Every day here has been so incredibly full. I admit I don't know quite what to do with myself with the vast differences in simply how to do life. At home, I have limitless opportunities and things to do and see and attend. I have always worked and always had a 9-5, it is the only life I know. I said I no longer wanted my 9-5 and instead I got a 7:00am-11pm. Here, in a place where I have no car and very limited opportunities, I have no idea where the days go. I have done a pitiful job of journaling. A peaceful, restful, quiet morning of coffee and breakfast doesn't exist. I seem to always have a morning debrief from the day before, one on one meetings with mission school students or other missionaries. The mornings start full force with little time to ease your way into the day. The days are hot and that can wear you out. You really do have to pace yourself and eat right and drink water and take all precautions in order to physically do the day. I rarely get in to town. I rarely sit down to journal. I rarely sit down. Or so it feels.
I don't get to the sea near often enough. On the day I went swimming with the dolphins I noticed a lovely yacht. It was impossible not to notice her. A yacht in the midst of little wooden hand carved boats. She stood out. I said out loud to Annelie, "I want that boat". I said it loud and emphatically. She laughed and told me how her father will say, "I want cake" (or something frivolous or extravagant) and her mother will correct him like a child, saying, "Do you want it or do you need it?". And he will answer, not matter what it is, " I NEED cake". "I NEED coffee". "I NEED a yacht". We all do this. We laughed. We walked to the leaky wooden dhow and threw in our gear.
One day this week, in the midst of a very full day, a friend had asked me to help her take a group of our boys swimming. We were supposed to go at 10. That changed to 12 and then to 1, but I had class at 2. I assisted in getting the boys to the sea. It involved one boy crying and my having to carry him on my hip the whole way, his tiny feet hitting my knee with each step, tears and snot on my shoulder. Two boys fought. One got lost (temporarily). We attempted to take a picture. A stranger noticed us. White girls with a dozen black boys. He asked if we were missionaries. He had a boy who was with him go to his boat to get his card for us so that we could contact him. He had a need. He wanted to do some "charitable work" and wanted to take 10 of us out on his boat if we wanted to go. "The one out there". "There?". "Yes, there". "THAT one"?...Oh, it's the boat that I NEED. The yacht.
I went out on it today. It was lovely. I went with 9 other friends and we had an absolute blast. I think what I may have enjoyed more than being on the boat, was getting to see how incredibly blessed the other 9 were to be aboard. It was fun to be able to bless them. It was fun to hear the guys giggle like girls as they jumped and dove and snorkeled and played. We had packed a picnic of potato salad, couscous, chicken and rolls. We stopped and got mangos at the little roadside stand on the way. We swam until we were ravenous and then feasted.
Now I am at this place where I feel like I simply have to speak out what I WANT. Whether it be coffee or cake, curriculum or teachers or instructors, and insight and revelation into a culture so different from my own, He knows. He knows that sometimes this all looks like way too much. He knows that the logistics and meetings and planning and preparation and research and hours of classes and discipleship and training and instruction can be exhausting. Yet, it doesn't have to be. He just asks us to co-labor and He never said it had to be 50-50. As a matter of fact, it seems a bit more like 90-10 and my only job is to ask.
In 2008, I ran a half-marathon on Thanksgiving Day. As soon as I finished the race I drove north to Hartwell and ate absolutely guilt free. In 2009, we opened the doors for Cherokee Town and Country Club's new renovation grand opening. I rang up tickets from the waitress station in the corner. I got to feast on the finest of Thanksgiving cuisine. And again in 2010, I celebrated this day of thanksgiving, serving tea and coffee, no longer mesmerized by the elaborate banquet and cornucopia set before me. I was annoyed that I actually had to work on the floor, be nice, stay as late as I did and just wanted to be with my family. But I got paid time and a half and I got to eat Chef Heather's banana pudding. When I finally got to Carla's, cranberry sauce in hand, I was too tired to even eat. Thanksgiving 2011 is certainly one I will never forget. There were no chandeliers, linen tablecloths, centerpieces with real once live turkeys, no little girls in tights, no petit fours, no butternut squash risotto, no warm chocolate bread pudding. But there WAS pumpkin pie!
Halliburton oil and gas company is here in Pemba. Somehow they found out that we were here and about the work that we do and they wanted to help. So they gave us Thanksgiving! Obviously our kids have never had or even heard of Thanksgiving, but they feasted like professionals. Rumor has it that there were 60 turkeys and 50 hams and I saw with my own eyes the biggest vat of mashed potatoes I have ever seen. But you know me, meat feasts are not my idea of a good time. They also served hamburgers, hotdogs, corn, rolls, mangos, and pie. There was not a green vegetable in the room. I went straight for the pie, pumpkin pie! I sat with the youngest children, two and three year olds. They didn't know quite what to do with all this foreign food. They are used to rice and beans.
I think over 1000 people were served in all. It could not have been more drastically different than my last Thanksgiving, where the meal was prepared by one of the 50 Master Chefs in the United States, with perfected recipes and ingredients. The pastries were prepared by a former Top Chef contestant. My fork was real silver. This time I ate with my hands! The extremes are mind blowing. There is no place else I would rather be. The only thing that would have made it any better would be having all of you join in.
I am going away next weekend with the girls. I have been asked to godmother two teenage girls and am very much looking forward to getting to know them and spending time with them. We only have 3 weeks of class left before we break for Christmas.
As you can see I am having a blast. It still has not really hit me that I live here. But I am sure making the most of it. Saturday my neighbor wanted to get away for the day. It is nice to get off base, relax, take a nap, enjoy the beach and rest. So that is exactly what we did. We packed books and ipods and towels and sunscreen and water bottles. We drank Cokes and watched the sunset. We swam in the ocean. We took pictures. I am so glad I bought that camera. It is a necessity here. Even it doesn't capture the beauty. There are not words to describe.
Life on base has been hectic. My days are constantly full and I rarely sit down. Even now I must leave to go to Staff Meeting and will then have class after that and then I have a meeting with an ESL teacher and then small group. Yesterday was full too and my cell phone starts to chime first thing in the morning with text messages inquiring about one thing or another and the next thing I know my calendar is full and next week is already busy. We had a great planning meeting yesterday as we prepare for a meeting next week to set our 2012 calendar. I think it will look like this:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
10 Business-----------Community Health-----2:2
3 Business-------------Community Health----
The 2:2 is a two on two meeting, where another missionary and I will meet with two of the kids. We want to find out their dreams and interests but also use Life Coach type tools and find out more about their personalities and strengths...Eeek. Running late. More later.
This morning I drove up the beach to a spot where friends visiting here from Northern Ireland were taking their baby for a swim. I have actually been to the sea with this couple before, while visiting them in Northern Ireland. Their son had not been born. They were so gracious and inviting and real. They taught me how to have proper tea. We ate really good chocolate and watched “Enchanted” and sang along. We cooked together and prayed together and laughed together. They are teaching here in the mission school. They’ve started a church in Northern Ireland that started out of a small home group where they simply did life together. They want to go to Cambodia. They want to bring children out of trafficking. We caught up a little while their son wiggled and ate a breakfast roll with jam. He is a typical one year old, bites in both hands, mouth overly full.
They left for a meeting and I realized that this was one of the first times I had been alone with the ocean view and nowhere to be for another 45 minutes. I ordered lunch; a Greek salad and a pizza. The Greek salad is mostly for the Feta cheese. I crave dairy. The olives are black with pits and rather ordinary, but are a salty treat. The pizza here is a guilty pleasure. It is simple, thin, gooey and inexpensive. I stared at the ocean and then chubby tourists in bikinis haggling with the jewelry sellers on the beach. I try to look local, so I take out my phone and actually have a few texts so I write those people back. My friends have asked for bleach. We’ve been out of water for awhile- don’t ask. I look at my watch. The shops are closed. I try a nearby barraca. They don’t have any. But they have laundry detergent and sardines, which the owner offers me in its place. At this particular barraca I didn’t even have to get off the scooter, the owner came out to me. I am just even now realizing how this scooter/motorcycle thing was a childhood dream of mine. I always pretended that my bike was so much more than what it really was. I wanted to be Ponch or John and ride my motorcycle to save good guys from bad guys. Not only did I want to BE them, I also wanted to marry them. This is one of the pleasures of being a girl, you get to be the hero and marry one. And now I laugh at the comedy of this plastic scooter and oversized helmet and how she never starts on the first push of my heel and how utterly unladylike and so not glamorous it all is or isn’t. But I scoot around like I am saving the world from bad guys even though I am just trying to find bleach for a waterless toilet.
I go to class where the students are studying dehydration, diarrhea and malaria. They are taught how to make rehydration solution. They make some and taste it. They learn about fever and take my temperature. It was 36. After class I jump back on the scooter. She cranks successfully after making me look really dumb, using all that I have got to give her life, hair in face, lots of sweat. I have learned to crank her side-saddled-ish. I don’t even bother getting on until I know she is alive. I simply stand and use the foot start crank thingy and can do this a little more daintily, and powerfully, while standing. I am learning. We scoot off to find bleach. I have been given directions to a shop. The directions include “turn at tree”. I find the shop and it is open. They don’t have bleach but they do have ice cream. But it is crazy expensive and not at all natural, made with vegetable fat and expired last month. I put it back. Defeated, I bought some mango juice and left. I then scanned pedestrians on the way home for the notorious yellow vested ones. As I knew I would, I spotted one and putted up beside him and made my transaction in Portuguese without dismounting my untrusty stallion. I scootered home and met with Steve and two students helping us form curriculum and write out our long and short term goals and our objectives. And this is not make-believe. It is real world. And I live here. And our dreams are taking shape and our conversations all come down to relationship and our ultimate desires to, out of relationship, friendship, discipleship, simply turn the mirror and show these kids what we see in them. It is exciting and frightening at the same time. But I am (incredibly humbly) the hero and I am married to the Hero and the story has a very good ending.
I was really hoping to add to these and will when the internet permits. This weekend was extraordinary. Just an exclamation point on the extravagant love of God and His desire for us to ENJOY! I can't believe that this is my life. I cannot believe that it took me so long to get to this place. I can't believe that what all I gave up gets turned back into the richest blessings. I used to live to get down to Sea Island or Seaside once a year. It still has not hit me that I live here on the most beautiful beach in the world. I could paint a bleak picture of my life of suffering; the heat, intermittent water and electricity, life in the 5th poorest country in the world. It is pretty spartan, a life so different than one in the West. But days like this are so lavish and so rich and so majestic that I can't not share them.
Saturday, I woke up early and joined a boat of friends. The boat is wooden and leaks but has a motor and a Mozambican driver. I recognize him. He took me out the last time I went. I have my own snorkel and mask but I grab a pair of fins and hoist myself in. We lather each other in sunscreen and scan the horizon as we coast on water smooth as glass. It is worth getting up early. The sea at 7am is breathtaking. So still.
We see a school of dolphin and the Captain brings our boat up next to them. We quickly put on our gear and flop out of the boat. I see them coming! I plop my face in the water and swim toward them!! They are so close. They swim right underneath me. I have trouble even keeping my eyes open because a whole school of very big mammals is swimming toward me and I want to close them tight, but they dive deeper and swim right underneath me. I can hear them! They swim off and we pull ourselves back into the boat and set off to chase them again. We found them another time or two but only got really close that first time. It was worth it. Some times they stay and play and swim in circles and let you swim with them. Not too disappointed, we then went over to the beach at Londo and snorkeled in the reef. So many fish, so many colors, so many varieties. Did you know there is a fish out there with the face of a dog and the tiniest little fins that flutter to keep his very large body afloat? I love the underwater world.
We came back by 11 or so and showered off and gathered up our blankets and snacks and hats and more sunscreen for a beach picnic. We drove out in 4x4 Land Rovers to a very remote beach, primitive, pristine, untouched. You can have your Seaside and your Sea Island, give me Maranganha! White sand, crystal clear water, seashells by the seashore. We unloaded our baskets and pots of pasta and potatoes and joined our friends roasting chicken on a makeshift grill. While snorkeling at Londo my friend, Annelie spotted a man walking along the shore with three large lobster. She offered him 250 Mets ($10) and we rode back with lunch. We threw them on the grill too along with garlic butter bread and pulled icy Cokes in bottles from the cooler. We feasted. Bridget passed around a loaf of banana bread, sliced neatly with Johan's pocket knife, and we feasted some more. We put a kettle of coffee on. We spread out our capalanas and kikoys and napped in the shade.
Annelie and I decided to walk off our lunch and walk back up the beach where we were meeting a large group for a birthday bonfire. We walked along the rocks and watched the sun slowly set and there are no words to describe it. Pictures won't even do it justice. We joined the bonfire and passed around cookies and sweets and sipped coffee. Then, just as the stars came out, the moon began to peek up over the ocean. It was deep red, then vibrant orange and we all stood in silent awe and wonder as we watched the moon rise to position in the sky and light a path across the sea. This was my Saturday.
I can't help but shake my head and wonder how many more days like this will be set before me. Better is one day in Your house than thousands elsewhere. I got glimpse, a little Heaven on earth.
A few hours after I wrote that last post, I went to town on the scooter. It was actually quite funny because I took my friend Nathalia. She's in her 20's, Columbian (not South Carolina), beautiful and hilarious. We decided to go through the village to avoid having to go the very, very long way into town. The road is under construction but a cut through the village puts you out just on the other side of the construction. Chickens clucked and children squealed as we putted through the tiny dirt trails. The village is always eye opening, even though both eyes were fixed on the path in front of me and the man in a yellow hard hat on a motorcycle who told me to follow him. The poverty. The garbage. The smoke. The faces. All on the other side of the wall of where I live.
We finally reached asphalt and whipped into the bank, got bread at the bakery, YOGURT!, apple cider vinegar, crackers, and olives. All at Whole Foods prices and Save Rite quality. All except for bread. It's cheap. I had noticed that we kinda puttered to a stop and tried to start the scooter when we left the bank. No dice. So we decided to call a cab, just in case. Sure enough, she would not start. The barefooted man selling mangos nor the mcel boy in the bright yellow vest selling phone credit, could not start it either. I always appreciate their efforts to do exactly what I had just done 10 times, but men are men all over the world and I appreciate their kindness and tolerate their belief in being the superior sex.
The cab driver was incredibly nice and patient and even attempted, much to my absolute shock and then awe and then full entertainment, put the scooter in the trunk of his car! Surprisingly, that didn't work. It just spilled gas all over the place. But then I heard him negotiate and ask the yellow vest boy to push the scooter for me. I had told him that I simply wanted to get it back to the place I bought it and actually said all that in Portuguese. The boy agreed to do it for 50 Mets ($2). Genius. But then there was the trust issue of him doing it and not just pushing it home. So we followed him there at a snails pace as cars whizzed by us, not at all perturbed or surprised, as if this happens every day- a boy pushing a scooter in the middle of the road while one white girl and one brown girl sit in the back of a cab that reeks of gasoline going two miles an hour, texting our friends to let them know we were going to be a little late. I called the scooter shop owner and let him know I was coming. He served me coffee while I waited for what I knew would be the inevitable. The mechanic could not fix the bike right away but he would work on it tomorrow and bring it to me. Tomorrow was yesterday. The shop owner offered for his "driver" to take me home. I realized I needed eggs and, in Portuguese asked him to stop at a barraca and I got eggs. I could not have done that on the scooter, so I was pleased that something worked out. He got out with me and even carried my purchase of eggs in a plastic bag back to the beat up truck that didn't start on the first or second try. A perfect gentleman, he delivered my 12 eggs and overly-caffeinated self safely back to my little house, redeeming the male species.
Footnote: Promised yesterday, I still have no bike and am awaiting Luis, the mechanic's arrival.
It is hot today. The air seems still and I cannot find a breeze. There is no power today so a fan is futile. I have fast (by Moz standards) internet now but that won’t work either. Tomorrow marks my one month anniversary. We will have class today at 2, English and then Business. I look forward to their arrival. A mission school student is going to speak on Hospitality and Tourism. We met yesterday with the ministry director and walked over the school property. They are hoping to build on to the current building. We would like an additional classroom, office/meeting room and maybe bathroom but at the moment the property has no sceptic tank so that may not be a possibility. The offices are almost finished and I even have a key now. My neighbor gave me her desk! There is a large veranda off the back of the building and it backs up to the front gate of the property. We would like to put a bamboo gate on both sides and close off the veranda, plant bougainvillea, and grass, put chairs and rope beds to use as lounge chairs and sofas and make a garden space. We could even have a classroom there. A church in California donated cans of chalkboard and dry erase board paint. Now I am on the search for plants, pots, planters, a gardener, bamboo, doors, locks and back to the market where I got the big bruise for rope beds and mats. I left that part out I think. It was not a highlight but Mom wrote last week concerned about me. Evidently in the photo of Robin and me you can see a bruise on my arm. It was kinda big. A result of riding to the market in the bed of the truck. A drunk guy tried to get in the back with me and the driver slammed on brakes. It only thrust him into the back and me against the cab. But now I know how to get there and can get rope beds and mats and fabric and door locks.
I am scootering around like I have been doing it all my life. Not that I would ever want to have one under any other circumstances but for here, it works. I scootered out to a friends house last night and played cards. I actually need to scooter up to the gas station as I have almost gone through a tank of gas now.
I am elated to have fast-ish internet and even got to ichat for a few minutes with Laura. Words cannot describe getting to see her face. She was all bundled up in a sweatshirt. Fall? I got an email for Black Friday Ads and thought how silly, only to realize that Thanksgiving is this month! There is a large company, Texas based, working here in Pemba. They have discovered us. They’ve made friends with some of the staff and see the work that we do. They are going to throw us a proper Thanksgiving feast. I have heard they purchased something like 50 hams, 70 turkeys, 150 pies. They lost me at pie and I can hardly wait!
As I write this, I have three visitors. I wish I had a camera. They have come to play the one game on my cheap cell phone. Something like Bedazzled, something about gems in rows. They are patiently watching the ring leader play on the tiny screen. One boy has very long eyelashes. They are all about 8 or 9. I wish Carson were here to play with them. They construct handmade sling shots and are all soccer stars.
Steve dropped by and we are making plans. He is working to coordinate letting all the students know about class today. I am to meet with them today and schedule appointments with the Business students. We have some ideas for small businesses and want to see what their interests are and ways we could merge the two.
The internet has, once again, been down or slow and I have not been able to write. But I do try. Even now as I write this, it is going on and off and I am hoping that by the time I finish I will have a tiny signal, enough to hit send. I scootered into town yesterday! The road to town is under construction and it could take a very long time before it is repaired. I had to go the long way. Up a big hill and over by the airport. The road into town from that was has one of my favorite views. It is a little valley full of huts and mud houses with thatch and sometimes metal roofs, Boabob trees all in the mix and then the ocean. I stayed hugged on my side of the road, the left. Motorcycles and flatbed trucks rumbled past me as the engine on my little scooter whined as I revved her up to 40km/hr. That was as fast as we've been and we were going down a hill. I can't see out of the side mirrors unless I duck down and lean to the right and even then the mirror is so tiny. I have learned that the helmet will fit if I wear my hair in a bun. The wad of tangled bun takes up the slack and the helmet stays in place. I drove intently to mcel to buy the overpriced internet stick. I proudly parked my scooter in front of the store, removed my helmet and shook out my hair like they do on TV. Far from a Charlie's Angel, I was dripping with sweat, and my tailbone hurt from the very bumpy ride, wearing my college backpack, I limped inside. Surprisingly no one was in there and I walked right up to the counter and got what I needed. I attempted to make the purchase entirely in Portuguese but the guy looked at me, annoyed and asked me to speak in English. I thought I had done quite well. Maybe it is the Southern accent? :) I got the stick and the SIM card which I didn't even think about will have to also be registered which means yet another trip back to town. Here they register your card with your Passport. I am not sure who is keeping up with all of that; who owns cell phones in this country and where they live and how old they are, but I reckon it is important for some reason.
After mcel I drove up to the bakery, then to the store that is supposed to have cheese but they didn't so I bought a candy bar instead. Then I went to find apple cider vinegar but saw boys selling limes and got those and then saw more boys selling tomatoes and cucumbers and even though they were more expensive, I didn't want to go back to the vegetable market so I just bought from them. There is a rhythm and a dance to Pemba shopping. I am horrible at it. I suddenly feel like I am doing 100 things at one time and you have to be creative and think on your feet because the chances of actually finding what you set out to get are slim to none. At home, I peruse the aisles and see what looks good and make a meal from that. You can't really do that here. The options seem limited, random, poor quality, and/or expensive. I am grateful for my daily meal of hot rice and beans here on Base. But I am determined to learn how to do this, to find Feta for cheap and prepare a whole meal with all food groups from my in town purchases.
I scootered back, the long way home, having transitioned to my large army back pack Laura gave me, full of bread, raw vegetables, a can of black beans, melted chocolate bar, milk and my unregistered mcel stick. I nervously avoided the massive potholes or really just chunks of missing road and gave my angels a thrill as trucks narrowly passed by me. I forgot sunscreen on my arms and now I have a little farmer's tan from the excursion.
I then went and scootered through the deep sand out to the beach and met with some of the other missionaries. I ate a pimento cheese sandwich I brought from home. Home. Home? Yep, my little home on the hill of Joy Base. In Pemba. Mozambique. Afreeeka.
I am really at a loss for words. My life has so drastically changed in such a short period of time. A year ago I sat in an office in a suit in a concrete city and attended boring meetings and prayed to be rescued. Now I am sitting on a concrete porch in a plastic chair. A mangey dog has wandered up and is digging in the red dirt. I have not spotted a lizard yet, but I know he is watching me. Men are singing and clapping in the classroom down the hill and a baby is crying in the Clinic and the South African nurse is telling him how cute he is. The Indian Ocean is over my shoulder. How did I ever truly live in that other life?
The school is up and running until mid December and will resume full force next year. Our curriculum director will arrive in January and we are hoping to have more classes to offer in more advanced stages. We also anticipate visiting teachers, constantly coming and going.
My days are filling up with lots of activity and I am slowly learning to step to the rhythm of life here. Meetings happen when they happen and I always seem to bump into the right person at the right time despite no emails or Blackberry's. It all comes together organically and eventually. It is an hourly lesson in patience.
This morning I am making attendance charts and will do my best to round up the kids before class this afternoon. This is new to them and they are not used to having it on their schedule. I should have an office soon. It is tiny, but has a great breeze and two windows and a door that locks and a tile floor. I will post more photos soon. I feel your prayers.
November 1st marked our first day of classes in an unfinished building. The workers there were baffled and asked why we were meeting in a building that was not finished. The students who arrived on time got lollipops. Every student got a notebook, a pen and a pencil. A recently ESL trained mission school student from Athens, GA named Will, taught for 50 minutes. They practiced greetings and numbers. The students were respectful, attentive and eager to learn. They live in a city driven by tourism and they see the impact that English fluency can have on their lives. We then began our Intro to Business course. Steve shared his dreams to see these students grow and flourish in the talents that God has placed in them. Then Frank, a mission school student, CPA and successful business consultant from California, brought baseball caps as an examples of product marketing, desirability and branding. They loved it. They thanked our teachers for coming. Today is another day of ESL from 2-3 following by Intro to Community Health. I am going to introduce the course. We are then going to begin a 6 week course in training Community Health workers from curriculum developed by Community Health Evangelism (www.che.org). These courses merge teaching and instruction on healthcare with Biblical teachings. I am curious to see this teaching in action and how the curriculum merges the two.
We have Iris Staff Meeting today at 11 and our Community Health/ESL Vocational Class from 2-4 today and tomorrow. I am still shocked at how quickly things have fallen in to place. We have a school, students, teachers, and curriculum and I have not even been here one month. I am certainly not saying it is all here because of me, it is a team effort for sure, but it is so fun to see my dreams coming true. I am rushing to keep up!