Monday, June 25, 2012
Taratibu is an elephant reserve about 150 kilometers west of Pemba. It was built and is owned by Jacob. I am certain he has a last name but I don’t know it. Most everyone here goes by first names, even Muhammed and Muhammed. Here, his name is pronounced “Ya-kobi” and he is kind and gentle. He is one of those people who you can simply look at and see their kindness. I ran into him last week and I knew I liked him when I shook his hand. This encounter led me to Taratibu.
Rapha, Ana, Ali, Ruth and I loaded up the black truck with noodles and cookies and cameras and headed west. We stopped in Mieze for bread, bananas, tomatoes, and peppers. You have to plan your own meals. Small huts come furnished with twin beds and an ice cold shower. We drive until we see a dirt road that looks insignificant enough to look familiar. Rapha and Ana have been before. Once on the dirt road we are glad we have the 4x4. We drive through 45 kilometers of the real Mozambique. No electricity, no shops, or restaurants, just huts. Tiny and sporadic. Everything in dirt orange and brown underneath a big blue sky. Children come out to greet us. Swollen bellies. Women wave too. The men play it cool, ignore us and sip their hot gin.
We drive until a fork in the road. Three people stand watching us. The right fork is a large hill, invisible on the other side. We stop. We roll down the window. They looked lost and so do we. We find out that they are our Guide and our Cook. They want a ride to work. They jump in the back of the truck and off we go. We drive into the camp and into another world. The grounds are lush and green. The rooms and common areas are thatch and wood and beautifully constructed. I have seen Jacob’s architecture here in Pemba and I recognize his handiwork. A closer look at the guide and cook and an introduction reveal Dennis and Laurinda. Dennis is dark and bald with a deep voice. Laurinda is small and neatly dressed in a western style floral dress that buttons down the front, not a capalana. She is thin and wiry and has big hands. She is pretty. She informs us that she is there to wash our dishes and will cook for us if we need her to. Dennis is our guide and will take us to look for the elephants.I never figured out who the third guy was.
We take ourselves to our rooms which are three small round huts with twin beds and a bath. The construction is Jacob’s and well done. The bathroom is tiled and all water comes from a spring just outside the door. There are no mosquito nets because there are no mosquitos.
We gather in the large pavillion where there is a small stove and refrigerator. The power is by generator and is on from 5pm until 8:30pm. We made grilled cheese sandwiches and drank cold bottled Cokes. Dennis came to find us. He was dressed in a dark green shirt, thick material, neatly pressed, with epaulets, thick black belt, matching hat tucked into his pants, matching dark green pants, army boots. He smells like cheap cigarettes, even cheaper booze and sweat. He smells like Uncle Henry. I am only making the association now, some 25 years later. His voice is so deep and he slurs his words a little. Pretty certain that is just the way he talks and not the booze. I catch every 10th word as I do with most native Portuguese speakers. I listen for about 60 seconds as I know this is important stuff, but then my brain starts to hurt as I try to translate and I give up and start to day dream about getting to see the elephants. I notice we are dressed a little alike. I am wearing army green pants too. Cargo pants from J. Crew and a white v neck t-shirt with my Mary Jane Keen’s. No socks. The only thing I get from the speech he makes is Rapha’s translation. “If the elephants start to charge, kick the ground to raise up dirt and run in the direction that the dirt falls, because that is the way the way the wind is blowing”. That sounded really complicated. I quickly kicked the dirt for practice. It went in the direction I kicked. I wondered if that was wind or inertia, I turned the other way, kick and the dirt changed direction. I then decided I would stick close to Dennis in spite of the smell and that perhaps his odor was the best indicator of being upwind or down.
We traipsed through what looked like the set of Jurrasic Park for an hour and a half and I was absolutely mesmorized. I kept getting left behind for being complely awestruck. I could only recongize one or two trees. Dennis pointed out the amarula tree and elephant dung. We walked through areas that had been burned for one reason or another. We walked inside a large dry riverbed. There were huge chunks of granite everywhere and we walked across large mounds of it. One minute I was in an absolutely foreign terrain and the next I was at the Conyer’s Horse Park running the Granite Grinder. It was identical. Trees and cacti and moss on mounds of granite.
Taratibu is surrounded by a range of granite mountains or inselbergs. They are grand and their colors constantly changing hues as the African sun moves among them. The rolling clouds hang low as they always do around here.
We see a few elephant tracks and some dung, but that is all we see of the allusive elephants.
We come back to camp for cold drinks and very, very cold showers. We gather in the large pavillion and prepare our spaghetti. We break out the deck of cards and enter into a rousing game of Hand and Foot. I win. We rush to finish our game before the generator is shut off and we are left to spend our evenings in very, very dark night. I crawl in bed with my headlamp and Kindle and read a Chapter in The Wives of Henry VIII.
I wake to Ruth calling my name. We have all overslept for our 5:30 guide with Dennis. We scramble eggs and make coffee and load in the truck. We drive through deep forest until we come to a wide riverbed. We take off our shoes and step in. Two men come from the other side of the river to greet us. Their chests and shoulders both covered in flies. The flies scatter when they reach shake our hands but light on their thin faded shirts a moment later. Inside the riverbed we find large lion prints. We have looked for the illusive elephants from above, now we are looking from within, the watering hole. We trudge up the riverbed following closely behind Dennis. All fear of much of anything fades as I stand amazed to be seeking real elephants in the heart of the jungle. With a Canon and an iPhone. We have no luck in the river and climb a mountainside. There we inhale stunning 360 degree views of the African subtropical rainforest below. It is Sunday morning. We lie on the granite mountainside and bask in the sun. Dennis hides in the shade.
We come back to camp for lunch and naps made mandatory to save our friendships and meet up again for another hike up another mountain in the afternoon. We are learning how to do it at this point and sit quietly perched on the side of the mountain passing cookies and binoculars watching baboons play in the trees. We scamper back down to beat the sun. Laurinda brings us a warm bowl of xima piled high and a pot of stewed matapa, peas, tomatoes and onions. It is great except for the bits of dirt that are inevitable for some reason in meals like this. We resume Hand and Foot and play until the clock strikes 8:00.
Determined to see elephants or at least more of this fascinating playground, I set my alarm for 4:50am. I make the coffee with my headlamp on my forehead, but the sun is already rising. Rapha and Ruth join me and Dennis shows up with his trusty pre Mozambican civil war gun across his back.
We walk inside another riverbed this time. This one is dry but I keep getting sand inside my Mary Jane’s. The sites are incredible as this forest is waking up. The noises are all so unrecognizable. A bird. A monkey. We step on ancient rock. A canopy of lush green trees drips with morning dew. I feel it on my face and in my hair. I soak it in. I snap pictures and rush to keep up with the others. Wet sand in my shoes.
Taratibu has captured my heart. I will never forget it. I will remember my time in Africa and I will remember my kids and the ocean and I will remember Taratibu. We arrive to find Jacob loading up a truck that looks like a small military tank. He steps out to greet us. He asks if we have had any luck and we shake our heads. He then tells us the sad story. In the past 6 months they have found 45 dead elephants. Poachers have come with AK-47s and killed them. They have left their offspring behind. They killed a pregnant mother who gave birth when the killed her and then they killed her baby. I thought Jacob would weep telling us the story. He told us of the orphaned elephants. There are no elephants left now, he told us. He has thought of trying to capture the orphans and create a space for them. His reserve is now just a getaway and not at all an elephant reserve at all. There are no elephants left. We shook our heads and looked at our feet and for a small moment we felt his pain. He has invested over 20 years here in this place. He created Taratibu. It is his heart.
It is a fascinating place. The silence, the stars, the jungle, Dennis. I never dreamed I would ever get to experience something quite like that. It was an honor to get to go and experience Jacob’s creation of Taratibu and God’s creation of the African jungle. This world we live in is so gigantic. I cannot get my head around it all. The jungle 3 hours away. The villages we passed through. The children with swollen bellies and rags. No education. No doctor. Uttermost ends of the earth. I haven’t a clue what to do about any of it. The orphaned. The hungry. The poor. The elephants. I do believe I am getting to see it all for a reason. I want to go back, just to take it all in one more time. But now I home. I have work to do. The day of celebration of Mozambican Independence is over. And my little vacation is over. I have eager students who will be greeting me in the morning and a vocational school to run. A task almost as daunting as tracking down elephants poachers. I reckon we all have our calling and our place. Jacob’s heart is big enough to fight for the orphans of his world and I am standing right in the middle of a life of fighting for those in mine. I wished you all could have been there. It really was amazing. And if you are ever in the country, you must go!
Just returned from Taratibu, the elephant reserve. Details coming...
So we are finding out that maybe the boys didn’t steal after all and that is good. We still aren’t quite sure but no confessions were made. They told us that a woman gave them more change than they were supposed to be given back, but then we never saw that extra money in the end. Rodrigo asked them what would be the right thing to do and after a few times of asking them in a variety of ways, we think they got it and are going to return the money to the woman. Rodrigo discussed with them at length that this is their business and if they steal then they are stealing from themselves. We had arranged to take a truck into town but it will cost 200 mets. They decided that was eating into their profits and opted to walk instead. We gave them the money to buy the grocery items for this week and gave them each 100 mets for their work. They decided not to take the 100 mets, but to keep it with us and build up a reserve so that they will not have to rely on us to front initial costs and will soon be able to do it fully themselves. I am proud. So now their little business can take off and we can simply continue to monitor and advise.
We have now been given a small monthly budget!! We have been wanting to hire one of our older students to teach a Community Health course and this will make it possible. The students have been asking to have events together on Friday nights and we can use the money for this too. Rodrigo and I both feel that we don’t have the community we had anticipated with our students. Initially this was supposed to be for our Iris kids, but they showed no interested so we opened it up to village kids. They come and go and only about 10-15 are consistent. One morning we will have 50 and the next, 20. It makes it very difficult to teach any subject fully. It also makes it hard for us to get to know them. We are thinking about starting an application process and being strict about attendance to hopefully get a core group of dedicated students. We are absolutely making this up as we go along.
I am teaching my heart out every day with English classes but when I test them or do conversational games, I get frustrated with all that they do not know. They sit so diligently and patiently through each class and never say that they don’t understand. I do my best to engage them and include everyone and ask lots of questions and call on each student. I all but stand on my head! This is hard.
We may have an opportunity to start another small business. A Gift Shop! I can see it all now. I want to offer local goods. Local straw and banana leaf bags and baskets and mats. I want to package and sell local honey and cashews (one of the only export items in Mozambique- other than oil). I want to take capalana fabric and make all sorts of things. For now, the plan is to include the students in lessons on starting up a business. We will need a brand and want to market it and want to find sources for the honey, cashews, fabric, etc. So we are created classes around this for now.
Also, Rodrigo and I met today with a local hotel. They are willing to work with us on letting our students shadow some of their workers and are very interested in hiring more employees within the next year for an expansion project. They are at capacity now with 106 rooms and are building 80 more. They will need additional employees and we can step in at just the right time to give our kids time to learn the job and be fully trained and be the perfect candidates for hire when the times comes.
Monday is a national holiday. They have more holiday’s here than the State of Georgia. I am going to an Elephant Reserve! I have heard that it existed. I once heard it was far away and then I heard it was close by and then I heard it was closed and then I heard that the elephants weren’t “out”. But I ran into the owner last week and decided that I could not live here for two years of my life and not get to experience the elephants. So, I am going!
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
luis didn't leave me enough money for gas and it would not start. small parts are missing and the odometer that once read at least a couple of hundred of kilometers, now reads 000002. in midst of it all we have exciting things on the horizon. some too premature to discuss just yet, but close. thank you for giving and praying. we started the personal shopping business today. it went okay. not great. but fairly successful. we are suspicious that the boys pocketed some of our profits but there really is no way in knowing. so trying to figure out how to disciple and love and correct and instruct and still disciple and love and not wring necks.
the rooster is crowing again and i am up and about. coffee poured. attempting to open emails from my one tiny bar of internet reception. i really must hurry and i don’t know why my desire to sit and write and revelation of things to say either comes in the night just before deep sleep or in the mornings when i am on my way out the door. still in my pajamas. i got my scooter back yesterday! they had it for ONE MONTH! i had to pay $112. i am pretty sure i have now spent as much on the scooter as i paid for it. he returned it with no gas. i took it in with a full tank. he replaced parts that didn’t need replacing but i was not there to argue and i don’t have the vocabulary for all that fussing. i did yell about the gasoline and how long it took. it didn’t make me feel any better. i was just happy to be scooting again. the walks to the other base have done me good though. i need the exercise. i plan to still walk some but i already know how that will work out. i am already excited to have an extra 20 minutes this morning to get ready. i can actually prepare breakfast or do my hair. read a a few more pages.
heytell and whatsapp have changed my life and i love hearing your voices. even if they come sporadically and only when the 3G is up and working. if you have a smart phone, get these! and send me a message. you can find me via facebook through heytell and via my phone number for whatsapp +258824077677.
last week rodrigo and i looked at property just for fun. we found a property with a huge wrap around porch. possibly six bedrooms. we walked around it and imagined opening and restaurant and guest house here. using our students of course and having a training program that operates out of the business. we could still do English courses but then open the business as a training grounds to train up students in a variety of trades. chefs, waiters, receptionists, gardeners, housekeepers. just dreaming about what could be another phase of the school and about big, huge possibilities that seem way out of reach, that only God can do. it was so much fun.
we have help now in the form of mission school students. three of them want to help us with the actual vocational training school and help us brainstorm about courses to offer, finding curriculum and with administration. they also have expertise in small business development. another is a math teacher and two more are helping teach English, all in the afternoon sessions. we have started our small business of essentially buying groceries for the mission school families. we will add more students later. today is the first day. we are anxious to give our students something tangible to work on.
i finally have my passport in hand! i know that no one here who reads this would take the details of this event and report them to authorities but after being arrested for being presumed a reporter or Al Qaeda? i really think i will not write about it. i will save that story for the book. :)
my english classes are going fairly well. the helpers take the beginner students and i am working with the more advanced in grammar. we are still on the present progressive and simple present. they are not grasping the difference and i have explained it every way i know how. so i am also introducing new verbs and those that are regular and irregular. they know a lot of verbs and i am impressed. but they struggle to actually speak up in class and use the verbs they know in sentences. they use the same sentences over and over. if i have them fill in the sentence, “ I am going to...” they always say, “town” or “beach”. always. no one says “ Timbuktu”.
so i have spent my extra 20 minutes here and i must get ready. i am hoping that the empty tank Luis left me will at least get me to class and to the nearest petrol station.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
The power just came back on. I assume they are running the generator. I need to quickly go wash dishes and flush the toilet and brush my teeth while we have water. I woke up to darkness and a quiet that let me know the power was out. I bought a book lamp during my trip home. It was on the top of my list of things to get. I grabbed the book light from my desk and the paperback lying flat and facedown by my bed and rolled over on my back, propped up slightly by my duo of pillows and finished my book. I read a lot here. When I first came I missed television, but after going home and not even getting to watch much then, I realized I must have overcome my addiction and now I just read books. My genius father somehow downloaded over 200 books for me. I am fully stocked. Now I am trying to decide what to read next. I am always open to suggestions.
This week of classes went really well. I have such eager, attentive students. Baptista returned after spending a few days out at the farm. Our missionaries there have left for their break so he won’t be going again until they get back in November, but I am glad he had the opportunity to go and just try it out and see if it is something he may want to do. He is a smart boy and Jeff, our missionary, said the he could easily get a government job as an agricultural worker if he were to chose that route. One of my students writes poetry and gave me a poem to translate into English for him. He is tall and thin and really black, much darker than the other boys. He has a gap in his front teeth. He sits on the front row. He is one of the older boys. He speaks French and prefers to speak to me in French rather than English. But my Portuguese is way better than my French but I love hearing this tall skinny very black boy speak in a French accent, so I listen and nod. The afternoon class is full of very competitive, advanced English speaking boys. I have one I call my teacher’s pet. He always stands to ask a question and always asks me very hard questions. I kinda cringe every time he asks something because I am afraid I am not going to know the answer! So far, I have known each time but it is only a matter of time before he stumps me. We had a long discussion the other day as a class on various words and how they all have various meanings. They want to know which definitions I prefer and are particularly attentive to my choice of words in speaking. They have become little parrots and I here them telling each other, “very nice” and “good job” and “that was perfect”. All phrases I use to cheer them on. I taught them how to use the word “likewise” and they ate it up. They like learning differences in formal and informal English and love finding ways to impress. But it doesn’t take much at all to impress me, they blow me away every day.
I have had help this week in the form of visitors. Iris is blessed to have hundreds of visitors a year, if not thousands if you count mission students. We, as a school, want to capitalize on this by having them come and teach in our school. I believe it is important for our students to get a broader world view to help them in their own world and visitors play a big role in this. This particular group just came to help me teach English. They were a huge help. They simply took the more beginner students and divided them into small groups and gave them more individual attention. Our beginner students could then, in a more comfortable setting, practice what words they know and build their vocabulary. All the while, hopefully, learning a little more about other people and the world around them.
I have been tutoring one on one some also. If I had more hours in the day, I would do more of this. The individual attention does work best but I just cannot give them all that kind of time. I hope that some of our mission school students will be able to serve in this capacity.
We are about to start up our first business. We plan to help 6 or 7 of our students create a business to serve as personal shoppers for the mission school. It is a simple business model that should work nicely, is low risk and will teach students about basic finance. We will distribute order forms of basic goods that one can get in town or at a barraca and our students will deliver those items within 24 hours to the client. It is kinda like Webvan, without the web or the van. So, it is more like Paperfoot but that sounds stupid. So we don’t have a name for it yet, but it will essentially be a personal shopping business and with 300 potential clients and our eager kids, I think it will be a successful first business venture.
Yesterday I went swimming with the dolphins again. I went a few times during my previous six months here. It is breathtaking. I figure my time to live on the ocean is numbered. January 2013 to be exact, unless I stay, and I want to take every opportunity I can to explore the sea. It was just a small group of us, a wooden boat. The same guide we always have. Thin, shirtless, smoking cheap cigarettes. All our wallets and cameras and gear in a plastic bucket, kinda sealed. The boat leaks. I have learned to pack light and just have my money in a wad stuck in my bathing suit top. I put the house key under the mop bucket. I wear an African kikoy as a towel. After about 20 minutes in the little leaky boat we spotted them. We all plopped over the side in snorkle and fins and dove down just in time to see a pod of 5 or so dolphin swim underneath us. We do this over and over about 6 times, anticipating them to turn or circle and stay with us. A few times the dolphin would surface with us close by or turn and look at us underwater. One guy got really, really close to one underwater. We saw female dolphin swimming with their younger maybe adolescent offspring. It was just incredible. We then went snorkeling for a little bit and were home before lunch. I walked across the street and down the road to my little house and fixed a sandwich.
Rodrigo is back and I am glad. I need his help. He drove for 8 days round trip to get to South Africa to renew his visa but was then told once he arrived that he could not get a 6 month renewal and was only given a 30 day visa. So we are both in similar situations now. They are planning on taking my visa to immigration this week and I just have to sit tight and wait and pray for favor. And then repeat this process every month until November.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The phone on the edge of my desk vibrates and strums the most pleasant among all the other ringtones. 5:30 am. I wonder if I will ever wake up without eyes plastered shut, muscles slow to function, fingers stiff. This city is wide awake, as is the rooster nearby. There is a huge fly buzzing at the window behind my curtains. I crawl out of the netting and pile of sheets and blankets. I pull back the curtains and swat at the fly. He is quiet and dead I presume. I silence the alarm and check messages. One from Kim Brown and one from Catherine telling me the weather is nice and she has been to pick blackberries. She’s at Mom and Dad’s. And one more saying we have home group on the other base tonight night. I shuffle to the tiny electric kettle and turn on all the lights, hoping to wake any creatures who come here in the night. I fill the kettle and the French Press with heaping teaspoons full of the Folger’s Brazilian Roast that Christine sent to me in a care package. I go to the fridge and open the vegetable bin and get out a carrot, a beet and half an apple from yesterday in a ziplock bag. I dice it all up and throw it in the Nurtibullet. I decide it needs greens and go back for lettuce. I submerge that in bleach water and go back to the kettle and Press and my coffee begins to brew. I throw ginger in the juicer too and breakfast is made. All joints are moving now and I know my name. I open the computer and put in the mcel stick and wait for it to dial up or whatever it does. I release a grateful sigh. It works! Emails from Flo and Beth and Betty! I make mental notes to write them all back. Not today. Tomorrow maybe when I can use the internet on the other base. Or maybe tonight if the neighbors are still picking up the signal. 7:15 already! 15 minutes to dress and apply makeup. I choose from the clean laundry pile. Not yet put away and ready to wear. Dressing is simple and usually involves some variation of the same outfit most every day. Yesterdays shirt still looks and smells okay. Still bummed about the bleach stain sprinkled on the front of my brand new linen shirt. It comes from bleaching everything in site. Fruit. Vegetables. Dishcloths. Bamboo cutting board. Wooden spoons. Utensils. Sponges. I pick a skirt from the laundry pile. Black skirt from the Alpharetta Target off Highway 400 that I got on my way to the Brown’s the Friday before I left. I paid regular price. $14.99. Perfect fit and length and fabric for here. I stuff my 75% off Jansport backpack (another Target find) with my English binder, a bottle of water, lip gloss, a pen, a notebook, two sets of keys (house and work), an empty ziplock for the bread roll in the large basket by the gate and sunglasses.
The walk to work is never dull. I pass an array of garbage and junk. Mostly soda cans and plastic bottles and hair. Synthetic black girl hair. Running in East Point I used to see the same garbage over and over. Newport Cigarette boxes and Funonion wrappers. And a good many chicken bones. Here the constant is synthetic hair and a variety of plastics. Today, the rare find is a Hannah Montana backpack that lookslike it has been ran over by a Semi. With very little discretion, the male urinating fountains are there too. I roll my eyes and sigh deep and look at the ocean instead. She is breathtaking. This morning she is turquoise, by the afternoon she will be dark blue.
School is there awaiting me and our students hustle in with their little notebooks and sweet English greetings. They make me proud. Help is there in the form of English speaking visitors. I send the girls off with them and the boys and I start where we left off. They are learning tenses- I am. I was. I am going to. I will. I used to. I was going to. We do this over and over and they frantically take notes. We practice out loud. We do a long list of vocabulary and I draw and sketch and my black skirt is covered in chalk dust. They repeat. I say each word. They repeat again. I say again. They repeat. They repeat with every intonation of my own, every accent, every syllable and I hear little Southern accents echo me. I smile. I try to enunciate and sound more like Aunt Phylis and less like Gomer Pyle. And then certain words, long A’s, certain vowels in certain pairs, and my twang becomes theirs.
Ali arrives with a helmet on her head to take me into town on the back of her motorcycle. I hate motorcycles. My insurance doesn’t cover riding on the back of motorcycles. I get on. I flinch every time she changes gears. We dodge huge potholes. They are really not even potholes and more like massive pieces of missing road. We dodge children and cars and goats. We pull up to the mechanic shop to find it closed. I peer through the cardboard window and see my scooter in 6 pieces. I was promised it would be ready today. She lay there is the same pitiful state she was in over a week ago. Thursday, I am told by Luis who comes out to greet me. I roll my eyes and sigh deep and get back on the bike. Everyone in town stares as two white girls putt through town.
We have an hour to kill and I am already poised on the back of this bike so I yell for her to keep going. We stop at a local restaurant. Abruptly. The back tire doesn’t make it over the curb and stalls. I laugh out loud. I get off, making sure I clear the exhaust pipe. They have named those burns here Mozambican Tattoos. I had one once. It was bad. I thought for sure it would scar. I was 10. I prayed hard and begged Jesus to please not let me have an ugly scare on my leg for life. I don’t. We eat and talk. Process our day. Goats bleat in the background...
Sunday, June 3, 2012
|One of the main things I wanted to do before I left in March was to get a high res photo to frame for Hartwell Dental Associates. It didn't happen. But we will try again. We have tripled in size since this photo.|
|Bed skirt post installation.|
|Thank you Aunt Phylis for the colorful bowls and Lynne for the beautiful pottery trio. I use them every day.|
|A blank canvas.|
five years ago today i landed at the airport up the street. the Pemba Airport. i rode in the back of a flatbed truck with about 25 other people and our assortment of backpacks and duffle bags. i had a small child in my lap. the son of a family whom i had met in the airport in Tanzania who was also coming to the school. i almost skipped the school entirely when i freaked out in London and almost bought a ticket to Toulouse to avoid having to spend 10 weeks in a foreign land. it was dark when we arrived and the now familiar smell of burning trash hung in the air. not going to Toulouse forever changed me. we passed my current home on the way to the other base that night. in my wildest dreams i never imagined that i would one day be coming here to stay. but i will never forget that ride in the truck and how arriving here was monumental. now when i ride down that road in my scooter, it still takes my breath away a little. so does seeing the Gold Dome in the Atlanta skylight. random things that stir emotion. now when i scoot down the hill i wish i could show it off. you get an expansive view of the city and the sea and i wish i could ride with my dad down the hill and show him my new home.
something has shifted upon my return, in a good way. i feel more at home than ever before. i spent last weekend nesting and unpacking and putting away my things. Aunt Phylis and i bought fabric in South Carolina and i covered my foam mattress on my rope bed in the living room and made pillows. i plugged my new juicer into the 110v box by my bed with all my other Western electronics. i love making morning blends of matapa (kale), carrot and beet juices with apples or pineapple and ginger. i went to the barraca and got lightbulbs for my made in China lamps and now have soft lighting. i made a bed skirt with crisp white fabric and upholstery nails and a hammer. i braved the chaos of town and bargained with the little boys selling fruit and vegetables in plastic bags and brought home oranges, tomatoes, eggplant and lemons. the scooter is broken once again and i walk in the mornings to school. i love the mornings to walk and think.
my students are amazing. we have almost 60 now! how i wish you could see them. they have forced me to use what Portuguese i know and we are teaching one another. they all struggle with lives i could never comprehend. i can feel their frustrations and fear. i love it when they come to me but at times i feel so helpless. i cannot allow the desperation consume me. i have to lead them to a higher hope and i have to remain convincing! life here is so different. words cannot describe it. i have to hold on to my own hope to be able to carry it to them. it is not hard and comes through simple surrender, daily. but it just means that all my independence and do-it-myself attitude has to die, every day until i learn. i will get there. i have come a long way in the last five years and am trying to be patient with myself. i have hit the ground running here and have taken over school courses as Rodrigo got malaria a few days after i got back and is now in South Africa renewing his Visa. we have a small team here for one week who have offered to help me with the afternoon classes. the team consists of a doctor and a nurse who will be teaching basic healthcare. Gena Cauthen sent small business curriculum back with me and i taught from it last week. our kids are coming so faithfully and anxious to get started on something tangible. i still do not quite yet know what these programs are going to look like and how they are going to work. as they evolve, i will let you know. we have many ideas and a few things in the works. i want our students to be prepared when we do start to create businesses and do not want to set them up for failure by giving them something that they cannot yet steward. one of our boys, Baptista, who went with us on the field trip to the farm a few months ago now wants to be a farmer! he spent the day at our farm yesterday to see if he might want to move out there and work full time. i am anxious to hear about his experience. he and his sister, Sophia, come so faithfully and are so bright and beautiful. it is fun to start to see the fruit.
i am loving living here. i am loving be back. my visit to Georgia was so much fun. i had an absolute blast despite staying really busy. but when the time came, i was ready. i was able to get rejuvenated and i physically feel so much better. the weather has been incredible and will soon be nicer here than in my beloved Hotlanta. i still have an “issue” with my visa. i am praying that that will all work out and i will not have to leave the country. feel free to join with me on that one.