

Just last week, permanent white metal support beams replaced temporary wooden ones.

This section has had the most finishing touches since it will be used to conduct classes.
Window frames are freshly painted and glass panes are in place.

Primer was even painted on some of the cement trim crosses on the outside,
just in time for the seminar.
(Don't worry, this isn't the permanent color scheme.That will come later.)

A classroom, ready to be used, temporary light fixtures and homemade blackboard in place.

One of the bigger rooms with mattresses that will be used for sleeping.
It's not luxurious but it beats a grass mat on a tent floor!

Oh, and as a side note, I'd like to point out that oval, white table. For probably the first time ever, it is fulfilling a more important function than being my one and only dining room table for the past 18 years. We're temporarily using a "real" wooden one that's on loaner from Ron and Barb. Nice change :)

Tables and chairs to be set up in the classrooms.

Here are some of the temporary structures to cover the bare necessities:

Kitchen and dining area.
We plan to build a nice multipurpose kitchen and dining hall one day,
but for now, this simple structure will do.

Two monitors with program coordinator Pastor Ricardo (light blue shirt), Pastor Tome (the cook, in navy blue t-shirt), and 2 of the older sponsored students on each side of him.
(Left: Mateu P. Right: Bero).

Since it's school holidays, these students do volunteer work during the week of seminar.

Pile of lenha (firewood) for open fire cooking.

Temporary (to become permanent) tap brings fresh water from the storage tank to a central spot for easy access for cooking and bathing. Bucket style bathing, of course.

Bathing area.
Although our future bathing stalls will be made of brick and concrete,
these are the norm in rural Mozambique.

Inside a similar looking structure, are the latrines.

And no, they're not the sitting type. Yet.
But these are also common in these parts.

Tents for surpervisors to stay in.
Water tank in background.

Yes, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. But compared to where we were about a year ago, this multipurpose facility/training center has come a long way!

Oct/Nov 2010

Which brings us to another one of our current building projects: a home for Rick and Heather Neufeld. Good progress! Be encouraged, little Neufeld family.

Last few photos:

Welcome dinner to celebrate Ron & Barb, and Tony & Leila's arrival.
Thanksgiving, really.

We were pleased to spot this cute pair of Broadbilled Rollers
nesting in a dead tree right beside the Neufeld's busy construction site.

I hope they eat ants.

PS: It's that time of year again (Christmas), so if you're interested in helping provide needy people with a bare necessity or two, please consider giving a Unique Christmas Gift. Although our website is a bit broken and undergoing a revamp, you can still download the gift brochure. Click here.

Bye for now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Although sometimes instructions seem redundant, or untimely, they are always important. That's because following them can save you lots of good things like time, effort, and even valuable points on a test. Thankfully, I wasn't the one writing a test this week. But these youngsters were.

This is the group of 5th graders who recently "graduated" from the mission school's Grade 5 and who want to go on to Grade 6 next year at an external school. This will be necessary until we are granted permission to add higher grades to our school.

One of the steps in the process is that students undergo a simple evaluation of the 3 "R's" (reading, writing and arithmetic). In the above photo, they're getting a quick orientation to the process as well as an introduction to staff members who will be monitoring them during the test.

Then, they split off into groups of 6-10 for their evaluations. Joao and I took one group on our veranda.

Hmm, serious stuff.

Once I was done helping with the reading evaluations, I took a few moments to pop my head in on the other groups.

This group sat in the "internet office" under Celestino's watchful eye (he's quite the stickler for discipline and detail). For the brief moment I was there, I heard him reminding the youngsters to "...observe the instructions at the top of the math page. It says to 'Calculate'. I want to remind you that when it says 'calculate', it means show all your work, fully, in proper form. Don't just give the answer. You'll be docked points for not showing your work."

I gulped hard for the kids, snapped this photo, silently wished them all the best, then backed out so they could concentrate.

Below is Matthew's little flock in the main office. They looked like they were pretty much done other than each still taking his/her turn outside to read their assigned piece of literature.

The two guys in the doorway are two of the school's teachers who accompanied the students. They were pacing back and forth, like worried parents, offering words of encouragement here and there.

And here's Prosper's group in the shade of the big tree in the front yard of the office. I see one boy looking up at the birds. Not tooooo much stress here.

All in all the process didn't take more than about an hour and then the students were off to their homes to enjoy the summer break. Celestino brought me their papers afterwards to quickly go over the results and pointed out that some of the students lost points for not having paid attention to the instruction "calculate" on the math page. "Calculate," he informed me, "doesn't mean to just write the answer. It means you have to show all your work, and your work has to be in order. 10's in the 10's place, 1's in the 1's place, and so on. Otherwise you make mistakes."

I sat straight and said, "Wow, Celestino. Sometimes I miss reading instructions too and just jump into the work
. Good thing I didn't have to write this test...I may have flunked it entirely!" I was half joking, half serious. Half joking because the way they do long division here was mind bogglingly different to me. I recall learning a rather upside-down method in Brazil long ago, but I think this is even different to that!

Anyway, I'd meant to post this photo last week but I think it got left out by mistake. This is us, Francois and Joao (far right) with some of the school's first students when "school" was held under the trees. They are now adults and either settling down and starting their families or pursuing a vocation.

Below is oldest photo of the school I have on my laptop. By this point, we had transformed an old dilapidated farm laborers' dorm into a large one-room school house by covering it with a big thatched roof, extending the building's width, and putting blackboards on the walls. On Sundays, it was used as a church.

To wrap things up for this time, here are a few shots of a home visit Celestino and I made to a young mother who suffered a puff adder (viper) bite a few weeks ago. Thankfully the wound is healing up well and she is able to walk. After a few visits, we decided the family was ready to take over her dressing changes on their own, so we left supplies and all the instructions needed.

Celestino was the one who demonstrated and gave the instructions, of course. Concisely, and with attention to detail, as always :)

At the end, when we asked if the instructions were clear, the young lady nodded her head without hesitation. And so did this entire line of cute little onlookers as well.

That's good. Learn it now, kids. Be that attentive to instructions always and you'll do better, in general, on just about any of life's tests!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What marked your week?

Several things have marked this week for me. The first one was finding some CD's of "old music" (as our kids would call it) while I was searching for a computer software CD. I decided to pop them in for a listen after so many years. They were Petra's 'Beyond Belief', and 'Unseen Power'. What's funny is that even though my kids consider the music old-fashioned, it was pretty controversial in its day, mostly because of its style. Some people figured listening to Petra was "trying to walk the edge without falling in". After listening to them again though, I have to say that the messages those songs carry still challenge and inspire me. So for me, that is the music of the month. Old or not.

Another thing that marked this week was contact with friends I haven't heard from in a long time. I need to keep moving on the main theme here so will keep this short, but I remember this couple as being an inspiration AND a ton of fun during a year that held certain challenges for me as a teenager.

Okay, onto the party. I think I've mentioned recently that the end of October marks the end of the school year here in Moz. So this is the mission's "School's Finished" party.

The party took place in the open air, in the shade.
The balloons helped make the day feel that much more special.
Special thanks to Francois (Rauch) and the school teachers for all their work not only throughout the year, but also for the work that went into this wonderful celebration.

But first, we had to get there. The school is off back in the bush and this year with the bush fires, the one bridge had burned down. There is a round-about way but it is much longer, so we opted for off-roading through the dry riverbed.

You can see the burned bridge in the photo below.

By the time we got there, a fair sized crowd was already there waiting for things to begin. Here are some of the students waiting patiently.

The sun was shining brightly, and it's HOT this time of year. As the sun moved, we kept having to move the seating arrangement around to get into the shade.

There was a table full of prizes for those with best marks. Even a bicycle! In the end though, no one went home empty handed. Everyone got something.

There was no dry ice show or confetti for the prize winners, but there were plenty of bubbles!

It was nice to see parents and grandparents alike attending the event.

This is my friend Val and with her kids and grandkids. She was in the women's literacy class back a few years when I taught it and although she only speaks local dialect and I only speak Portuguese and English, we somehow manage to communicate the basics. We don't see each other often anymore, but when we do, there's always an immediate connection.

One of the mommies attending the event.
Here, she and her two little ones are headed up to the water pump for a drink to cool off.

After the prize giving ceremony, plasticized ID cards were handed out to all the kids from the sponsorship program. A picture of yourself is an absolute luxury out here, and these that are especially prepared and sent over from Canada for these children are quite the treasure. The card is brightly colored and has a picture of themselves plus an inspirational verse to encourage them.

Handing out the cards. The fun part for me is watching their reactions.

Examining the photo and verse closely.


In the center here is (I believe to be) our smallest preschooler. She used to receive milk at the clinic from the milk program, and now that she attends preschool, she receives nutritious food each day.

Even she takes a loooong look at her beautiful card!

Smiles all around!

The girl in blue below acted quite cool about the whole card thing initially but I noticed that she withdrew to a quieter spot by the wall to examine hers. And then I caught that cute smile that I knew was inside somewhere wanting to come out!

Haha, then she caught me and saw my smile too ;)

The kids gave several very boisterous cheers to all who make it possible for them to go to school, have a lunch program, receive prizes, have a party, etc.

So for all those of you who give, pray, and love these kids from afar,

Thank you for being an inspiration to so many beautiful lives.