Monday, February 04, 2013

about mud, and getting stuck, and other stuff...

I was going to start off talking about getting stuck in mud but realized I was stuck having almost 0 internet bandwidth first thing this morning. And my Movitel modem is out of time so...we'll see how this goes. Oh the joys of bush life :)

You wouldn't believe that the start to our rainy season was dry as a bone, but it was, for week after week after week. We were all praying and hoping for rain, and watching the sky as only farmers and those in drought times do. Sometimes storm clouds would threaten, and we would count the seconds between flashes of lightning and the clap of thunder so we could judge just how close (or far away) a bit of wetness may be. This went on for quite some time, and all the while, our soil was dry, hot, and hard as concrete. Everything with a hint of green withered, including local residents' maize crops that they so desperately need so they can have food for the year. 

Then, suddenly, things changed and it began to rain. Then it poured. And it poured and poured and poured. In Africa one never dares complain about too much rain since there's so much dry-time, but it really did come down. Our empty, sludgy river bed soon filled and roared to life with muddy waters. We were glad to see our irrigation source full of water again. But of course other dry riverbeds also filled to overflowing, including the one where we had recently built the bridge that burned down just a few months ago. And along with the rushing waters, went our compacted dirt support, leaving us high and, well, not exactly dry but definitely without a bridge. This is the road that leads to the mission's school.
Had things been not quite so over-saturated and soggy, we would not have got stuck trying to ford the river. Thankfully we made it through going and were able to attend the student/parent meeting. But during the meeting we had another massive downpour that made the river swell again, and made the mud softer along the banks, and that led to our getting stuck as we tried to plow through on our return trip. Try as we might, we couldn't get unstuck. The back of the truck was high-centered so we all piled out and it took a bit of digging and stone laying by the front wheels before we could wriggle free...
at least to the other side.

(We were all lugging stones and branches and our feet were sinking in the squishy mud. 
Here Eric and Elizabeth packing more stones...)

We tried and tried our best to free ourselves on this river bank too but the mud was too soft and the incline too steep to make it. Matthew had his Movitel chip in his phone and had reception on it (this place is notorious for poor reception and our Vodacom lines were dead), so he called Rick Neufeld to please come help! Then we waited.

Soon Rick was there and he had a truck-load of shovels, chains, saws, axes, what-have-you, along with several helpers, photographers, a certain little girl who needed to take Flat Tendai pictures or something of that sort, and even Joao who broke from his office duties to come tend to us in our plight. We felt very honoured. :) And yes, out here in the bush we generally want to partake in all possible adventures because that's how we cope. We really do need each other.

Keeping with the mud theme, I came across these photos that are now several months old. I was cleaning the veranda one day and a chunk of mud fell off one of our canvas camping chairs. Except is wasn't just an ordinary chunk of mud. it was a mud wasp nest that had obviously been laboriously and carefully put together. I've watched wasps build these before. The mom (I assume it's the mom) flies to the ground and scoops up as much dirt as you can imagine a wasp's tiny feet can hold, then she moistens it and packs the tiny glob of mud, just like a tiny bricklayer, row upon row.  She makes several chambers and in each one, lays a single larva. Then she finds a special type of spider, collects several of them for each chamber, paralyzes them with her venom (I guess), and places them inside as living food for her young. When she's all done packing the food inside, she seals it up.
I've always been intrigued by these nests, but only recently discovered that the chambers still holding larva are in fact warm. That little body in there generates quite a bit of heat! The empty chambers where the larva have hatched are room temperature. There's an empty one below.
While I was examining my find, I discovered this oddly colored insect on the floor. He was pretty small so I needed the close-up on my camera to really see what it was. It was a wasp larva. One of them had fallen out of his broken nest when it fell from the chair. I was rather sad that I had disturbed a baby (a mom is a mom is a mom...). His forelegs were more or less developed, but not his hind legs or his wings.
Sorry little guy!
We made another interesting find in January. On our way home from picking Eric and Elizabeth up in Beira, we found a fruit stand by the highway selling Jack Fruit (Jaca, as we called it in Brazil). Everyone was curious to taste it so we decided to give it a whirl.
Yes, it's a huge fruit! Turns out it's also full of latex which I dont' recall having to contend with as a child when we ate it. But oi oi oi, was it ever sticky! Worse even than mud. We stuck to the fruit, the knife stuck to our hands, and the rag we tried wiping with stuck to everything. And we remained sticky for hours afterwards while the natural latex just sort of wore away. We figured the trick is probably to grease your hands up well in advance (we did this toward the end but the latex by then was already pretty much everywhere it could go). Oh well, next time. The fruit itself was good though.
Other items of interest....ah yes. Our little Duiker, Punkin. She actually belongs to Dwight and she really does believe he is her mommy. But on mornings where he heads out early and I'm the only one left to beg milk from, she begs (rather cutely) from me.

Once she's had her bottle, she sets about snooping around the house and giving everything in sight the lick test. Typical little one!
Um, no. You've got your own bottle!

We just discovered how much she loves Cheerios so she gets some occasionally. Talk about a privileged buck! Sheesh.

I love the night sky, so this is just to share some of Africa's beauty.

The morning sky is beautiful too. Dwight got this one morning on our holiday at the beach in December. I think it was 5 some-odd-o'clock in the morning. *yawn*

In the last few weeks, we've seen some wonderful things coming together. For one, the mission's Cessna has completed the importation process. That is no small task either! Paperwork, permissions, inspections, etc. without end. But it is now done and the Cessna finally flew home after being out of Mozambique for over a year. Here's Tendai to welcome it and Dwight and Andy. (Thanks for the photo, Heather).

The maintenance facility is also making great progress and looking more impressive all the time. What a blessing it will be to have a stocked, drive-in maintenance shop for working on the mission's vehicles rather than having to crawl underneath them in the dirt, or mud. Next month, we will welcome Rick Cogbill back plus those coming with him to continue with the next phase of this good work.
Aaaaaand, the bridge gets rebuilt. It still has a ways to go, but things are going very well. Once these mesh cages filled with stone and cement are up, we will place hardwood logs over top and once again be able to drive over it to get to the school.
For now, the rain has stopped and things are a bit drier. We all needed that break though we do still need rain this year. But at least for now, we can get over to the school to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible.

This has been a long post so I should sign off for now. There is more to tell as there always is, but that will have to wait until next time!