I got my tickets for Zambia and South Africa. I picked up this little village boy that EVERYONE knows at the gas station in town. I went fabric shopping for the school. We started working on the restaurant.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
We have opened an online store! Galeria dos Sonhos is currently our online retail store where you can purchase home goods made by our students. At the moment we have African Wax Fabric for sale by the yard and will be adding more patterns soon. In the future we are going to be selling duvet covers, pillow shams, tablecloths, cloth napkins and more as we introduce our 2013 line. All goods are made by local youth in our training program and 100% of the proceeds go to pay them good salaries and continue the work of the school of vocational training.
A few weeks ago I received an invitation to an Alpha Conference in Zambia. I was told there were opportunities for a scholarship and had inquired about that because that would be the only way that I could go. Flights out of here are expensive. Days later I discovered that my visa was no longer valid and that I had to leave the country. Perfect. I just heard back from Alpha and I have been given a scholarship! I am going to Zambia!!
Friday, August 17, 2012
On Tuesday, I told my friend Mary Lou about my new roommate, the pediatrician. The next day she told me that she had been to the hospital that morning to pick up the wife of a man who used to work for her. The young woman and her mother were sitting outside the hospital when she arrived. She'd just 24 hours before, surprisingly, given birth to twins! But also 2 months early. She asked if Carola would go take a look at them. I got to ride along. They are doing great!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
I am having difficulties with my visa again. I paid for a 180 day single entry visa while in the States from the Mozambican Embassy in DC. They gave me the wrong kind. Immigration has been stamping my passport to look as if I have left the country. A few weeks ago the country changed all visas: they will no longer renew 40 days visas and now they offer a 2 year residency visa. With all these changes they will no longer stamp my passport. I had had a feeling this was going to happen. They gave me a 30 day visa,at a price. But now I have 30 days to make arrangements to leave the country and to sort out my visa. When I re-enter, I really need to have a 3 month visa to cover the rest of my stay. Now I am weighing my options and seeing which embassy's offer the visa that I need. And pricing flights...
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The school is going incredibly well. Our English courses are taking shape and help is coming. Our internships and small social business are also slowly coming to fruition. I can’t wait to show you. They are all still in very early stages but they are going to happen. When they do, you will be the first to know!
We had a meeting this week with a South African businessman who is in need of employees, housing, assistance with logistics and administration for his business. We have offered to help and are anxious to see how this partnership could help our students and school.
It is beautiful to see how my just being willing to come and simply show up has created something that didn’t once exist.
Amongst all of this, I was summoned to court regarding the robbery this week. I really, really didn’t want to go. I dreaded it but knew I had no choice. It had been several weeks since the robbery and I felt like I had done my best to move on and didn’t want to bring it all up again and certainly didn’t want to see him again. I admit I have been fearful and that is not good. I had been processing it all and praying about the whole circumstance. I feel that I didn’t come here to condemn and didn’t want to press charges against anyone here. I know this is an arguable point but in a way I made myself a target and I am a stranger in this land. I am white and “rich” and I don’t really belong. I was a target for this kid and I was a temptation to him. Theft and physical violence aside, in a small way I feel guilty for putting these temptations out there. I also don’t feel that I can put the people God sent me here to help in jail. I don’t know if I would feel differently if I had gotten hurt or if I had not gotten my things back. Chances are I would feel very differently, so my grace has limitations.
So on this day I was really dreaded just having to spend a day in court and honestly just felt inconvenienced. And of course I was a little intimidated and slightly nervous about the unknown. African courts are not my idea of a good time. The full story involves a lot of waiting, an overpriced taxi ride, and more waiting. Finally the time came where I was seated in a courtroom that smelled like Hartwell Elementary, old varnished wood and sweat. I felt incredibly out of place and knew that there would be a lot of waiting so I brought my kindle and read a chapter from that book about the wives of Henry VIII. Normally I would try to fit in and sit in silence with the rest of the crowd but I didn’t have the patience on this day and I needed a distraction. I decided I get to be Western and get to be myself on this day and bring gum, wear pants and a read a book and entertain myself. The judge appeared in a black robe and everyone stood. The convicts sat on the left and their families and victims on the right. The boy who robbed me was on the front row, barefooted, in the same red t-shirt and track pants he was wearing the day we met. His head bowed. When I saw the boy I felt compassion. I felt sorry for the poor kid. Would I feel differently if he had really, really hurt me or I had not gotten my things back? Probably so. I simply felt sorry for him. During this time, as I watched others get convicted, I prayed and asked God about it all. I felt him ask me about my grace and how much of it I had. Did I have grace that was just convenient or would I still be able to extend grace even when it was not easy to do.
As in any case you don’t know what you would do until it happens to you. As I prayed and asked God what to do for this boy and what was best and searched my heart for true forgiveness, I felt God ask me if I was willing to offer inconvenient grace and mercy. I knew that it was easy for me to not want him to go to prison because I had not gotten physically hurt and I had gotten my things back. I knew that a sentence was most likely inevitable and a fine would be set that he could never pay. I had considered paying the fine and clearly heard God ask was I again, willing to be inconvenienced. A 200 Met ($8) fine would be easy to pay and I would get the satisfaction of opening my fat wallet that literally won’t close because I have my monthly budget of about $300 in 200 met bills. And this is not really even the real budget. (I say “monthly” as sometimes $300 lasts me a long time and sometimes it lasts me two days. I have long given up trying to stay within a budget in this economy). I heard God asking me if I was willing to dig deep and make a true sacrifice for this boy. I said “yes” but had no idea what was about to come.
When it came time for Eugenio (the prisoner) to take the stand, the judge asked me to leave the room. Apparently he asked Eugenio what happened. When I returned he asked me to tell him exactly what happened on that day. I told him in detail and he stopped me after the part about the police catching him and bringing him to me and beating him. He then told me that Eugenio told him that I had lost my bag and that I had asked him to help me find it and that the police chased him when they saw him carrying my bag. At hearing this I was shocked. I had not expected him to lie. At this point I wondered if this was going to be a real trial with his case against mine. But I knew he didn’t stand a chance, I had witnesses and his story was so untrue. I shook my head in disbelief. I cut my eyes over at him and gave him my Eunice on “Mama’s Family” glare and shook my head and through clinched teeth said, “He lied”. How dare he? I had come with my iota of mercy, my guilt, my missionary status, my kindle and my 200 mets to set him free and now he was lying! Then I heard God say, are you willing to be inconvenienced? Are you willing for it to hurt a little? Are you willing to extend grace when you absolutely don’t feel it and it isn’t easy? Does my mercy only cover stealing when I got my things back? Does my mercy cover lying too?
I realized so many things in that moment. I realized how unconditional are God’s grace and mercy. They cover every sin and they don’t run out. He doesn’t pick and choose the sins he chose to die for. We are fully covered. I also realized just how much this boy was stricken with fear. He had sat in jail for three weeks thinking up this lie and it was his last hope. He really didn’t want to go to prison. Never mind that perjury didn’t come in to play here.
The judge took account of everything that was stolen and I had to tell him how much everything cost. It was a lot and Eugenio’s fines increased with every article of flax linen clothing and Apple manufactured electronic. The judge took my side and sentenced him to four months in prison. Upon hearing this, Eugenio hung his head and cried. I hung mine too. I asked to speak. I said something along the lines of how he is just a boy (maybe 18). I said he really belonged at home with his family. The court reporter who typed fast, but only with his index fingers, took something over for Eugenio to sign, but Eugenio waved him away as he knew something was happening and he wanted to listen. I said didn’t want him to go to prison. The judge waved his hand at me gesturing at my crossed legs. I uncrossed them and kept talking while at the same time trying to figure out an alternative to the most ladylike position I know. I opted for crossing at the ankles and kept talking. I said I didn’t want him to go to prison and that I wanted to drop any charges against him . The judge starred at me, mouth open, eyes wide. Then he smiled and laughed a little and shook his head. He got serious again and said that in order to do this I would have to pay his fines. I agreed and said I knew it would be impossible for him to pay them on his own. Then he looked intently at me and said, “This has never happened in this court before. No one has ever shown mercy or forgiveness before. I have never seen this happen”. He asked all the people working in the courtroom if they had ever seen it before and they all shook their heads. Eugenio’s countenance changed immediately. I think I heard him sigh.
The judge tells Eugenio, “Do you realize what just happened? Do you realize that she is paying for your freedom? Do you realize that she is paying for your liberation? You have been given a rare gift today”. The Portuguese version is beautiful. Even I became moved by what he said. Eugenio kept nodding his head, recovering from his sobs and wiping his eyes. I have my head bowed and can only look at him out of the corner of my eye still. He gives the audience a speech about what just happened and then the judge turned to me and said, “Thank you. No one has ever come here to set someone free. Everyone always goes to prison. Thank you for coming here and showing mercy toward someone else”. I realize that the judge agrees that home, not prison, is the best place for this boy. I mumble, “de nada” to his, “muito obrigado”. It was “nothing”.
The clerk brings me the total, a fine of 6,000 mets, based on the value of items that were mine to begin with. This is what God must have meant by digging a little deeper. I had to dig a little deeper and extend grace to a thief and a liar. I had to dig a little deeper and turn over two months Mozambican salary for a thief and a liar, paying for items that were already mine. But I knew it had to be done. I knew that mercy on this boy would far outlast serving a sentence. I didn’t want to imagine what prison in Africa would be like. I have actually been to the prison where he would go, so I actually had an idea.
Eugenio could barely catch his breath and went and sat by all the other prisoners who had just been sentenced, a free man. A boy really.
I still felt like I had been to a funeral. I felt sad. I am still sad. It is my prayer that Eugenio takes this story of freedom home and he is changed by his second chance. I wonder if the judges second speech to him will impact him and he will do good and not rob or steal and he will “stay away from foreigners”? But it also makes me wonder just how grateful am I for my second chance? Do I take it for granted and assume that all fees will be paid? How do I steward the freedom I have been given?
48 hours later I got an unexpected check in the mail at home for a little more than twice Eugenio’s fine. The Christine Perry circle group at Hartwell FUMC. I got my money back, twice. Doesn’t He say something about this? Luke 6:38. Give. And it shall be given unto you. “For the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.
The Kingdom is so incredibly upside-down and haven’t a clue what I am doing and can do none of it on my own. I can’t forgive on my own. But He meets us wherever we are and His grace and mercy fills our lack. And His promises are true. He didn’t even want my sacrifice, He gave it all back and then some. He just wanted my willingness and faithfulness to do what He asked. And I all did was say, “okaaaaayyy”. I didn’t say, “Yes”, “Sim”, “Absolutely”, “Muito prazer”. It was more with eyes rolled, arms crossed “if You say so”. And He took my little faithfulness and blessed me. And I am once again blown away at the kindness of my Father.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak to not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from who you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measure to you”.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Thank you for praying. I am home from court. I have now been in more jails and courtrooms here than in my own country and do wonder why this seems to be a theme for me. I had someone once say to me, "justice matters to you , doesn't it"? I was shocked because I assumed justice matters to everyone. I am wondering if my previous career might be a foreshadowing of new things to come and that governmental influence may be a banner I get to continue to carry. All I really know is that I am relieved that this day is over and I will tell you more when I feel like talking about it. I felt your prayers. Love, Grace
Monday, August 6, 2012
6:00AM and the alarm is going off. I silence it without opening my eyes. I hear noises from within the house and it takes me a moment to remember I no longer live alone. The roommate must be an early riser. I stand in my dimly lit room and point myself in the direction of my wardrobe. I choose a charcoal grey cotton skirt, one I have not worn in a long time. I pull on a heather grey tank embellished with bright orange stitching and tiny silver beads. It has been windy lately so I grab a white linen wrap and add the necessity, to cover my knees should they spill out from underneath my skirt, bright orange capri length tights. I make coffee in the press. I am not hungry, nor do I have enough time. I don’t bother with my hair and leave it in the messy bun I slept in. I smooth it down in front of the mirror. I find the keys to the dumpy blue truck that carries dead people. It doesn’t start the first time but comes to life on the second try. I roll into the front gate near the school at 7:32 and find Susy kindly, patiently waiting to help me. We prepare bread rolls with peanut butter and jam for our Alpha students and they slowly start to arrive. Music from a guitar starts to fill our little school and I watch all my precious little students raise their hands and close their eyes and worship. I join in. I close my eyes to give thanks to God and to quiet my mind. I am not fully there. On this day a big part of my self is thousands of miles away with a friend who just lost her grandfather and is feeling the pain of loss. I want to be there to hug her and to make her laugh over a massive slice of cake from the bakery on 211 Main. I just want a day with her, to give her my companionship and I want hers. I open my eyes to see these students who were once strangers, now slowly starting to feel like my very own.
I turned 35 this week. I played tennis this week. It felt incredibly surreal to be wearing normal clothes, hitting bright yellow balls on courts where barefooted children walk by carrying live chickens. I haven’t played tennis since Bob Brown and I played one Saturday morning in September at the Hart County Recreation Department. I practically grew up there. Dad finally took me on the day I got “good enough” and I got to play the real game and not beat a ball up against the large brick wall at Hartwell Elementary. I am sore. I feel 35.
I walk back home and immediately crawl into bed. I set my alarm to allow for a twenty minute nap and awake from a deep dream filled sleep. I feel like what I can only assume a mother with a new born baby feels like and wonder if I will ever catch up on my rest. I grab my red leather Brics suitcase and fill it with linen pants, a bathing suit, my kindle, a book entitled Portuguese in 3 Months, a travel size towel, a compact with blush and bronzer, lip gloss, toothbrush, chino shorts, a cotton tunic and a scarf. I walk across the street and buy cell phone credit from a boy in a bright yellow vest. I then walk to the front of the Nautilus Hotel and find a short lady with olive skin and black hair, clear hazel eyes, dressed in black pants and shirt, local market flip flops. She has a tiny stud in her nose and a thick French accent. She introduces herself. Emma and I drive across the street to my house and I grab my suitcase and we drive out to Muerreube. She and her husband own a little resort and I am treating myself to a night there. I need rest. I need deep sleep. I need French cuisine. I need the sea breeze. I need a place without the constant noise of the barracas. I need a place to think and quiet my mind. 24 hours won’t be enough but I will take whatever I can get.
We stop at the turn off the main road for tomatoes at the market. Emma coughs and blames it on flu but I suspect cigarettes play a role too. Her accent is so thick it sounds fake. We are speaking the same language but we both strain to understand one another. I watch how the people in the market respond to her. She is a familiar face but she is also greeted with the same exuberance of a foreigner that I get. She is tanned and plainly dressed, local flip flops and all. I look at myself in the visor mirror. Blue eyes, freckles, subtle tan lines but white as can be. Even in my most absolute casual, I am in diamond studs, J. Crew vintage timex and leather bracelet, Gogo ring that never leaves my finger. Today I am in all white linen and braided sandals, pink toes. For a moment I want to be more like her, a little more Bohemian, a little more European, a little darker, a nose ring. I want to be cool and chic and have a lodge on the Indian Ocean and drink red wine for breakfast. But nose rings don’t go with Tory Burch tunics, so I change my mind and smile back at the pale 35 year old Akuna in the mirror.
We drive along sandy roads in the little CRV, following wooden signs pointing us to Ulala. Ulala means “sleepy” in the local Makua dialect. It is exactly what I am and I cannot get to my room fast enough. I glance at the lovely macufi roofed bar and pavilion, commenting to Emma how lovely it is, with annunciated syllables. I stumble out to greet the sea, but promptly grab my room key. The moment hot water was mentioned I knew what I wanted to do first. I step into the large granite shower and turn on only hot water and watch my flip flop tan run down the drain. My skin glows. I have forgotten a hair brush. I roll my wet hair into a towel turban and fall into bed. I sleep for three hours. I force myself awake and find myself under soft linens, in a King sized bed, underneath a large white canopy net. The bed is handmade from local wood as is the entire bungalow. The decor is nicely done and the architecture is cozy. And despite my 3 hour nap, after a dinner of yellow fin tuna, beet and apple salad, acorn squash with mushroom and red peppers, I sleep like a baby. I can hear the ocean, the breeze blows right through my little bungalow, a bright full moon as my night light...
6:00AM and I open my eyes to see the ocean at my feet. I stretch dramatically and sit upright in the center of my big bed. The hot water is not a hot as it was before and I decide against it. I put on linen pants and a tunic with quarter length sleeves and smooth my hair around the messy bun. I grab my kindle and head toward the pavilion for breakfast. I walk straight through the pavilion in deep sand, looking as if I have just learned to walk but trying to appear graceful in flip flops in deep sand. I break a tiny sweat. A solo wooden folding chair in army green canvas is empty on a small dune of sand. The tide is low and it looks like a different planet. White sand still far in the distance. White capped waves far away. Small pools of clear turquoise water. Beautiful women and fragile little girls in colorful caplanas, baskets and tin pots on their heads collecting mussels. I watch them. I take it all in. The expanse. The colors. The reality.
Breakfast is a bit of a disappointment but I eat as if I am new to this too. I am given four small pieces of toast so I choose from a large selection of jams and jellies and spreads and I make all four pieces different. I make one with blackberry jam and butter, both of which I never eat eat here and I used to deny myself where I used to live. I make the second with prune/plum jam and decide right away that I don’t like it. I make the third with honey and the fourth with peanut butter, solely because the meal needs a protein. The long table displaying the jams and jellies also has a large glass jar of Muslix. $17 a kilo, lightly sweetened goodness. The chef dressed in black shorts, a black chefs jacket and black dress shoes without socks brings me an unopened large carton of plain yogurt and two boxes of Ceres juices, one with mango. I set it aside. I really want milk for my Muslix but go with the yogurt instead and add a banana. He brings me coffee in a large French press with milk. I eat every bite and shift my kindle from right to left as I eat and drink, and eat and drink again. I am well into my Emily Giffin novel that I sadly don’t recommend. I think I only like her because she lives in Atlanta and that last novel was all about the ATL. But this one was just dumb with little good parts in between. We were friends on Facebook. It was fun to watch her go from little known New York Times Bestseller to casting for a Hollywood Movie. But I found her to be crass and I unfriended her. Despite the 3 cups of coffee I feel a nap coming on but I shake it off, determined to comb the beach.
I waddle through deep sand back to my bungalow and put on my bathing suit and bright orange chino shorts. It feels good to dress normal. I wear yesterday’s tank top. At last glance, I decide I feel half naked with my knees showing and I grab the scarf Kim Brown gave me and I tie it around my waist. That’s better.
I have been to this beach before. I came in 2007 with Tamara Maruska Steiner and we were both in awe of how stunning it was. It is. There was a heard of cattle on the beach with us that day. Today I understand they are prohibited. This place makes Cumberland Island seem like a dump. Blasphemy, I know. But this is pristine, turquoise blue water, white sand beach. There are even horses on the beach today. They are our Iris horses. Someone brought them here a long time ago to teach the children and I reckon they are the only horses in this whole Province and I guess the boys from the Center are out riding, but in this moment as they come racing through tide pools and I can hear their heavy breathing, I just stand there with my mouth open and wondered who orchestrated this moment just for me. I look for sea glass but only find one piece, the pirates cutting back on their Heineken's. I go back to the room and the hot shower. My skin is glowing again. White from the shower and pink from the sun. I put the chinos back on and the tunic. I’m hungry.
The chef in the dress shoes brings a whole entire quiche to my table at lunch. It is cut into four large halves. The crust is homemade. It is so incredibly good. It is served with a large bowl of salad that was okay but really just got in the way of the most amazing quiche I have ever had. I want a second slice but I don’t want the chef in the dress shoes to judge me, so I cut it in half. The salad comes with a homemade balsamic dressing that I pour over the whole plate. I pause only to take a picture.
My 4:30 departure comes way too quickly. Emma helps me gather my things and her husband, George, waves goodbye. We skid along the sand in the little CRV and I quickly realize what a difference 24 hours, 2 hot showers, 1 big nap, 9 hours of sleep, a walk along the sea, 3/8ths of a vegetable filled quiche, 3 outfit changes and a novel about a girl finding her birth mother can do for a 35 year old girl.