Friday, May 22, 2015

Conference, projects, struggles, and a haircut

It's been about a month since the last update, so it's probably about time for another one. In the last update I was still preparing for the women's conference, which went quite well. My presentations on education were very well attended and seemed to be well received. I haven't had a chance to follow up with very many people yet to see if it had much impact, but I do want to start regular sessions at the church on the same topic very soon. The kids did great showing off their stuff, Jariel sang her ABC's and showed that she could recognize them too, Kyran read and pointed out countries on a map and did some math. Overall they did well!

Mozambican women *love* their matching capulanas, and this was the conference capulana that many of them had. I sewed mine into a skirt and had enough left over for a dress for Jariel.

I love this shot of Jariel showing off her stuff!

And this is what a conference at our church looks like. Actually, this is about what every Sunday and most Fridays and Wednesdays nights look like. Amazes me how packed out the stadium is every single week!

After the conference we were able to redouble our efforts on the house. We fired the lazy painters who were stealing our stuff (long story, but we got the stuff back!), and hired friends instead. A lot more got done for a while, but then even they disappeared and quit coming. Not really sure what we're doing wrong, (we paid double what the work was worth and fed them well...) but we've had to finish up the rest on our own. Janie was super happy to cover up the Disney murals in her room:

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And once most of the painting was done, we had to redo some of the floors:
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You can see the old finish (covered in paint splotches), the sanded version, and a bit of the mountain of sawdust that the sander created. This was me after a day of sanding:

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Only you can't see how COVERED I was in said sawdust. In my ears, nose (in spite of the mask), everywhere. At least it gave me many hours to finally get around to listening to the audio book of "The Way of Kings" by Brandon Sanderson. I'm about a quarter into "Words of Radiance" now.  

So now all but our bedroom has been painted, the floors are done, we've started buying furniture, and I'm working on curtains. Except when I take a break from curtains to make Jariel a dress instead. She likes it when that happens.
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Some struggles we've been having lately... our beloved cat, Methuselah, passed away the week we did the most painting. Not sure if it was related to that, or what, but he is definitely missed. Tonight Kyran drew a picture of him, stripes and all, with a big M for "Methuselah" and a big D for "dead". It made me sad. Unfortunately, after he died our house was completely infested with fleas. The kids look like they have chicken pox. We got rid of the rug in their room, have been washing their sheets frequently and giving them baths daily, and that seems to have gotten rid of the buggers. Knock on wood. Once we make sure we're flea free we'll look into the possibility of getting another cat. And giving it a flea bath before introducing it to the house.

Another struggle has been our fridge stopped working a few weeks ago. The freezer part is still fine, but the lower part is barely colder than room temperature. All of our food was going bad, and we've been doing everything we can think of to get it fixed (the store, two technicians, and many Google searches), and nothing's worked yet. That's been mildly frustrating. Fortunately we're house sitting for a missionary who's out of town, so we've been able to store a few things in her fridge. It's just... not accessible when I need to cook...    

In other news, I realized I hadn't cut Kyran's hair since December...Inline image 10
So he was a little shaggy. He isn't anymore:
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There's a Nigerian couple from church who run an English preschool/primary school, and we're talking and praying about sending Kyran (and maybe Jariel) there. He waffles on interest, some days he says he wants to, and other days not. He really needs some more friends and chances to learn the language, sometimes it feels like the kids hardly ever get out of the house except for church. And even there they sometimes just fall asleep:
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(See Kyran slumped over in far left chair while Jon runs the media equipment for the church).
So please pray with us as we consider this option, I think it'd be best for him, but I'd like his willingness on it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Back home, conference prep, and the kids' first literary attempts!

We're home! The rest of our time in Maputo was wonderful, we really had a good time connecting with old and new friends. There was a businessman from the Ukraine visiting at the same time as us who connected with Jon and gave him a lot of great advice. He also gave us a generous donation before we left! The kids loved playing outside more, playing in the rain, climbing trees, playing on the playground, jumping on a trampoline, playing in the sand, and doing lots, and lots, and lots of games!

The van we got is SUPER nice and comfortable, and made bringing Jariel's car seat worth it (we've been lugging it around since August but unable to use it). The ride home was long, but the kids were pretty good. We stopped for the night at a little hotel on the way, which helped break up the 17-hour drive. We were stopped at police checkpoints at least 9 times (lost count), most of them just asked us a few questions and waved us on, but one of them was harassing us for not having any car insurance yet. We explained that we JUST bought the car and were told we had 30 days to get insurance, but he was pretty adamant about giving us a 10,000 met fine anyway (about $300). At these checkpoints they actually have a little desks just sitting under a tree on the side of the road, and the officer went back to his desk to write us the ticket and I prayed like crazy that God would change the man's mind, that even if it was a legitimate law that he would have mercy. He came back to the car and said never mind! He gave back Jon's driver's license and let us go without charging a dime! There was much rejoicing :-).

Now we're back to the chaotic house, as it's still torn up for painting everything. The guy we had hired to do it hasn't been very reliable, so we might just ask him to stop coming and finish the rest ourselves. We usually like to hire people to help provide jobs and free us up to do other things, but even after several talks about good business practice this guy hasn't been great. So I'm hoping to have this done soon!

I'm also quite busy with our church's women's conference coming up next week. I'm on the planning committee, will help with cleaning and logistics, and will be speaking at 3 breakout sessions on parental involvement in kids' education. I won't be advocating homeschooling exactly, just giving a nudge to get them to do more educational activities especially with kids under 5. I've been doing research on brain development, and that is the most crucial time to build strong connections and kids are capable of learning more then than any other time of life, yet that's when kids here get most ignored. Hoping to help give some ideas to change that! I'm going to try to get Kyran and Jariel to help me with my presentation, showing off some of their abilities and demonstrating to the mothers there what is possible with early education. Hope they don't get too much stage fright! I've offered them ice cream afterward if they do a good job :-).

In my brain development research, I came across some studies that suggest it's far more important to encourage creativity in the early years than to impart facts. There's plenty of time later for learning about the parts of a cell or the date of the Battle of Waterloo, but the younger brain forms more connections through exercising imagination. So I'm going to take our homeschooling in a little different direction and emphasize creating things! Today while we were painting with watercolors, Kyran started telling me stories he made up, and I decided to write them down and share them with you. As some background information, we've been reading the original A. A. Milne "Winnie the Pooh" books, and I found the 1970's Pooh movie that I remember watching as a kid, and K & J have loved both the books and the film. Having recently finished both "Winnie the Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner", we've moved on to "Doctor Dolittle", which we started in Maputo and are almost done with now. (I must say I'm impressed with Jariel's attentiveness to chapter books with minimal pictures! I definitely didn't start Kyran on them this young, but she's been loving them!). Just thought that might help provide some background for their stories, which I transcribed from their dictation (as best I could) as follows: 

Kyran (age 5):
Pooh and Piglet in the Rocket
by Kyran Reinagel
Now the hippo was very, VERY big and it covered the earth! Pooh and Piglet didn’t like the hippo because it was so huge. So they got in the rocket and went out of the earth. Christopher Robin and all of the others got in another rocket and went out of the earth. They liked the hippo, they just wanted to see what earth was like outside the earth.

Piglet fell out of the rocket three or four times. Pooh pulled him up. The third or fourth time, Pooh said to Piglet, “You’ll just fall and fall, and never land on the ground!” So Piglet wanted to get back in the rocket, and Pooh pulled up the string and they turned around and went back to earth. The hippo, the very, VERY huge hippo, was gone!

That’s the end.

The End.

Pooh and Piglet Swinging from a Rope
by Kyran Reinagel 
Pooh and Piglet, one day, climbed up a wall in this house up to those shelves. And they had a rope, and stringed it to the light. The same as piglet falling out of the rocket, and Pooh pulling Piglet back up. And they got across the rope to the light. Pooh went back to the shelves and yelled to Piglet, but Piglet wasn’t at the light! He was underneath the rope trying to get to Pooh! But Pooh went back to the light. They switched and switched, but could not find each other. And finally they both went back to the light, and Pooh said to Piglet, “How are we going to get down from this light we are on?”

And Piglet said, “We could use the rope! And just let it down and we could climb down.”

And Pooh said, “I think that’s a very good idea, Piglet!” So Pooh and Piglet held the end that was tied to the light and Piglet went down first, because he was small.

Pooh, coming down, said, “Watch out, Piglet, or I’ll fall on you!” But Piglet didn’t see Pooh! And Pooh climbed up back to the light. And Piglet looked at the rope. Pooh was not on the rope! He threw the rope back to the shelves and swung back to the shelves.

And Piglet said, “Pooh! Why are you back up there to the shelves?”

“Well, Piglet, it’s like this. You were in my way of climbing down, so I just climbed back up and swung the rope over to the shelves and climbed, climbed the rope.”

“Back to the light!”

And Pooh said, “Piglet, I’m going to climb down the wall backwards, and hold the rope in my pocket.” So Pooh climbed down backwards the wall, but he didn’t have any pockets! He just had to hold the rope on his arm and got to Piglet.

The End.   

Jariel (age 2½):
Choo Choo Train
by Jariel Reinagel
In my story there was a toon and a very shark monster, and it was a Monster Idal. That’s what it was called. And it was a rainbow, it was another monster, it was called “Rainbow”, because it was a rainbow.

And there was another toon that was another monster, and it was big BIG!
I was telling another story to Bubba, and it was another monster, but it was BIG. And the monster was dark, and the bear was dark, and everything was dark. And the lights were off.

And I had another story I made up to Bubba, and it was another monster that was a toon, and it was dark again, everything was dark again. They just played with Piglet, Owl, and Christopher Robin in the dark. They used a flashlight.

And I had another story that I made up to Kyran. It was about crayons, and balloons, and dice, and paint, and paint, and paint. There was a lot of paint at that house. The house was called “Ring the Gack”.

I have another one I made up, and it was about a monster AGAIN! The monster was in that house. They were friendly monsters, and they danced. And they had snacks first. The monster looked funny on the mattress. On the way biggy little bunk. And there was a rainbow that I saw, and it was fun, and it was tuna, and it was a blanket. It was a blanket that was like mine, and it was a pillow. Um, and there was another house I made up to Kyran, and it was another monster in it, and it was a toon monster, but not the same monster, and it was named Tuna. I mean Da. And there was another rainbow. And three rainbows, and four rainbows! And this many (holds up 4 fingers). And a lot of monsters and a lot of stories! And a lot of blankets! And there was a doctor called Doctor Dolittle. In the story I was climbing up the tree, no one helped me down, I just stayed there. Bubba didn’t help me down, I just stayed there forever. Bubba was just watching a movie, I climbed up the tree, there was a little staircase and a butterfly and a penguin and a water bottle and something like a light switch. That’s how my story was. And I was done with the story of Doctor Dolittle. And he did not talk to me, he was talking to you and Daddy, and Janie. Lots of the people were lost in church, but we found them. We left them in the church, but then we found them. That’s my story! And it was found. Not there, but we found him here. There was a blanket that was found by me, and I found it, but Bubba and my brother and Janie and Daddy and Mommy did not find the peoples too! Just one person, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! There was one person missing of the peoples. The kitty will bite.

And there was something with a bird called “Ring the Gack”, and my kitty was called “Ring the Gack”, and there was another kitty called “Ring the Gack”. Um, and he was wild tiled. That was my kitty’s name, Wild Tiled. And the kitties came with me, my kitty but not Bubba’s kitty. I have a lot of kitties. I went to a lot of places, and they gave me a snack. A really big snack.

There are more stories! And something was lost, and Christopher Robin was lost. He just found me, but in the end he jumped up and down a LOT. And up there he fell, and he fell, and he fell until he was down to the river, and he said, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!” And he didn’t stop saying, “Ow!” And he just kept saying “Ow!” And he did it too. And there was dice in there, there was one, two, three! 

(end of Jariel's stories)
So I'm not exactly sure where all the monsters came from, or what a "toon" is, but "Ring the Gack" is definitely from "One Fish, Two Fish" by Dr. Seuss. She came up with the title after writing the story. Not exactly sure how it fits :-).

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Renovations and a Road Trip!

Whew, it's been a busy month. Before we get started with the news, here's the super-cute Thoughtful Apple Fairy.
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So the people who owned all the furniture in our house came and took it all away, and we've slowly been replacing it all. In the meantime it's really barren! We got the appliances and beds, though we're waiting on some renovations before getting the rest. We wanted to repaint most of the house, and redo the wood floors which are scratched beyond belief. Unfortunately, a lot of the old paint on some walls and all the doors and windows had to be scraped off first, as it was peeling off in many places so we couldn't just paint over it. So here's Kyran helping one of the workers with scraping a wall:

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And here's Jariel "helping" me scrape a closet door:

Jariel thrilled to be allowed to help paint:

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And Kyran too 


The house isn't quite done yet, but we had to put it on hold while we are taking a trip to the capital, Maputo, to pick up the car we ordered from Japan! It's at the port, but we are still waiting on all the paperwork to clear so we can go pick it up. We took the night bus down, the kids did pretty well sharing the narrow little bed:

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(I love the night bus. Actually being able to lie down makes the 17 hours go by so much faster). Now we're at the Iris Ministries Zimpeto base, visiting with old friends and teaching them new games, like Pirate's Cove (and yes, Kyran is wearing an official pirate eye patch :-) ):

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There's a missionary here, Laura, who was one of the first to befriend us on our very first time here in January 2008. She loves games, and over the years we bonded over many a board and card game. It's good to be back and catch up with her and our other friends from a bygone era! The kids are loving the base, they get to play outside almost all day (a luxury for these city kids who can't get out nearly as often as I'd like). It's also nice to be out of the chaotic house for a while, it was getting stressful having workers in the home all the time, hardly being able to go anywhere, and not being able to invite people over either. Hopefully we'll be able to finish up the painting and floors within the week or so after we get back, then I can finish buying furniture, make a few curtains, and actually FINALLY settle in a bit and make it "home"! I'll definitely send pics when it's all done :-).

We're definitely looking forward to having a little more freedom once we get our car! It's been challenging using the public transport, especially for shopping trips :-/. 

I should go now, but I'll close out with one more pic of cuteness:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Family Update--Kyran's Birthday!

We had a great time with Kyran's birthday party! This is the "rainy season" here in Mozambique, which means we've been getting rain about 4 days per week for the last couple months. Kyran really wanted to go to the beach for his birthday, so I prayed it wouldn't rain on the 28th and that was answered! It was a lovely, sunny day, and everyone who didn't wear sunblock came home a little too rosy (don't worry, the kids were thoroughly protected!).
There's a family working at the same base we used to, with Iris Ministries in Dondo, that have a little boy who just turned 5 and a little girl who is 3, so just about the same ages as our kids! They've really hit it off, so we invited them to share the day with us. It was great because it also gave us adults some time to talk. They seem to struggle with a LOT of the same things we did when we were there, so it's been good to try to give them advice and help them along. But boy, are we glad we're not there anymore! Anyway, so Kyran and friends had fun, he requested a very American kid meal of chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese, so I obliged. 

I think our time in Malta last year influenced his request for a boat cake! He originally suggested that it "look like the Next Wave" (the ministry ship my parents work with), but I was able to talk him down to a simple sailboat 

​Both kids are enjoying Kyran's "biggest" birthday present: a kitten! Our first family pet (if you don't count the two goldfish we had in Rolla). He has been asking for a cat for months now, and when I asked what he wanted for his birthday he repeated, "A cat!". A fellow missionary happened to have a litter of kittens she was trying to get rid of at just the right time, so we agreed to take one. So far "Methuselah" has hit it off well with the Reinagel clan! 

​I'm not actually sure where Kyran heard the name from, we just recently went through the Genesis Bible stories in our homeschooling, but our book just hit the highlights and skipped over the genealogies so he wouldn't have heard it from me. I think it's funny though, since he was the longest living person mentioned, and cats are supposed to have 9 lives! (In Mozambique the superstition is that they have 7 lives, which makes sense... they probably don't last *quite* as long here as they do in more developed countries).

We've been busy trying to actually settle into our apartment, which is taking far longer than I would have liked. The previous tenants still have most of their stuff and furniture here, they were supposed to come get it this week but now the wife is sick so it's being postponed again... So we have 2 fridges, 2 stoves, and 4 a/c units crowding our relatively small apartment, but we hope to get rid of half of them soon! It'll be nice for everything to be truly ours finally. 

And if you didn't see it on Facebook already, we OFFICIALLY got our residency cards today! What we couldn't do in 3 years last time, we accomplished in 4 months this time. That feels good. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

All in a Day’s Work

Life has become considerably more hectic since the changes made. To give you a small idea of how things are now, I'll just describe yesterday.

Very early I had a knock on my door from 4 of my precious "pequeninhos" (the little boys under 12 years of age) asking for the soccer ball that I keep safe in the house. I grabbed the busted ball that they had only had 2 days (just the outer cover was ripped, the inner ball was still inflated) and a roll of duct tape and took them out to where all the boys play soccer. I gave them a little lesson on how they need to avoid playing close to the wall that has spikes on it, because I couldn't buy them a new soccer ball every week. Then one of them helped me wrap the ball completely in duct tape to protect it from further harm.

Augustino (one of the older kids) asked if he could have his MP3 player back that he had given me the day before to charge, though it took me a minute to understand what "empetres" meant: in Portuguese the letters Em Pe and the number Tres.

The night before I was told that our massive leaders' meeting for the afternoon was cancelled, and it was my responsibility as administrator to let everyone know (over a dozen people). Problem was, I didn't know all the leaders' phone numbers, so after the soccer ball lecture I ran around the base asking everyone either to give me their phone number or the numbers of other leaders. Once I had collected everyone's numbers I composed a text in Portuguese and sent it out to all of them with the news, and received so many responses that my phone's inbox filled up and couldn't take any more. Thing was, since I composed the message in Portuguese I forgot to tell one missionary.

Three workers were supposed to have a meeting with some visiting missionaries, but they either weren't told or forgot, so I had to run around and collect them. When I finally got them to the meeting place, one of the said missionaries asked me to translate a conversation she wanted to have with a pastor about his future.

Vito (one of the younger kids) had come up to me the night before saying he needed 20 mets for school (less than a dollar), so when I saw him again in the morning with Luis (the Mozambican staff person in charge of the kids' school), I ran back to the house and grabbed the money. Later I had to make a receipt for it, because the financial world here revolves around receipts.

It was payday for all the workers, so even the workers who are off this week came to get their money. I wanted to have a quick meeting with all my children's leaders, so I ran around and collected them all, but then later had to cancel the meeting and ran around again to tell them all not to bother. I still forgot one of them who sat waiting for me for some time, I felt bad.

Luis brought me a little boy named Antonio who looked very sad, and explained that he had lived here before but was reintegrated to live with his family members in the community. However, he wasn't happy at home and today he returned to the base to tell us he wanted to come back. I sat down with him and Luis to get the whole story—he came to the center when he was 4 years old, lived here 6 years and now is very unhappy at home. He said he has problems with his stepfather and he's lonely without his friends. I was completely lost, I haven't even been in charge of the kids for a whole week and this was a huge decision to make. I prayed with him, and told him to go get his mother and bring her back so we could talk about it further with her present.

Pastor Pascual (leader of the Bible School) said that one of the Bible students was very sick, possibly with malaria, and needed to be rushed to the hospital. I ran to find the missionary in charge of transport who ran to find a driver, then I went to the financial office to get the 101 mets Pascual asked for (1 met for the consultation, 50 for tests and blood-work, 50 for any medicine). Then I ran back to the house, wrote up a receipt, and ran back out to find Pascual to have him sign it.

Domingo Fernando (to distinguish him from my other 3 Domingos) then came up to me saying he needed a pencil for school. I took him and his little brother Minesse to the "biblioteca", or library, on the base to find him one. As they were leaving they showed me that their backpacks were ripped, and I promised to fix them over the weekend.

I was just about to meet with a couple of the older boys about their futures when Antonio came back with his mother, who had his little sister strapped to her back. She didn't speak any Portuguese, so I had to get Luis and Maria (the other children's leader) to translate her Sena to Portuguese for me and vice versa. She said that Antonio was much happier on the base with his friends, and that she didn't like to see him sad and lonely at home, so she fully consented to having him come back. I explained that our vision was to help children who are orphans as much as possible, and that if kids have the opportunity to grow up with a family, that in the long run that is usually much better for them. I still didn't know what to do, but since it looked like Antonio wasn't in any immediate danger or starving, I told him to give me a week to think and pray about it then come back for my decision. I also encouraged him to pray, saying God would let him know what he was supposed to do. (I still don't know what to do about this situation).

Then I got to meet with the older boys. Jack is about to leave the center in May, because that's when he turns 18 and it becomes illegal for him to live here anymore. Unfortunately, he has dyslexia and has had such a hard time in school that he had some behavior problems and got expelled twice and now isn't going. I tried to talk with him and see if there was any training we could find for him to work with his hands that wouldn't necessarily need an education. He said his dream is to be a mechanic, so we talked about how we might be able to find him an apprenticeship before he leaves. The other boy, Ricardo, has been off the base for a couple years now, but hasn't made much of his life yet. He wants to get training to be a driver, but he has been asking for work on the base for a while now, so we need to consider where we could possibly use him.

Keep in mind, all of this was before lunch.

I finally did get to sit down with my "massa" (the staple food made from cornmeal, kind of like really thick grits) and beans. After eating I collapsed on the bed for a while, and I think I dozed off for a bit (praise God for siesta time), but not for very long. Shortly after I got up Jon got a call from the visiting missionaries, who right after lunch went out to a funeral. They were calling to say that there would be a missionary couple from Brazil coming to Dondo to stay for a few weeks, and the wife and kids of another missionary couple for a few days. The only thing was, I'm over hospitality too, so I had to make sure they had spaces prepared…

We have a good deal of vacant long-term housing on the base, in faith that we'll eventually have more missionaries. There's an apartment on our strip that we thought would be good for the couple staying a long time, and the family could use the visitor's center. The only problem with the apartment is it hadn't been cleaned in ages, and I didn't have enough time to get both rooms prepared alone. Jon was frantically working on getting our next month's financial estimates submitted, so I knew I couldn't ask him. Most of the kids have school in the afternoon, but I did find a couple that didn't—Zito, 14, and José, 7, who is arguably one of the cutest and sweetest kids on the planet (not that I'm biased). They were a good balance, because Zito was very thorough and could work independently while José was extremely eager to help, but needed a lot of direction and supervision. I'm definitely learning a lot about the patience of a mother. Even with my helpers, deep cleaning that house took most of the afternoon. I gave them some kool-aid as a reward.

At dinner time I grabbed my little bowl and went to the kitchen to eat with the kids. I want them to feel like they're part of a family, so I like to check up on them as much as possible, and in Mozambique the best way to connect with people is over food. They've been having a lot of tests in school lately, so I like to ask them if they thought they were easy or hard—that's usually a good indicator of how their grades will be: if they thought it was easy, they probably did well.

After supper I realized that I had totally forgotten about the commission of pastors coming in that night, who all needed beds prepared in the clinic (which we use as a guest house for visiting pastors since we don't have any medical staff yet). I tried to do that all at once, but every time I tried to walk between the clinic and my house for supplies I would get stopped 3 or 4 times for other issues, problems, or questions. Manuel needed a bike early in the morning, so I needed to tell the guard to unlock the shipping container where the bikes are kept let him have one. The missionaries got back from the funeral and needed to eat (but the kitchen was already closed), they wanted to meet with someone before he left, and they needed me to find the translator. I finally finished preparing the clinic nearly an hour after I had started.

Then I could start getting the hospitality room ready for the family. I grabbed all my cleaning supplies yet again and trudged over to the visitor's area. First I had to just sit down and pray for a minute, because I was so exhausted I could barely lift the broom. I did finally get the room wiped down, dusted, swept, and the bathroom cleaned and beds made. Then I had to wait for the visitors to arrive. I told the guards they could expect a car coming very late and to come knock on my door when they arrived. I knew they were due to get in well after 11:00, but I didn't think I'd last that long so I just laid down and dozed on our wicker couch to wait for a knock on the door. The knock finally came, but thankfully Jon was still up and had more wits about him than I did, so he was able to attend to the visitors and direct them to their respective rooms. As soon as that was done, I promptly crawled under our mosquito net into bed and dropped off to sleep.

All in a day's work.

Friday, March 13, 2009

When cultures collide

There are just some things that you wouldn’t think would be cultural differences. You expect clothes, food, greetings etc to be different when you are in a different culture, but others just surprise you. For example, names. Whenever Carla and I introduce ourselves at churches with our full name, there’s a collective gasp in the audience. Here, your last name is actually the name of your father – when you get married, your last name is still the name of your family. When I introduce myself as “Joao (Jon) Reinagel”, then Carla introduces herself as “Carla Reinagel”, the audience naturally assumes I married my sister! No wonder several pastors have taken the mic after us and explain what’s going on! Now, we just introduce ourselves by our first names unless asked.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Visit

Being placed over the kitchen has been a very good opportunity to make friends with the workers. Last week Ester, one of the workers, invited me to come visit her home. We originally arranged for Monday at noon, but after waiting for an hour I gave up and figured she had forgotten. She hadn't forgotten, she just came at "noon" Africa time: closer to 2:00. I had a meeting at 3:00, so that didn't work out and we rescheduled for Wednesday.

Ester came to the center (actually closer to noon Western time) and called for me at the gate to the missionary compound. I quickly slathered on some sun-block, knowing it would be a bit of a walk and the sun was decidedly strong today. I met Ester at the gate and she grinned. "Mado kerowa!" She greeted me cheerfully in Sena.

"Tado kerowa pyadidi, penombo imwe?" I responded as she had taught me just last week. She laughed and grabbed my hand to lead me out of the center. You don't see couples in Africa holding hands very often, but same-gender hand-holding is quite common as just a sign of friendship and togetherness. Just outside the gate we were joined by Brazito, a very tall first-year student at the Bible School who had apparently developed a friendship with Ester and was invited to accompany us. Ester excitedly chattered with several people in Sena as we walked along the road, though the only word I could pick up consistently was nyumba which means "home", so I guess she was telling them that I was visiting her home; apparently a great honor to her. We walked for some time in the beating sun, Ester and Brazito chatting in Sena and occasionally addressing me in Portuguese. We entered the Dondo bus stop area just as the mosque began wailing the call to prayer over the loud speakers. Our area is dominated much more by witchcraft than Islam, but there are enough Muslims to have a little mosque in Dondo. There are a lot more churches—we're winning. We walked past the bus stop and all its little shops, restaurants, and bars, and made our way toward the market. All of the trees and concrete walls along the way either have a painted red ribbon—the symbol of a cure for AIDS—or they are brightly hand-painted with advertisements of some of the most predominate companies and products of Mozambique: the two cell-phone companies, yellow-and-teal mCell and blue-and-white Vodacom comprise some of the most common ads all around the country, along with the red Coca-Cola and beer ads, the green and black condom ads, and the occasional Colgate or laundry detergent ad as well. We passed some ladies selling pineapples and avocados on the side of the road. Brazito asked if we have avocados in America, and informed me that they are called bakoti in Sena.

We stepped into the little market area, which much smaller than the Beira market I described in a previous blog post, and is becoming a place I enjoy going as much as I can. I like the bustle and familiarity people have with each other, it being a fairly small town and all. There are sacks of beans and peanuts, little piles of onions, plastic buckets of all shapes and sizes stacked on display, clothes laid out in the dirt for sale, brightly colored capulana wrap skirts hanging from the bamboo-structures' ceilings, and the usual array of sundry other items at the little shops: matches, notebooks, thread, soap, etc. Ester bought a grass mat and had Brazito carry it for her out of the market.

We walked on in the blistering heat. The wide paved streets lined with big concrete houses gave way to wide dirt roads with little concrete houses, which gave way to narrow dirt roads with mud houses, which we finally turned off to a very narrow sandy foot-path through the coconut-tree-shaded village. Chickens and ducks scurried about our feet, and children squealed "Mazungu! Mazungu!" (white person) when they saw me. I just smiled and waved. We passed a whole parade of high-school students on their way to afternoon school, all in their matching uniforms of dark green pants/skirts with a matching ties and light green button-down shirts. After walking for half an hour since leaving the base, we finally arrived at Ester's house, which was one of the poorest looking ones in the whole village. The bamboo frame was completely visible as most of the outer mud of the house had fallen off. Some of the holes in the walls had rags and old clothes shoved in them to fill in the gaps. The roof was made of the common corrugated material, but it was all very tiny scraps that were pieced together and likely leaked with every rain. Ester is a widow, and though she does have consistent work on the base, she struggles to care for her 6 children plus the 4 orphans she has taken in. She spread out her brand new grass mat for us to sit on the ground under a big tree next to her house, then busied herself with being hospitable. She tried to get her youngest child, Marcia, to come out of the house to meet me but she was terrified and just kept crying (I felt horrible). Her other children and those that live with her were bold enough to sit with me, but they were awfully quiet and shy.

African village life is so relaxed, laid-back, and communal. It always feels so peaceful—there is very little noise except for the voices of chatting neighbors and playing children, the random farm animal, and the birds. Some teen-age girls, Regina and Alima, came by and sat with us the whole time I was visiting—there's no rush, no stress, no worries. Ester sent her son Pedro to go buy me a soda and some cookies, and again I felt a little frustrated knowing she was spending money on me that she didn't really have, but I also knew that turning down her hospitality would be a much worse thing in the long run. When Pedro returned with my almost-cold pineapple soda (my favorite) and the little banana-cream-filled cookies, I tried sharing them with the kids every time Ester's back was turned. Most of them refused, but one adorable little five-year-old girl, Lina, was absolutely fearless and accepted the cookies gladly and finished off the last bit of my soda.

Ester busied herself preparing lunch on her little 1-foot-tall charcoal stove, so after a couple minutes of silence on the grass mat, I pulled out my notebook and informed all those around me that I really wanted to learn their language, Sena. I started with just pointing at everything I could see and asking them how to say it. Tree? Muti. Sky? Nkuzulu. Child? Mwana. Banana? Mafigu. After a while I graduated to simple phrases: I'm eating: ndiri kudya, I want: ine ndisafuna, she is washing a plate: akusuka prato. Little Lina would grin and giggle every time I attempted to repeat the phrases, it must have sounded strange to hear this foreigner saying things she understood (either that or I botched the pronunciation so badly that it was funny…). Ragina and Brazito were very patient and helpful teachers, and I had filled up two-and-a-half pages of my notebook by the time lunch was ready. Lunch was bits of fried fish with rice, and it was quite good. There was no silverware, so I was grateful for the experience I gained in Bangladesh eating rice with my hands. I tried out some of my new Sena with Ester, and she just gave her usual high-pitched "Shee!" (a sound the Sena people make when they're surprised) and looked very pleased. The fried fish was a little salty, so I was very thirsty afterward but knew better than to accept the water—didn't particularly feel like getting giardia this week.

After eating together and visiting a little longer, Ester picked herself up off the grass mat and asked if I was ready to go home. Honestly, I would love to spend far more time in the village, just making friends, learning the language, and eventually sharing the love of God with them when I have enough to communicate. But for this afternoon, my village time was up, and it was time to make the half-hour trek back to the mission base.