Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It is not even 3 o’clock. Did you know the whole rest of the world calls it 15:00? The military, Mozambique, Europe. I woke up at 5. Fumes. I lost my phone last night somewhere in the room and was afraid I was going to oversleep. I dug around and found my old Timex Ironman and set the alarm for 6:00. But apparently it was not even set for the correct time and never went off. I thought it was about 7am and finally found my phone while on my hands and knees and discovered it was 7:58. I quick rushed out the door and went to class. I taught today on Rabies and how to diagnose serious wounds, like bites, puncture wounds and care for them. We are planning a trip on Saturday to go out to Mieze and perhaps to see the farm and then to the beach. I want them to be exposed to all that they can see. I want them to spend time in the village and learn to take a look at the needs, problems and educate them on solutions. I want them to see a proper farm and how things grow and operate. Often times our center kids grow up in a bubble and are not exposed to life outside the base, from what I can tell. After class I went up to get my mail. I had THREE letters. Thank you Jenny Bell and Granny McCarley! I read them on my walk home. I walked along the little dirt path, Indian Ocean right beside me, passing little black faces starring back at me, reading your Valentine’s Day cards. They are so beautiful and I adore them.  Jenny Bell sent me clipping from the Funny Paper. So I read The Family Circle on my walk. If anyone in Hartwell wants to send me clippings from the Police Report, feel free. I do find myself craving news from the outside world. A few places have television and I stare at it as if I have never seen one and any tiny bit of news is a big deal. We heard about Whitney Houston’s death and someone was able to download Kevin Costner’s speech and I want to watch it tonight. I try to go to the major news sites about once a week and always swing by the Atlanta Journal for news about the ATL. And, admittedly from time to time I read Peach Pundit and peek into my former life. But I have no time for any of that today. I love the updates from all of you and thank you for sending me news. I also love getting the news through your eyes, unfiltered. These cards from my grandmother and Jenny Bell are just priceless. I will save them and bring them home with me. They are among my most cherished possessions. I did get to town and I did get the bleach and the hand soap. The bleach is so cheap and the container cheap plastic and it leaked on my green pants. Oh well. I tried to let friends use the scooter but they got pulled over by the police and it was a big deal and they were not able to take it and the police apparently took my documents but I got them back somehow according to the phone call I got about it all. We attempted to look into monthly internet but really got nowhere other than that they are going to come over this week and look at what I have here in the house already as far as installation. I have got to prepare tomorrow’s lesson with the business kids. I think we are going to work on English for a Purpose and work on phrases one would use in a restaurant. Dad sent a video camera. I want to take lots of footage all around to show you all there is to see. I will try. 


I woke up in my new house. I think the paint fumes are still borderline toxic but I stayed there anyway. I spent all day moving my things, which I didn’t think were that much, into my new place. The room has a small old struggling air conditioner that it doesn’t work so well. Less than a month ago the room was covered in black mold. I instantly start to sneeze when I walk into the house and wake up congested but am praying that this doesn’t continue. We have bleached the walls and the mold has been removed from what I can see. I have painted the walls with an oil based paint which I was told helps. I painted the room myself, as I am stubborn and my mother’s child and if you want something done right you do it yourself! I still need a few more things to make it comfortable but it is a great space and I will show you soon. I had weaned myself off coffee but woke up yesterday under my small chenille blanket and decided upon opening my eyes that coffee with breakfast was in order. I have a new electric kettle. I set up the computer and with coffee close by sent an email. I am terrible about emails here. I am terrible about taking the time to get on the computer and write. I am considering getting internet in this house. I think it would change communication tremendously. I am going to look into it this week. I wrote Carla back but didn’t say half of all that I wanted to say and even that took an hour and I found myself scrambling to get dressed and out the door for class. We did wound care in class yesterday. We have a nurse visiting from Norway. Our YWAM kids also helped teach and strangely enough everyone had wounds that needed dressing?! Except me. After class, I came home to my new kitchen and fixed a sandwich complete with carrot sticks on the side. The little South African grocery store had seeded brown bread, Rocket, Beets, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes and apples. I literally closed my eyes and savored those first few bites. In the afternoon I had a meeting of the Children’s Department. It is eye opening to see the politics of running an orphanage. We must remain in strict compliance with Social Services and it is a constant dance of adjusting to perform to their standards. Most of our older kids go to school in the afternoons, so I have only had two students in the afternoon session. Yesterday I was supposed to meet with Berta. I saw her on my way down. She said she was on her way. She was 45 minutes late for a one hour lesson. We went over the Present, Past Preterit and Past Imperfect and will continue to work on that this week. After class I ran into town with others to get a few groceries and still didn’t get but two things on my list. I need hand soap and bleach and will have to hit up a barracca this afternoon. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

a conversation

I am terribly overdue for an update. My excuses are the same. School is running along and each day brings new students, new challenges, new visitors, and new curriculum. Henrique continues to come and brings friends. One called PeeWee. They come and love the dancing part but sit attentively through the English lesson. Today I used a very basic primary book that taught on consonants and vowels and I felt sorry for these poor teenage boys pouring over a picture book with Apples and Blocks but they didn't seem to mind one bit. I am not sure they had ever even seen a kite before, they didn't seem to know what it was called in Portuguese. I am daily astounded by what they know and what they don't know. Henrique wants to be a doctor. He is 16 and in the 9th grade. I gave him a fairly simple math problem to do, basic subtraction of four digit numbers and he could not do it. I know he has the capacity to do it, I just don't think he has been taught. So working with students like this and learning what they know and what they don't starts to change everything for me and my purpose, my intent and my goals.
This week an amazing missionary is leaving after serving here for 7 years. She has worked closely with a group of boys who live on our base and they are known as "Pam's boys". She has taught them to read and write and how to plant and tend a garden and a little about cooking and cleaning and all sorts. She has discipled them and taught them about self-respect and the life of Jesus. I know a few of her boys and they stand out. They walk with dignity and self-assurance and integrity. She has left them with a great gift and I pray that I can do the same. Today Henrique wanted to talk to me after class to tell me that he had given blood at school. He lives in the village and has no parents. His father died Christmas Day. I know this because his brother works with Iris and we all knew of Manuel's father's death. We had talked about him becoming a doctor and I told him blood made me queasy. He was proud of himself. I was proud of him too. We then talked about blood type and he told me he is O+. He has no one. He has five brothers. But no mama to say, "Good job". And here I am teaching the kid very basic English. It feels like a drop in the bucket. He knows that "A" makes an "aa sound" like in "Apple", but he didn't eat breakfast this morning because he didn't have money for bread. We dance in class and sweat up a storm but the odds of Henrique actually becoming a doctor are about the same as my becoming fluent in Makua or being able to follow him and his friends in their Mozambican dance (which I think was influenced strongly by Michael Jackson, I recognize some moves). I wish you could see these boys. They are no different than any other 16 year olds. They wear skinny jeans and take pride in their clothes and the way they dress. They are influenced by what they see on television and the media and Western culture. Yet some boys are clueless, dressed in rags and barefooted. Each little plastic chair in the classroom holds such a uniquely different person who lives a life I could never comprehend.
I think a lot about nature vs. nurture and what makes them what we are. We all have our demons and the junk we were born fighting against. These kids get dealt a really raw hand. I have talked about this before, how the Portuguese left the Mozambicans with nothing. Everywhere I look I see extreme poverty and very poor education.  As the white girl I am often looked at as a source of money and not a friend. The mechanic who fixed my scooter still harasses me and calls out to me every time he sees me and asks me where I am going and if he can come with me and wants me to buy him food. He is always drunk and he scares me. It is not always a pretty picture. I often wonder if I will ever just be a friend and can ever just fit in here and work alongside nationals and not be seen as so very different. There is no way I can put myself in their shoes and there is no way I won't always be different. It is not easy. So I live here and I try to blend and I try to help and I am trying to educate and of course, love. And that one is not so easy either. I have to love the drunk mechanic and love the lady who stole from me and love the kids that always skip class and love the guy who almost ran me over on the scooter. I am learning a lot about love. It really is patient and kind and all those things the Bible says it is. And only because I am loved and I receive love and I know love can I even begin to go through the motions of pouring it out. It keeps me seeking Him in all things.
And then there are the faces that are so easy to love. It is an honor to do what I do and that I get to live in a place where I just get to watch these young kids grow and play and they scream out my name like I am a celebrity. And they are young and innocent and a little clueless. I pray for hope because I need it myself and they need it too. And this town needs it. We need infrastructure and an economy and goods and resources. These kids need to learn skills and trades. We need clean water and health care and a good education system. We need a government here that is just. And I sing the alphabet song and go over the verb "to be" in the simple present one more time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

a new boy, dancin' shoes and dinner plans!

school has been amazing lately. it is nothing like i ever imagined and i am loving seeing it transform. our center kids have not been showing up as they are supposed to. we continue to have class and have just opened the doors to anyone and everyone. henrique is ushering in all sorts. yesterday and today we had a little boy who came in and quietly sat in the back and joined us. he lives in the nearby village. he doesn’t wear shoes. all the other boys were being shy and refusing to answer. so we asked the tiny barefoot boy in the back. he stood up, came to the front, took the chalk and wrote the answer on the board. today he told me he was 12 years old. he looks about 6. he has large straight teeth. today he sat uncomfortably close to me as i was doing the lesson with him. mozambicans are close sitters. they don’t mind touching. i like personal space. you don’t get it here. he is adorable but there is something about his face that frightens me. not the big teeth. something that just tells me his life is hard. henrique came too and jamal and sergio and augusto and the boy whose name i can never remember. we did more one on one instruction today, now that i have help! i am learning more about what they know and what they don’t. the tiny boy with the big teeth absorbs it all like a sponge and neatly writes down everything and wants everything translated. he would devour a proper dictionary. especially a picture one. he is so intrigued and i can tell he wants to learn. he gets it that english is survival here. after an hour and a half of pretty intense conversation and conjugation, we danced. the boys lined up and didn’t miss a beat from the song they had learned last week. rena the visitor has them doing Tacky Ann’s in the Lindy Hop to the Jackson 5’s Rockin’ Robin. it is one of the most adorable things i have ever seen. today henrique changed shoes. he had little multicolored loafers in his bag and changed out of his flip flops into his dancing shoes. be still my heart. 
this afternoon i had benjamin and berta. benjamin is a boy genius and preaches in church and plays keys. berta is tall and thin and beautiful and loves to study. she goes to school in town. she is very bright. she is shy to speak english but she is a whiz at her own language. today she showed me how to conjugate several irregular portuguese verbs in 3 tenses. i am going to start reversing it on her and showing her the english to all the portuguese that she will teach me. today after class we walked to the beach to go for a swim but stopped for papaya and ice cream and the next thing we knew the sun was setting. now i am home and exhausted and about to go sit under my net to escape the insects that are swarming around me. i made a quick dinner of couscous and tomatoes and have already had my “tub bath”. we don’t have CNN or reality TV or any TV, so i usually look forward to coming home to my latest paperback. or e-book. they days are long and exhausting and it has been hot lately. a good book is all the stimulation i can take. 
rena the visitor has invited me out to dinner tomorrow night. this is one of the pleasures of living here, meeting the people from around the world who come here to volunteer. iris accepts visitors for up to 3 weeks. large teams from churches, youth groups, businesses, individuals, couples and families come from all over the place. i like meeting new people and hearing their stories. rena is from england, a dancer and at one time did an internship in Atlanta! every time she says it she does so with a Southern accent and i take no offense. 
it looks like i may be reading by headlamp tonight. the power keeps going on and off. more soon...

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Charleston. In Pemba.

Today we did an hour of English and then practiced, Left and Right and Front and Back and Around and other vocabulary by doing The Charleston! Turns out this visitor is quite the dance instructor and competed in international competitions and at one time was seventh in the world at something. She taught us how to do the Charleston today. I wish you could have seen these kids. I will try to video it. I am hoping we can actually perform it but not sure if Church is the best place to break out into the Charleston or Lindy Hop but it is priceless to see. Tomorrow she wants the kids to teach her, so they will be practicing their English and showing her one of their traditional dances. I honestly am blown away that dance is a part of the school, but it is a beautiful teaching tool and we are all having so much fun. 


School changes every single day. Attendance remains a big frustrating issue. I am learning to be patient with myself and with them. I have to remind myself that at 14 if I were given the choice to go to school or get out of it, I would be at the Dairy Queen with Becky and Elizabeth. I am going with the flow and letting things adapt. 
Henri in 2007
When I was here in 2007 I met a boy named Henrique. He wrote his name Henri on my notebook and drew me pictures. He was about 10. We went for walks on the beach. He lived in the nearby village but would join the other village kids and come over to our base to play and look at the white people. He was good company and a sweet boy. He taught me Portuguese and I bought him Cokes and tried to learn about life from a boy who lives in a village in Mozambique. Around Christmas I saw Henrique in town. I was driving and had friends in the truck and he noticed the logo on our truck and asked for a ride to the base. He asked my passengers and not me and jumped in the back and although I recognized him right away I was not able to jump out and hug his neck like I wanted to. Plus that would not have been appropriate any way. He jumped out at the gate and I wondered if I would ever see him again. I knew he would be all grown up and wondered how his life had changed. One day last week I saw him outside our main gate just walking by. I stopped and called his name. He came over and we talked a little bit. He told me he went to school at night. I invited him to our school. On Monday morning, he came! He walked up accompanied by Manuel. Manuel is over our Village Feeding program. That is not the politically correct term for it but it best describes the gist of it. We feed children every day and play music and games and have small sermons. The kids love it. Manuel does the whole thing and is amazing. There are literally hundreds that come every day and Manuel has it running smooth and loves what he does. He is a solid, strong, passionate man of God. He stands next to Henrique and is beaming. I see the resemblance. He tells me that Henrique is his brother. He tells me that he has been praying for Henri and that this is nothing short of an answer to prayer and thanks me for inviting him. We happened to have a visitor there that day and after one hour of English she taught them dance. Turns out she is a trained dancer and has taught dance all over the world. She wanted to teach the boys the Lindy Hop. She knows all about the history of dance and how the blacks in New York in the 20’s and 30’s changed dance by teaching the white folks how to do it. It was beautiful and hilarious watching the white lady teaching the black boys to Lindy Hop and the boys loved it. They learned “right” and “left” and I laughed and they sweated. She is coming back tomorrow and they are going to teach her. I pray Henrique comes.