Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life's joys, life's trials

Oh hello, hope I'm not disturbing any important animal business here under the humans' outdoor kitchen... Will you all be long?

These Zebras and horses were occupying an outdoor kitchen at Bundu Lodge where we stayed on a recent trip to south africa as we had meetings to attend at Mercy Air and business to get done done...there's always business to get done! Janette Stone accompanied us and this sort of closed off her time in Africa as she left from here to go home to Canada shortly after we left to return to Mozambique.

We were driving and although we find the whole affair of driving for 2 x 9-10 hour days familiar and in some ways interesting, we're starting to think there are times it would best be done over 3 days. For one thing, it would make for no night time driving which in itself would increase the safety factor a lot since these roads are poor at the best of time and treacherous at night: no (or narrow) broken shoulders, pot holes, animals on the road, pedestrians on the shoulders, vehicles with no lights, no reflectors even, and there are always those who have had a few too many.

Anyway, we stopped at his place at about the half way point, mostly for old times' sake. We stopped here on our first ever trip up north while we and our friends were still "scouting out the land" for a possible move. That was shortly after the end of the war and things were in MUCH worse shape. The highway was a mere crumbling strip of asphalt being taken over by briars and littered with burnt out vehicles.  We were about 10 people on that trip, so we ordered sandwiches from the humble assortment available on the menu, mostly cheese sandwiches and egg sandwiches. The waiter disappeared momentarily then came back to say, "We have no cheese, and we only have some eggs, and we don't have enough cokes for everyone." Something to that effect, anyway. One of those cases where they really should have changed their menu before setting it in front of clients :)

Oh well, that's what keeps life interesting. Today, the place is fixed up nicely and the town is bustling with productive activity. We stopped for breakfast and turns out they had everything on the menu! Progress is a wonderful thing.

This is the place, in the Maxixe area.

We got home pretty tired but also ready to take on the next week's Intensive Seminar once again. We hit a sad bump over the first weekend though when one of our sponsored students who had been struggling with his health for awhile lost the battle and lost his life. It felt terribly wrong to have taken a boy to hospital in the back seat of our vehicle, and then to return him home in a casket. I dislike those difficult moments. There are lots of questions, and heaviness. But those are also the times that stretch and grow our faith like no other.  This boy was an orphan and had seen his share of difficulty, but his willing disposition and happy face bore testament to the hope he had inside and he will surely be missed. We are so grateful for the time given to us all to invest in him and love him and we look forward to seeing him again one day.

The following week, ready or not, rolled around. About 50 monitors attended the seminar, and it was a great time. Six of the monitors were ready for the health course (it's the last of 25 courses they have to complete in order to graduate), so that kept me busy for the week. They were a very engaged group and we had some discussions that were motivating for us all. At the end, they all passed their exam with good marks, yay!

Here's Dwight feeding our latest wildlife project: Punkin (we got her at the end of October). She's a duiker and was orphaned, so kids came looking to sell her and Dwight couldn't turn her away.

Our weather has been terribly dry and unseasonably cool this year, but a few weeks ago the heavens broke loose a bit and we got some much needed rain. Oh we needed it so badly, people couldn't plant their crops and animal numbers (wildlife and domestic) were dropping. Not enough to eat = sickness. 

One thing that does happen when it rains though is that flying ants come out in hoards! They beat crazily about lights, lose their wings, pair off, then that's the end of it and all you're left with is the job of trying to clean up those silly, feather weight wings. It's nearly impossible.

Once seminar was over, it was time for Dwight and I to get a bit of R&R time. Felt like it had been forever and we were really very tired and so ready for it. So we headed south to our favorite spot again.  It was a good trip except for the flying ants (I guess). We hit several "herds" of them, and oh my. What. A. Mess. You can't wind-wiper off, that just smears them. You need some soapy water and a serious scrubbing tool.

Service station shops are few and far in between, but when we found one, we'd stop and dwight would dutifully clean the windscreen. Once it's been real messy, it always surprises me just how crystal clear it looks once it's been cleaned.

So there's an elephant crossing south of the Save River. I have never seen an elephant cross there in all our years, but I like that they obviously must since there are signs. One sign even says "Afternoon Elephant Crossing", or something like that. Just so you know, in case you were wondering.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our getaway and prepare to pick up tomorrow where we left off.  There's quite a bit of driving to be done, so let's hope flying ant season is over.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Time, and blogging

Ok so, it's been awhile since I blogged here. My apologies to all who thought I had either died or abandoned this site. :) Things have just been extremely busy for us for the past several months. We also now have a new blogging platform (on for news...which leaves this site as more or less just for personal ramblings--which I enjoy, given I have the time to dedicate to that. The second hold up has been issues with blogger--the interface, etc. keeps changing; HTML and Compose views are not consistent and I keep getting error warnings and red banners flashing, telling me publishing may fail. *sigh* Sometimes it seems to be all uphill!
But I will do my best to keep my tales updated. Here's what's happened (in photos and in brief) over the past 2 month. Several visitors have come our way to spend time here helping out and getting acquainted with the local context. Four of these ladies were nurses, so I've had lots of help with the various ongoing health projects and the health workers have enjoyed their input as well.
Jodi (the first to come) changing Marta's dressing. Marta was bitten by a Puff Adder, and her story has impacted us all. You can read the details here The next to arrive were these ladies. They've been a group of hard workers too! Here they are on a home visit with the 101 year old granny (who has since passed away).
While they were here, we took them up "the rock" to see the sun set over this beautiful area. We took a chair on our hike as well (Andy's brilliant idea), so each had a turn trying out a classic pose...
I just like this photo that Jodi took, it's of Simon weighing an orphaned baby who's in our infant milk program. I love how the baby is studying Simon while Simon studies the dial on the scale.
We've also been REAL busy working on translating reading books for the school library, and working on remedial materials for kids who are struggling. This is Fani hard at work.
It's great fun reading with the kids, I wish I had more time to commit to it but there are other things to be done. Like taking photos of kids for their sponsors.
Here, Paulo (teacher) helps get a smile from a shy student. Amid the activity, Dwight and I took an express trip to South Africa to do some business, then we headed right back home again. Here we are in a line up (which was NOT express) at the border post in South Africa. Well, we've seen worse. At least we weren't caught standing outside for 3-4 hours without an umbrella under an emergency foil blanket while it poured rain and stormed.
So far this year, we've had a few real hot days, up to +40C. It has threatened to storm but so far it's blown more than rained. Apparently the wind was too strong for our mission vehicle carport and it collapsed in the middle of the night one night when the wind got violent.
Thankfully our maintenance workshop is under construction. You can see it under construction here. And I can see it's time for an update there too! The airstrip has seen some good progress lately and yesterday, Aviation officials came to do an inspection. It seems that went well so now we await the final "ok" to open.
Oh, and it's orphaned duiker season again (due to it being intense hunting/trapping season). So here we are with our latest addition. Better go dig out those baby bottles again.
With that, I will close. But first, a few random, curious photos taken over the past few months.
At a local gas station, turn off your car, butt out your cigarette, and turn off your cellphone? Something makes me think it may be hard to get compliance on that last point.
This sign at a South African bank warns you that can't smoke or take your gun inside. Cell phones left on must be ok then? Phew. ttyl

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going Home

The final stretch to get home to Mozambique seems to have faded into the distant past, what with the busyness of settling back in and all. And there's a lot more to settling in than just unpacking your suitcase and making your bed so you can sleep in it again. Those activities are on your own to-do list, but you forget that there are other to-do lists floating around out there with your name on them as well.

But back to the trip home and photos of the event (since I always take photos along the way). There's always something interesting in store on these trips.

First there was the packing--no small feat since we were hauling all our luggage plus a car-full of tents and a car-full of training materials (see previous post).

By the time we were done, there was no room to even sneeze at. Ask Tony and Leila who we picked up in Maputo along the way and who had to pile their (thankfully small amount of) luggage between them on the back seat!

The border crossing went smoothly but we had to navigate Maputo yet before heading north. It felt good to be back in Africa again and it was a good chance to take pictures of our old home for our kids who are back in Canada.

Maputo's population has exploded over the last 18 or so years since the end of the civil war when we first moved there, and the volume of traffic in the streets has far outstripped the city's ability to cope with it. Think of it as a bumper car ride, hopefully with no bumps. But that depends on how good a driver you are in cramped spaces.

After about 12 hours on the road, we stopped at our "hotel" called "The Honey Pot". the rooms are quaint little wood cabins with only screens covering the windows and huge mosquito nets hanging over the beds. They were self-catering places so certainly had everything we needed.

That back really was packed right up to the ceiling and as far back as the window where a yellow University of Alberta book bag sits prominently pressed against the glass.

The trip home is a 2 day affair, with the "soft" part of the trip being the first day. On day 2, you hit more of the realities of remote travel in Mozambique where the pit stops have little to offer. Even this is better than it used to be though.

One of our pit stops is near the Vilanculos turn off. There's a small convenience store that sells warm drinks from a fridge and chocolate bars that I fear only move when we come through. But we're just happy to see something available. 

It also offers bathrooms for a small fee which is paid to an attendant. But you won't be offered toilet paper, this you need to request. Soap and hand towels are scarce at times, so you may want to bring your own. 

Price list: "Banho" (Bath)--Mt 30 (just over $1)
"Normal" (All other uses, I guess)--Mt 10 ($0.33)

Here's a sneak preview of the facility. There's no running water, not uncommon at all, hence the big red plastic container for water and the bucket for taking it wherever it needs to go.

"Banho" facility.

 Unfortunately there was no water in the red plastic container either. It must be tough trying to run a business like this when there's a hiccup in your hydro supply.

 Along a nice spot of highway, we came across a long line of dump trucks. About 20 in all, end to end, brand new. They reminded me of the story "Go Dog Go" by P.D. Eastman. "Where are these trucks all going?" we wondered. We could only guess that they were headed for the mines in Tete (north of us).

Typical town along the way. The big trees are Baobabs.

Here a boy sells pods from a Baobab tree. Cream of tartar is harvested from these pods.

I often comment on this pit stop because we almost always see no one here except the fuel station attendant. The building isn't terribly old and is actually quite nice, but it's vacant. The large display windows have only empty rooms to display. There's often no water here. There's no electricity either, so in order to pump fuel they have to fire up a little generator and clamp its cables to their electrical box.

 And then you wait. It's usually a quick stop being that there's no chocolate to choose from.

Following a "chapa" (local taxi) over some of the poorer stretches of road. It deteriorates to pot holes up ahead so keep your eyes peeled and hold your hats!

After over 12 hours of travel on day 2, we finally reached home sweet home. Our family isn't here but it's where our toothbrushes live. And that, as Royden says, is what makes it home :)

While I was still trying to unpack my toothbrush, however, seminar was on and calls were coming in to please see this and that sick person. On one of my stops, I met sweet 101 year old woman who has a sharp mind and quick wit. I asked her "What is the secret to living so long?" 

"Trust in God, and don't eat people." She replied. "I don't eat people."

Sounds like sage advice regardless of your context or just about any way you could interpret that!

And things just kept getting more and more interesting. Every day seems to hold some kind of adventure out here. (You can read more of my own latest adventures as I get them up, plus other updates, on

In case I haven't said it yet, it's GREAT being back home!

And Mushu agrees. 

But he's not so sure about the "home being where your toothbrush lives" part. He figures that so long as you have plenty of food and a soft bed, a toothbrush doesn't matter all that much.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leaving and Arriving--The Process

Often when I've written about our travels I've referred to the stages of leaving. That's because it's a rather involved process. Other people's trips may be simpler and more straightforward (probably just because I'm on the outside looking in), but ours generally feel rife with busy schedules, pressing last minute things to do/get, and that daunting task of packing 10 suitcases of stuff into a mere 4 suitcases.

Oh yes, and after all that, to get a good refreshing sleep that last night before the 40+ hour relatively sleepless journey to Africa. Yes, rest is important.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We're back in Africa now but since it's been over a month since I updated my blog, let me get you caught up on what we've been up to.

First, and most importantly, in June we returned to Edmonton (from our B.C./Seattle trip) to attend our daughter's graduation from university. Two years ago she graduated with her B.Sc. in Biochemistry, and this year she graduated with an after-degree in Education. These 6 years in university were intentional since from day one since her goal was to become a high school math and chemistry teacher, and she was advised that this was the best way to prepare herself for that. It's been a lot of work for her but she remained committed to the end and has received her reward--graduation (with distinction as any proud mom would add), and a career ahead of imparting vital knowledge and inspiring young people to learn.

Grad ceremony at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton

A moment to pause for a family photo at her grad banquet.

Hot on the heels of her grad was the annual Care A Thon which we attended. A portion of the funds raised at this event go toward SAM Ministries' school feeding program in Mozambique so it's a real privilege for us to be able to walk with these committed walkers. After the walk, Dwight shared a challenge with all those attending. You can find his message in PDF format at the bottom of this blog update on the SAM Ministries website.
 We were pleased to be joined by volunteers who share a love for Mozambique and her people.

Left to right: Suzanne, Dwight, Matthew, Andy (missionary in Mozambique), and Andrew. It was a great day with them and many others who participate in this event each year. And we were so glad it didn't rain!

One of the last minute things to do (for me) was to visit Emmanuel Foundation's warehouse and what a blessing it was to walk out of there with donations of medical supplies!  If I could have taken the desks, chairs, hospital beds, etc., I would have. But they would have complicated the packing process considerably :)
Donated medical items, along with suitcases to hold it all, stuffed in the back of Janette Stone's car. 
I was so glad Janette was able to be with me for this event, she kept us from getting hopelessly lost finding the place and it was great having the time together. She's due in Moz for a time of volunteer work there starting in October.

One of the donated items: an infant scale. 

Interestingly, earlier in the week one of the health workers emailed me saying how much one of the health posts needed an infant scale. I wasn't sure where I'd find one given the time frame we had. But voila, there just happened to be one at Emmanuel Foundation! "Unfortunately it's not needs batteries." the man said apologetically when he  brought it to me. I told him that was perfect for us since we don't have electricity anyway. How perfect. What a miracle.

Then of course was the job of packing all the donated items. Not only these medical supplies but other items donated throughout the course of our furlough. Thankfully there are a number of volunteers on their way out to us soon so I parceled out some of the excess critical items and hope they will find some space in their luggage allowance to bring it out!


 For our own flights, we were only allowed 1 piece each, 50 lb per suitcase on Air Canada...not much when you have so much that has to go so far. With a fair bit of sorting, squeezing and with a bit of excess luggage, we got what we really needed ready to go.

Two of our four suitcases, buckled together and duct taped as added security (hey, it's better than nothing) against the significant amount of theft that reportedly happens at Johannesburg's  O.R. Tambo airport. (Thankfully everything arrived intact.)

 Leaving Edmonton where everything was summertime green and lush.

Our route took us through London where we had 10 hours to either stare at the airport floor and walls or hop on the tube to see something we opted to go see the Westminster Abbey and the sights in that immediate area.

Then we hopped back on the tube to get back to Heathrow to catch our 10 or so hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once we'd collected our buckled and duct taped luggage (no mistaking it was ours, that's for sure) we picked up a rental car to get to Whiteriver where we were to meet team members Tony and Leila who drove our pick up down from central Moz for us.

But first, because there's never a lack of things to do upon our arrival or departure to or from anywhere it seems, we needed to pick up a bunch of boxes of leadership training materials. Turns out the rental car was rather small to cope with our 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 2 laptop bags, cameras, etc. plus 12 boxes of books, so it took quite a bit of rearranging and pushing and shoving to get it all to fit.

But in the end, we triumphed and boy were we tired! (Many thanks for the help from our friends and the staff at Hebron Theological College.)


In Whiteriver we met up with Tony and Leila and have been getting last minute things here tended to. One of those was the purchase of books for the mission's primary school's library...oh what fun it was to pick these up and think of the delight on the kids faces as they see them and learn to read them! I look forward to where these kids' educational path may lead them. If all they do is learn to read well and do math, most will be far ahead of where their parents are. But who knows, I may attend some of their graduations from university one day.

And with that, I think I'll declare that we've arrived at the end of this post. That's been quite the process too! 

I'll leave you with a series of photos I took of a baboon we saw in Kruger Park. I thought his expressions rather captured how we were feeling after the past very good but also very busy 6 months on furlough.


Bye for now. There'll be more to tell once we arrive Moz and as soon as the dust settles.

PS: For more mission news, check the SAM Ministries website blog.