Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sinus free is the way to be!

Hey everyone,

So some of you have called wondering how the surgery went, but unfortunately I haven't been able to take your calls. My mouth is indeed wired shut right now, so I thought I'd put an update on how everything went up here.

First of all, the surgery was a TMJ corrective surgery, in which my upper jaw was moved forward 8mm. According to my doctor, the bottom jaw continued to grow over the past couple years and for some reason the upper jaw didn't keep up. This meant that the teeth weren't lined up at all, that the bottom jaw occasionally popped out of alignment (and that didn't generally feel too good) and that the underbite prevented me from sufficiently chewing my food, which would continue to take its toll on my digestive system.

So yesterday I went in for surgery to move the top jaw forward. They put me under and then made two long incisions along the inside of the lip and basically stretched it all up and open. They then cut the upper jaw completely off of the skull and then reattached it with four metal plates, further forward. This meant there was much more space for the nose and the sinuses, and that the sinuses had to be detached. The doctor found that the sinuses had been severely infected for a long time and that several polyps had formed. He ended up then removing the sinuses in their entirety. Apparently they will grow back.

The good news is that there is much more space in the nasal cavity and I can already tell that breathing through my nose will be a lot better. The skin around the nose and the lips however has lost feeling (as it has all been detached from the face) and some of the feeling may or may not return. It's kind of funny but when i try and pop my ears, my whole face ripples, and the muscles spasm kind of randomly.

Overall, I feel so blessed to be in a position where this surgery can be done, and that everything went smoothly, even with the discovery of the infection.

As far as recovery, my teeth are currently wired shut and my head is in a giant sock that holds my chin in place. My face is about as swollen as a marshmallow and because there are no sinuses any more, I can feel a pretty constant stream of blood dripping down the inside of the face. My mom has been an excellent nurse, and I've been having chicken broth and ensure through a syringe that i then suck through my clenched teeth. Many other people have their jaws wired shut for weeks, but hopefully mine will only be for a few days and then I'll switch to rubber bands. I can't imagine having them wired for weeks - its really pretty painful and inconvenient.

All in all, things have gone just fine, and like I said before. I just feel really blessed for good doctors and pain medication.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Adventures with Sheralie and Co.

This Thanksgiving, I've been very grateful for the chance to visit my sister Sheralie and her husband Pete in Manila, Philippines. We've had a marvelous time - catching up, playing with Jeffrey, Laird and Lucy, and getting a chance to see the Philippines.

Here are some pics:

Morning rice fields and water buffalo

The canyon below Pagsanjan Falls

Sheralie, Jeff and I with our awesome guides.
(I'm going to devote a whole post to how incredible they were later.)

Footbridge. Pagsanjan Village.

View from footbridge.


World War II American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila
17,202 buried
36,285 missing

The inscription on the south side of the bell tower reads:


Monday, November 02, 2009

How to drink water from your hands

Are you in need of a satisfying, soothing late night snack!? Look no further! Here is the secret to the tastiest, most refreshing evening drink you've ever tasted:

1. After you are done brushing your teeth and washing your face, take an extra moment to wash your hands so they're nice and clean.

2. Gently cup them together (as if you were holding 4-5 eggs in them) and pay extra attention to that little spot right above where your pinky fingers meet - that is the weak spot, so make sure it is tightly closed.

3. Fill your hands with refreshingly cold water (this might be much more difficult if you live south of the Tropic of Cancer and north of the Tropic of Capricorn). This is easiest and best done when you live close to the mountains, but it can work just about anywhere on the right day.

4. Bring your hands up halfway to your face, and then bring your face to your hands.

5. Rest your chin against the two palms of your hands - don't go vertically into them otherwise you risk getting your face completely soaked. As it is you can expect your nose to get a little wet, but that helps it taste more refreshing.

6. As you drink in the water continue to press your hands together and you'll be amazed and how much water you can fit in your hands.

7. Repeat 2-3 times or until satiated. (Remember not to drink more than three handfuls before bed, or you might just have to wake up at 3 of 4 in the morning!)


I don't know what it is that is so refreshing and incredible about drinking out of my hands, but I've been addicted to it for a couple of years now. It seems something like almost Ameliesque, but it really is satisfying and somehow tastier than having water in a glass or cup or mug or even a brand-new nalgene bottle.

Give it a try tonight. It will be life-changing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Time for Thought

There are moments in life when we just need to stop and think. This week has been one of them for me. Last night I drove up on top of a mountain and thought. And I thought. And I thought. I needed it. It was good. I didn't decide what I needed to decide. No contract was signed. In a way I merely rehashed things I've thought about hundreds of times. But in the thinking there emerged energy- energy that I needed to do what it is I've thought about so many times before. I realized that I've already made many of these decisions, and that I will continue to move forward.

Kenneth Burke, provocative thinker of the 1950s and 60s (see http://www.kbjournal.org/kbs for more information on him) is author of a text I am using in my English class on rhetoric and persuasion. His ideas were catalysts for many of my thoughts. Here are some of them:

"If you internalize... a variety of motives... you get a complex individual of many voices. And though these may be treated, under the heading of Symbolic, as a concerto of principles mutually modifying one another, they may likewise be seen, from the standpoint of Rhetoric, as a parliamentary wrangle in which the individual has put together somewhat as he puts together his fears and hopes, friendships and enmities, health and disease, or those tiny rebirths whereby, in being born to some new condition he may be dying to a past condition, his development being dialectical, a series of terms in perpetual transformation" (A Rhetoric of Motives, 38).

"But a modern "post-Christian" rhetoric must also concern itself with the thought that, under the heading of appeal to audiences, would also be included, any ideas or images privately addressed to the individual self for moralistic or incantatory purposes. For you become your own audience, in some respects a very lax one, in some respects very exacting, when you become involved in psychologically stylistic subterfuges for presenting your own case to yourself in sympathetic terms (and even terms that seem harsh can often be found on close scrutiny to be flattering, as with neurotics who visit suffering upon themselves in the name of high-powered motives which, whatever their discomfiture, feed pride)."

"Only those voices from without are effective which can speak in the language of a voice within."

It wouldn't be feasible to try and explain everything that I've been thinking about, but it is interesting in reading these citations that I was actually thinking about thinking. Suspending myself above myself added additional clarity that I needed.

The overwhelming resolution to the crisis of thought has been a feeling of gratitude. Note that this doesn't stem from a resolution of the crisis itself. Sometimes that shouldn't be expected.

In other news, I've been sick the past couple of days with a mysterious variant of the flu. No fever, just the chills, vomiting and fatigue. Who knows what it was, but it seems its about done. I celebrated this morning by downing eight dollars worth of fruit products at Jamba Juice. Eight dollars on orange juice, a big coldbuster shake and a whopping shot of wheat grass! It was my victory toast to my brain, for doing some good, quality thinking.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Chapstick is a conspiracy.

I really doubt that I am the first to have noticed this, but I am pretty much completely convinced that chapstick, despite all of its benefits, is a cold, calculated conspiracy.

Think about how many times your lips bother you. Mine don't really bother me all that often. Really the only time they get into trouble is when I spend the whole day in the sun - surfing, wakeboarding, etc. The next day my lips hurt real bad, so I put on lots of chapstick, and all of the sudden, it seems like things are worse. Chapstick must contain some addictive element, like nicotine or crack for your lips. The second you use a little bit, you suddenly have to have the chapstick with you at all times, ready to go in your pocket. Tubes and tubes of chapstick disappear, joining the mismatched socks and ballpoint pens in whatever mysterious corner of the universe to which they frequently flee. You're hooked.

For me it takes a week to get off of chapstick once I'm addicted. It usually happens when I lose all of the chapstick available in the house or apartment, and by that time my lips are just a little bit better. 

If you've read all of this, it means that for some reason you like me, or think my writing is funny or maybe you are really bored. Whatever the case may be, you may be pleased to know that I will now be keeping the blog alive with much more substantive posts than this one. I want to have a place to put my thoughts on life, international development, school and whatever other things I encounter. Previously I have assumed that I only have exceptional experiences or make earth-shattering discoveries while I am abroad, but hopefully this blog will prove the opposite to be true.

Thanks for your friendship and support. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some words in Sena

Here are some new words I've learned this week:

Machessa - These are the community classrooms Care for Life builds in each of the communities they work in. They are made out of wood, bamboo and grass. Instead of supplying materials for their construction, Care for Life asks for one nail, one stick of bamboo and a handful of grass from each family in the community. Care for Life is really different them some of the other Non-Governmental Organizations I have seen in action, and they've left me pretty impressed. In the Machessa many kinds of classes are taught; everything from child and adult literacy, family health and gardening to vocational training and business skills.

Mwacherua - This is how you say hello in the local dialect, Sena. This is a different dialect then the one I was learning in Maputo, so I am back at square one. I have heard this said a lot, and have said it a lot in the communities I have been visiting with Tobias. Tobias is the coordinator for Income Growth Training, and I've spent the week accompanying him, observing the classes that are taught, the consultations with small business owners and interviewing various entrepreneurs and students. Tobias reminds me of Will Smith. He is funny and kind and everybody loves him. He speaks mostly in Sena, especially during his classes. In reality only about 40% of Mozambicans speak Portuguese, although among the younger generation almost all speak it. Since the classes are normally taught to parents and adults many of whom who already have small businesses, the classes are taught in Sena. Sena doesn't have a lot of fancy business words though, so these words are in Portuguese, so it's not completely impossible for me to keep up.

Taverano? - This means "did everyone understand?"... at least that's what I think it means. Tobias says it frequently during his class and everyone responds by nodding their heads. This whole week of observation has been very beneficial because of the things I understood and learned. Care for Life has developed a program called the "Family Preservation Program," that ties in many different components of development and utilizes participatory teaching and work methods like the FAMA methodology I was trained in by Joan Dixon and Lynn Curtis. Luckily enough it was precisely them who also had a hand in the formation of the Family Preservation Program being used here. This means that I was able to understand very well what the teachers and facilitators were trying to do. We spent a lot of time analyzing how their classes function and making observations and plans to improve the classes. Also, I was able to train two more people on how to teach the Community Economics curriculum I developed with Joan, and it looks like they will be incorporating this manual into their curriculum. If any of this sounds interesting, or you are in a condition to assist Care for Life's in their efforts, please visit their website at www.careforlife.org The Mozambican government recently reneged on a promise to continue helping to fund Care for Life, so the need for contributions is extremely important.

Manja - This means "please applaud." Every time someone makes a good comment or does a report in class we give them a round warm of applause. I love how happy everyone is to see each other succeed. The things these communities are working on could seem simple to some, but in reality are critical steps towards building safety, health and prosperity for their families. It takes months to help all of the families understand the necessity of building a permanent latrine and seeing them do it, planting their own vegetable garden or contributing to the community "Bicycle Ambulance". If I had a chance to ask a manja for someone, it would be for the Mozambican staff workers here at Care for Life. There are about a dozen employees that run a program that operates in 8 communities that involves nearly 11,000 people. Tobias especially deserves manja because he has let me be his shadow the whole week. We have driven over 250 km this week on his motorbike. It has been thrilling and beautiful.

I have hardly any pictures of my time here in Beira, and I don't plan on taking any. My experiences this week have been two raw and intimate to be photographed. The chance to walk in as a white man into so many authentic, honest villages and spend only a few moments learning, speaking and understanding really can't be risked or spoiled by pulling out a strange black box that flashed in people's eyes. It would destroy the relationship Tobias and his colleagues have worked so long to forge. I am bringing back from Beira pages and pages of memories in my journal, and volumes of them in my mind. I am bringing back dozens of conversations and the trust of a few new friends.

I have been slowly letting myself detach a little. Monday I will be leaving Beira for Johannesburg to begin my long journey home. I spent about an hour on Wednesday night waiting in a little Indian Restaurant from which I could see the lights of an LDS chapel in the distance and a concrete wall that separated the road from the beach on the other side. I sat just thinking about how much I have been blessed. Not just the blessings of education, parents, plumbing and paved roads, but bigger things like the understanding that Heavenly Father knows and loves each of the people I have met or seen here. There really isn't an adequate way of expressing our gratitude to God. Sometimes we have to squeeze out every bit of gratitude within us to try and show Him how much we are really thankful, and then hope that He knows and understands we realize how much more we would really like to thank Him. He knows though. He always does.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some pictures

The most spectacular drive in the world.

The most spectacular drive in the world.

Went to bed at one.
Woke up at 3:45.
Carried my duffel bag on my head. The bus was parked in a giant pool of mud,
of course the police had to see our papers right then and there,
in the middle of the mud hole.
I explained the papers and we boarded.
People everywhere.
Utter darkness.
We leave on time, unexpectedly. The dawn didn't glimmer till well over an hour into the journey. The colors marched in slowly and then melted into the mist.
The sunrise was invisible. The mist steepened with white and then orange and purple.
The highway severed endless seas of mist with floating trees and distuant huts made boyant.

It thinned and the sun glimmered through, softening enough to stare directly.
Huts of all kinds.
Square with round roofs.
Round with round roofs.
Round with tin roofs.
Mud. Wood. Sticks. Reeds.

Savannah. Jungle. Verdant green. Endless gold.
Still marshes, vast plains, mammoth riverbeds.

Boom, crack.
Black rubber launching through the air.
Red, red earth. Down, digging.
Two cord snaps.
Heat bakes down.
Small cars gawk.
Buses smile thankfully (wasn't us)
Tow rope snaps. Snaps again.
Sweat, knives, the minutes pass.
The hour passes.
ITS OUT! Sighs and cheers!

Imundeiro Boabab Trees
(The ones God planted upside down)
The sunset bounces into oblivion.
Hungry, we ride on.

The Apex of an Adventure

Last night I found myself standing on a street corner in Beira. I was exhausted, but so completely satisfied to be off the bus I couldn't help but smile for at least half an hour as I stood there, waiting. It was a seventeen hour bus ride, and even though the view from the windows was awe-inspiring the entire trek, I felt myself pushing my own limits - emotionally and physically.

We made it though. What a week! Since Swaziland, we spent two days at Skukuza camp in northeastern South Africa, in Kruger National Park. We went on two official Safaris in the big truck and everything, and spent all the other time we were there driving around in our own little Toyota Quantum van.

I hadn't planned on having an incredible safari experience, and to be honest, there have been so many other things to focus on, to stress about, to prepare for and to do that I hadn't given the experience much thought. I hand't anticipated it or dreamed about it, but then all of the sudden I was there, in a little rented van, stuck on the road as a herd of elephants trotted by. Having a lack of expectiations, the safari experience completely surpassed them and surprised me.

It is probably not worth spending too much time talking about it, becuase I hope the pictures will be able to speak for themselves. I might try after this post to put a few of them here on the blog, but we really shouldn't get any hopes up with this internet connection. So I will tell you about a few of them:

There is one of a group of seven lions - a lioness and her six cubs ripping a kudu to shreds. It was the luckiest thing that happened to us. She killed it about fifteen yards from the road, and in the night we could barely fit the beams of our searchlights through the brush to illuminate her and the kill and get some clean shots. Then her brother lion showed up. It seemed like he was skipping because h has a bad paw. It was any amateur photographers dream moment.

I guess I am not talking straight about the luckiness thing, because really the luckiest part was seeing the cheetah. There are less than 200 cheetahs in the whole park (compared to thousands and thousands of elephants, giraffe and lions) and we spoke to many people who've come dozens of times and never seen one.


So safari was fun, but the driving this week really pushed the limits. We spent 49 hours driving! Our BYU program expereince offically ended on Friday evening when we made it back to Maputo from Nelspruit, South Africa. We spent most of the night cleaning up and repacking in order to come up to Beira. Some of the other students returned home to the US, but Kristin, Dusty, Christina, Kailey and I all came up to Beira. We had to wake up at 3:45 to catch the bus, and when I tried to somehow carry all of my stuff, I had a great mozambican moment. It dawned on me that it would much easier to carry my duffle bag on my head. So I did. It worked great!

As far as the bus ride goes - it was cramped, long, beatiful, and they only stopped four times to let us use the bathroom. Our voyage was interrupted by a two hour flat tire/get completely stuck in the mud on the side of the road in the middle of the jungle moment.

As the sun was setting over yet another savannah, dotted with mighty boabab trees and scattered grass huts I scratched some bumpy letters into my journal. It is kind of raw, but I will share it with you in the next post.

I am now safely at the Care for Life facility in Beira, and had a happy nights sleep and a spectacular shower. We just got back from church - another fantastic african ward, perhaps the most impressive one I've seen. The reverance, the talks, the attitude and the faith are all astounding and admirable.

This week I will be observing the Family Preservation Program that Care for Life is currently executing in eight rural villages, and doing some teacher training if everything works out right! Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. I hope that all are well.

Oh and the last thing, I received a Swazi name from a wonderful woman in ... oh dear I don't remember the name of the city. I do remember the name though, it is Sihle (said see-hu-LEE) and it means; "where he goes, doors open" or "the good one who brings good fortune."


This is a picture of One World University in Changalane

Monday, June 08, 2009

Swaziland... who knew?

Hello everyone from the Ezulwini Valley of Swaziland, just outside of the capital city of Mbembe. Last time I wrote on here it was from Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique where we did our month long internship at the teachers training college. From there we headed south to Changalane, a very small and remote village in the southern tip of Mozambique near the border with Swaziland. About twenty minutes outside of the village is a brand-new, beautiful university called One World University. It is an outstanding facility just completed last year by a grant from the Government of Finland and the United States Department of Agriculture.

The students come from all over Mozambique and Angola and receive a three year training on either community development work or a degree suitable to teach and manage a teachers training college, like the one that we have been working at in Maputo. The students are normally in their late twenties and thirties. Kristin and I taught a 30 person group called the "Combatents alongside the poor." We had them exclusively for the entire week, which we spent teaching Economics, community development methodology and English. Imagine what the first scene of the animated Lion King looks like - then take away Pride Rock and the animals, and thats what this place looks like. It is literally the only large structure in the entire valley.

On monday we went into the village for National Kids Day and marched and sang with the children in their parade. In the village there were less than a dozen brick structures - the rest were all huts made of sticks and mud. The people were beautiful and kind. On wednesday afternoon we went on a hike that almost turned into disaster. We hiked up a nearby hill through waist high vegetation (some of the plants here have thorns the size of a four-inch long nail!) and made it to the top just before sunset. Then our guides insisted that the correct way to get back to the university was down the other side of the hill. We consented and ended up making it back to where we came from, but about two hours later and in the dark. It was a good thing we had a full moon to help us pick our way through the bush. I ate some crazy green fruit that was brown on the inside and tasted like Tamarind. The guy I was hiking with was from northern mozambique and had grown up hunting Impala, so I trusted his advice.

We had a great cultural evening at the university as well. We read poetry, sang and danced for them and then with them. They got a kick out of line dancing. The campus itself is spectacular. It was designed by the same architects who built the Sydney Opera House. The hallways are high and enormous - the entire school is open air - and the entire setup is extremelly functional yet impressive. The lady that runs the school is about 65 years old, from Denmark. She is vivacious, visionary and strong. I just about brought the house down when I danced the Brazilian Forro with her at the cultural night. The students were nearly rolling on the ground with laughter.

Friday my students presented the group discussion techniques I have been teaching (the ones I have been learning this past year at BYU with my wonderful professor Joan Dixson). They led fantastic group discussions on all kinds of local problems - everything from polygamy, fecalism, uncontrolled fires, malnutrition, people who ask for the sandals off of your feet, to how to have your entire family help in the fields instead of just some, alcoholism, potable water and in-house sanitation. The discussions are extremelly participant driven and allow an oustide like myself a fascinating view on life the way mozambicans see it. It facitilates a process in which they make observations, share their experiences and opinions and create solutions together. This methodoly is called FAMA, and can be learned more about by researching the organization ProLiteracy Worldwide, or by contacting myself, Joan Dixon or Lynn Curtis.

Saturday we administered exams at the university, said our goodbyes and headed back to Maputo. We spent the afternoon trying to buy more food, I arranged for the printing of the training manual that I had completed during the week at the University (also thanks to the enormous help of Joan Dixon and the many students and teachers at the university who helped me in the writing and editing process). It turned out to be a little more expensive than I had planned, but after all... I am in Africa right? It's not like you can just run down to kinkos. There was a big soccer game on (Mozambique lost to Tunisia) so it was hard enough just to find a place that was open. Saturday evening we took our final exam on Mozambican poetry, which wasn't exactly fun because we have been so busy working that I really haven't had much time to study. Professor Williams went to bed and left the exam on the kitchen table, so by the time I had repacked, studied and eaten it was already midnight. Most of us finished the exam around 2 in the morning, but it actually wasn't too difficult, so I was OK with it.

This morning we left Mozambique and traveled to Nelspruit, South Africa. We had a near catastrophe at the border (and weasled our way out of a $6,000 fine due to a bureaucratic snafu) and made it safely. We then rented vans and drove south into Swaziland. This leads me to the point I started with... I didn't know anything about Swaziland until entering into it as a country, which is rather embarassing. So here is thirty seconds of info on Swaziland:

It was never colonized. Not by the British, Dutch or Portuguese.
It is a kingdom... a legit one. The king chooses a new wife each year.
It is called the Switzerland of Africa - it is mountainous and beautiful. It seems like the vegetation of Ramona, mixed with Africa, on hills that look like Stonewall Peak in eastern San Diego. It is beautiful and just a little bit nippy.

Ok the lady at this internet place wants to go home. I am well and happy. Give a big hooray for Swaziland... they've really got a good thing going!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Dzi Shile familia!

This past week has been full of work and beautiful sunrises. We have been going to bed very early and getting up very early to help work in the Machambas and other fun things. Yesterday morning we watched the sun rise over the enormous cemetery just down the road. Due to Mozambique's turbulent history you could walk down a row of graves and see tombstones written in Chinese, Arabic, German, Portuguese and Changana all next to each other.

Saturday I taught my last economics class to the group of church members who had been participating. They all received certificates and were pretty happy about it. I was very happy with the group and the way the class went, and am excited to start teaching it again next week at One World University. I have been in communication with them and they will be allowing me to teach it every day, as well as in the evening to a local farmers group. One World University is a brand new facility recently opened by a joint project between the government of Mozambique, the Dutch organization ADPP and USAID. It is located in the countryside, about an hour and a half from here, in a town called Changalane. This week I am lecturing on the history of Cuba and then having our classes go through exercises to learn how to lead group discussions about self-sufficiency. We also had our poetry midterm last week which I did well on - it had been wonderful to better understand the culture and history of Mozambique through its literature.

Saturday we also had the opportunity to participate in the baptism of one of the students who has been attending the economic class we are teaching. His name is Jose and was baptised with his wife. We gave him a tie! He had already been investigating before the class, but I am happy we played a small part. Speaking of missionary work we also had the chance to go on splits with the elders here which was a real treat. It was fun teaching lessons, making contacts and even teaching one whole lesson in the dark to a family of 9 over the light of a small kerosene lamp.

This week will be our last week in Maputo, but will end with a bang. This saturday and sunday there will be special conference meetings because Elder Nelson has come here to visit. I will be playing the piano for the priesthood meeting and taking the group photos of Elder Nelson and the missionaries. That's because in our days off we have been hanging out with the senior couple missionaries and helping them with their many projects - everything from filming chicken farms, staking our garden plots for a ward garden, to helping assemble neonatal resuscitation kits. They invited us to help out when Elder Nelson is here.

So we are staying busy down here. I love the wonderful people I am getting to know and the opportunity to understand a rich and complex culture. Best of wishes to the northern hemisphere!


Friday, May 22, 2009

A Sermon Surprise

So on Tuesday night we went to visit our friend Alice at her home in the suburbs and go to church with her. To make a very long story very short, the church was not only a pleasant mix between protestantism and local tradition, it was held in Changana instead of Portuguese, and when the pastor surprised me by asking me to give the sermon I gave it in Portuguese and then he translated it and pumped it up a notch into Changana. The whole congregation received us extremelly well ( it was just Dusty, Kristen and I) and treated us to a very nice dinner afterwards. The church was made of cinder block with a rough cement floor and about forty in attendance, 35 of which were older women. The pastor wanted us to heal everyone like he did by putting hand over their heads as they shook violently and screamed in their native tongues, which took some quick tactful explanations to get out of, but everything ended well. We sang "Juventude de Irael" (Hope of Israel) for them and then sang an indigenous song that Alice had taught us. There was lots of clapping and dancing and smiles. The dinner afterwards was fried chicken and potatoes... the REAL THING! I mean, this is where fried chicken actually came from and they do a pretty good job making it! Afterwards the pastor, his two wives and families accompianied us to the bus stop and presented us with sugar cane and homemade donuts.

The classes we teach at the EPF have been going well. Last week was economics, this week has been music. Next week will be about Cuba and community development. Wish me luck!

Other fun things:

We saw the sunrise in the Machamba fields again this morning.
We went to a marimba concert last saturday night and danced with everyone in front of the stage.
We held a fireside for the youth on saturday afternoon with poetry readings and then taught them dance - line dancing, salsa, forro and samba.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Xima Blisters

So remember in middle school science class when your teacher told you that one of the most important evolutionary differents between mankind and other species is the use of opposable thumbs? Well, he or she was right. I am suffering the limited use of my right thumb due to a giant blister that is covering it and I've realized I never gave my thumb its due.

My thumb did fine yesterday morning - we had woken up before sunrise and taken out my still camera, Dusty's video camera and tripod out to the Machamba. The mist, the dew, the golds and oranges and purples were worth the weight. After an hour or so of shooting, we found Alice, whom we had worked with earlier in the week and began out documentary journey. We followed her from the beginning of her day as a couve seller, finding the right patch, negotating a price, harvesting the couve (kale), loading it onto her head, the long walk to the highway (where I intervened and carried it on my head once we had gotten enough footage of her), then loading it into the truck. At this point, Dusty and I had know idea where she was going, where she lived, where she would sell it...

So we jumped in the back of the truck and went. Just imagine, a beat up little pick up full of vegetables and two white boys squished against the tailgate, on the trans-african highway, without an idea of where they were headed. Turns out we went to Boane, a city about forty minutes west of Maputo in the dry, picturesque countryside. When we finished our bumpy, dusty journey we arrived at Alice's parents house, where we met the entire clan and neighborhood and then did some more filming and shooting. Alice was great to work with because she really enjoyed being in front of the camera(s) and would remain completely normal in her work while we filmed.

At Alice's parents house it was fun to meet the personalities - the drunk uncles, her blind but strong mother... and that's where I was:

1. Beaten at a stone game that was like mancala on steroids - the playing board had been scooped into the hardened sand, was four rows deep and eight feet long! The sad part is that the man who beat me (I didn't win a single rock) was completely drunk.

2. Taught to make xima... I think the translation is grits, but I think corn porridge describes it better. This is where the blister comes it. You have to rip the kernels out of the dried ears of corn by hand, and them pound and grind them in giant metate-looking wood mortars. It was great but my thumb took the heat.

Oh man, I wish I had more time to tell you more. There was watermelon whiskey and watching her sell, catching the bus and starting a fire, dividing up land for gardens at the church and crazy adventures on the highway.

Next time...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's going on.

Yesterday I was in such a rush I didn't have much time to really explain what is going on down here. I had just finished that wonderful morning in the Machamba and really wanted to write it all out before it lost its vividness in my memory. Here is some better info on everything else that is going on.

We have finally had success in figuring out how we can help the EPF (Escola para os Professores do Futuro), and them figuring out how they can let us help. First of all, they don't exactly needs tons of help, and the things they need help with, it seems they don't really know it. Add this to the fact that there are very few people who have a good idea of what they are doing within the organization and you get about a week and a half of meetings to try and get anything done. But now that we have gotten through out week and a hallf of meetings and planning, Dusty and I are now teaching classes each afternoon. This week we will be teaching the basics of economics and monetary theory, next week we will teach about the construction of musical instruments and the week after we will teach about, and I kid you not here --- "The power of community: lessons of community development that can be learned from Cuba." Needless to say, we had to pick from a specific list of courses to teach. Long story, but his is how it ended.

On the days that we don't teach (Wednesdays and Fridays) we are helping Elder and Sister Cox who are on a humanitarian mission working with local church members on gardening and chicken cultivation projects. So we spent the morning picking beans, pulling weeds and then meeting with members and counting eggs. Dusty is a film student, so he is helping to document many things here - the chicken project being one of them. Other students (there are nine of us in all) are working on various projects. Three are working with the Hope Center, doing AIDS testing and prevention/awareness. Others teach English at the high school, and others do tutoring and teach culture classes at a Polytechnic school. All of these schools and the Health Center compose a giant campus called ADPP which is cosponsored by the Mozambican Government and a Dutch organization that helps with construction and training teachers.

We eat our meals at the cafeteria that serves the teachers and administrators. The food is WONDERFUL. Mozambique is an interesting mix of cultures - Indigenous African, Colonial Portuguese, Indian (the Portuguese brought them from Goa), Chinese (the Portuguese brought them from Macau), Middle Eastern (Muslim colonizers arrived here even before the Portuguese and have lived peacefully for nearly 800 years), with a mix of British and Dutch South African. The cuisine seems to reflect all of that - here is a brief list of things I have eaten and enjoyed:

"Stolen Lamb" in Lemon-Lime Sauce with French Fries
Shrimp, Kale and Onion marinated in Coconut with Rice
Chicken in Peanut Sauce
Crab Penne Pasta
Goat Curry
Liver with Rice and Green Beans
Beef chunks with Xima (Grits)
Fresh fish with Lentil Curry
Cow Foot (this one was a little fatty)
Ground Beef, Eggplant and Rice

I have also really enjoyed getting to know Mozambican literature and learning phrases in the local language Changana. Las night we met with perhaps the most prominent Mozambican writer Mia Couto. He was a true gentleman - genteel, wise and entertaining. I wanted to put a couple of his poems up on here today, but don't have my book with me. I'll make sure to include them sometime though.

Church Sunday was also fantastic. We went to a different branch - much poorer and remote but the same smiles, the same music and very impressive youth and sermons. I hope all of you are well wherever you may be.



Algumas Fotos

The beautiful city of Maputo - this is a side view of the harbor.

Kristen and Kailey enjoying their culture class to teach a little fun - this is the "circle of trust" which worked quite well with this group.

This is Kristen, Dusty, Kailey and I in the back of a little pickup truck driving into downtown. The outdoor markets are called Bazaares and have everything from carved elephants and piles of peanuts to used shoes and dyed kapulanas (colorful sheets of fabric that actually come from India - they are the swiss army knife of a woman's wardrobe here - you see them worn as jackets, skirts, headdresses, scarves, baby-swaddlers, couve carriers... you name it!).

Indian Ocean - Macaneta Beach. We traveled out here on our first weekend because May 1st was a holiday. The ride there took about two hours - crossing the city, the countryside, a river by ferry, getting stuck in the mud, then crossing a savannah section before pulling up literally on to the sand in our great VW van. These pictures are small - but click on them and they get really big!

This picture is of the whole group - Me, Kristen (the group facilitator), Helena (our resident Brazilian), Christina (our comic relief), Kailey (the youngest of the group - her father is portuguese), John (a future doctor), Jowey (enjoys controversial discussions), Kenneth (more comic relief) and Dusty (my roommate and master of film and comedy), and Dr. Williams (poet extroardinaire).

At the beach I taught everyone how to bodysurf even though the waves were extremelly small. We spent most of out time running down the beach catching crabs. The beach was about a two-hundred yard spit of sand that divided the ocean from a giant lagoon, which we didn't swim in (all those stories about Crocodiles.... yeah.)

This is the Economics Class that Dusty and I are teaching at the EPF (The School of Future Professors). We teach in the afternoons, which leaves the mornings free to work in the Machamba. In the evenings we have out own Portuguese Literature class with the professor who is guiding our study abroad/internship, Dr. Frederick G. Williams.This is me, Ken, Dusty and John in front of the old train station. The cupola roof was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame. We got in to trouble for the silly nature of this photograph. I guess some could find it's humor an offense to the respect such a monument deserves. Please know this was not my intention. I just felt like doing a headstand!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I woke up to rooster crowing around 6:00 and tried to ignore the squeaky footsteps in the hall until 6:30. After peeling off the mosquito net and getting dressed in my favorite Brazilian soccer uniform I joined Dusty, Kailey and Kristen outside. We started the long walk down to the fields that lie behind our small neighborhood, after the large beer factory. This time we found a new trail behind that led along the narrow paths, the dew-covered corn stalks and the patchwork fields. It seemed to disappear into the thick African morning mist. Occasionally the kapulana-covered legs would arise and show their heads of wrinkled dark skin. All of the old ladies would arise and greet us, and when we greeted them back in Changana, the indigenous language, rather than in Portuguese, they giggled with delight and wonder.

We slowly found our way back to the fields behind the lake, where we worked last week with Dona Atalia, but today she wasn't there. We found another group of women cutting couve (kale) and as I approached them, carefully choosing my steps along the muddy furrow I said: "Dzi Shile Mama. Nidjula a cafuna oitzema m'couvo?" (Good morning mother (term of respect for older woman), Can I help you cut the kale?). She handed over her large knife and I went to work. The others saw and came over to join. We cut the whole rectangular section of the garden and began stacking it into the green burlap sack, stalks towards the outside, leaves towards the center, smallest on bottom, largest on top.

The people walking by on the path made their usual comments. "What are these white people doing here?", "Hey Mama, who are these people helping you?" "Good morning." they''d said in Changana, and when we responded they'd wonder aloud with amazement. After stacking the couve about hip-high, the packing and squeezing began. We placed another burlap back over the top of the stack and pressed downward with just enough force to compact the leaves without completely smashing them. Then we'd use the straps sown into the corners to cinch the bags together, twisting the lines and then tying them. Then two or three people come together and lift the bag up, and someone ducks under and then extends upwards, with the weight of the bag squarely on their head.

Dusty took the first bag on his head and walked to the highway to our north - about a ten minute jaunt He returned before we had finished packing the next two bags that belonged to Dona Alicia. The first of Alicia's bags went atop Kristen's head. The second, larger bag went on top of Kailey's. I had already had my first turn carrying the bag last week. The mud was thick and made balancing and walking treacherous. Africans have mastered a different walk - it comes purely from the hips and the torso and head remain motionless, simply sailing forward regardless of the load atop them. Alicia had told us it was a long walk, and had pointed south. All I could see were the fields and streams, occasionally interrupted by coconut trees melting into the mist. Nestled on the sides of this shallow valley, the city began. First homes hacked out of reeds, balanced on the mud, praying that the floods won't come, then the cinder block houses staking their claim in the sand, their tin roofs reflecting the sun, then roads and trees, bigger houses, bars and bakeries. Behind them peeked the large apartment buildings and granaries.

After a few minutes the couve bag had leaped from Kailey's head to Dona Alicia's and then on to mine, like an over-sized toad that refused to balance. You have to move the weight a little further back than you'd expect in order to see the road. The bag begins to sag and drip with your own sweat. The weight at first only pressed upon my skull, but slowly spread to my neck, trapezoids, shoulders and then torso. After nearly a half an hour, I wondered if the road would ever come. I couldn't see the people's faces anymore; I could just feel the sweat and the dirt dripping down, my sandaled feet spitting out dust and wondering where the road would appear. My body began to tremble and shake. I felt like the slaves from the poems I've been reading, but my burden was fake and ingenuine. I called out still "Dzi Shile Mama"and "Dzi Shile Papa" to each person that passed, and lied when Kristen asked me if I was OK or if I needed to switch with someone. My pride wouldn't allow me.

At last came the road, the crossover stairs and the trucks. The mob of women and colors and peanuts and sweat. Setting the bag down my head swirled with exhaustion and it seemed my balance had been sapped with my energy... but I had made it. Alicia looked at me and said in Changana and then in Portuguese, her wry smile winking through ivory teeth,

"You have the strength."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I am in hog heaven. I spent the morning in the machamba fields, working with some old women. Carrying an eighty pound bag of couve on my head to the crowd of seventy African women rolling on the ground with laughter was one of the best moments of my life. I am well and loving everything.

I'll write more later.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Goat Curry Anyone?

It has been a wonderful last couple of days here in Maputo, I'm gonna give you the quick play-by-play:

Econ Classes - 25 members came to my class on Saturday. It went well - it started out slow as it took a little while to get everyone out of sunday school mode, but once everyone started opening up and participating we had a good discussion on how to determine between needs and wants, how to prioritize our purchases and making decisions about how to value our time. The senior missionary couple that observed the class also liked it.

Church - We attended a wonderful branch in Maputo, with the Mission President, two missionary couples and all of us present. The testimonies were absolutely stupendous. There are so many sharp, capable members it was really exciting to see, and very moving to hear of their experiences of finding the church. The elders are very busy and had 13 investigators at the meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and spent the last hour in primary and helped do crowd control on the back lawn. The kids were great.

Food - You guys all know how much I like exotic food, so I am pretty much in heaven. In the past couple days i've eaten goat curry, squid kabobs, tripe stew and a spinach-shrimp-coconut dish that was my favorite. I'm on cloud nine.

Macaneta - Friday was Dia do Trabalhador (Labor Day), so we took the day off from teaching and headed up the coast to Macaneta. After a crazy ferry ride, getting stuck and unstuck out of the most intense mudholes I've ever driven through and then a forty minute offroad adventure through the savannah, we came to a beautiful strand of sand between a freshwater lagoon and the indian ocean. We spent the afternoon catching crabs and playing in the shorebreak.

Work - we started teaching/coordinating/helping today at ADPP, the school complex we spend our days at. It has been some crazy bureacratic haranguing, just to figure out what we can do to help, but I think we got through it today. Most of the other interns have already started their work in earnest, we (my friend Dusty and I) just happen to be at the school that has the most difficult time coordinating their schedules.

The bottom line is, we are having a wonderful time. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers!

P.S. - Feel free to leave your comments and questions here on the blog. I can actually read and respond to them now (not like when I was on a mission)!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Teachers of the Future!

Hello everyone, It is a nice and warm afternoon here in Maputo. We just got back from another full day at the schools at which we will be teaching. Dusty and I are teaching at the "Teachers of the Future" teacher training college, which is the one I really hoped would work out. It looks like we will be able to teach them how to use the economics curriculum we've developed. Then, they can take the materials with them as they return to their villages and rural areas of mozambique. The school is part of a government program to send schoolteachers to these areas. We will see how well things work out with the details. We spent most of today meeting and negociating details. It is kind of difficult working with a three-tiered bureacracy. Last night Kristen and I made dinner for everyone - macarronada! (Pasta with sausage). It was a hit, and we made the tomato sauce from scratch, and it was shockingly good. Maybe that was because everyone was so hungry. At night our professor teaches poetry classes which have been good, but normally someone always falls asleep because it is such a long, fun, hot day. Last night it was me that was trying really hard not to nod off.

Haha the internet just broke here and I fixed it - nothing like restarting the router... fixes just about everything. So yeah... AFRICA!!!! It is pretty fun. My favorite part is riding everywhere in Chapas, which are these old little vans that everyone uses for transportation. It is the size of a regular old vw van, but fits between 20 and 26 people, which is pretty insane. Roads are also crazy, seeing as we drive on the left-hand side of the road and dodge oncoming traffic and pedestrians through the maze of potholes. Other great news was the appearance of the plumber this morning, who made our bathroom sink stop leaking which allowed me to remove the sea that had taken up residence between the door and the toilet. Unfortunately he wasn't able to figure out how to unstop the laundry drain or figure out how to set up our water tank so we have water after 8am in the morning. Oh well, maybe next time. Tomorrow is a holiday, so looks like we are trying to go to the beach.

In other news, I just got my grades from last semester and I did better than i expected. I got an A in my Econ 378 class, which I consider to be one of the grades I am most proud of in my college career. Hope all of you are well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Made it!

Hey everyone,

Well you can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least Mom can anyways, because I have arrived safely and soundly in Mozambique. The journey was incredible, especially flying on Emirates Airlines. To put it briefly - did I ever think I'd see smoked salmon and shrimp cocktails, widescreen personal tvs and an LED-light ceiling that mimicks the sky outside like hogwarts in an airplane cabin?... in coach??!!!! Nope, but that is all exactly what happened.

I met up with the rest of the students and our professor in Johannesburg. It was nice to see some familiar faces. It was funny because almost everyone went a different route - some through Atlanta, Chicago, London, Paris and even Senegal. We came over to Moambique on the afternoon flight and landed on the runway. We scooted off the runway about twenty yards and then the plane just parked and opened up all the doors, rear and front and everyone jumped out in less than thirty seconds. It was pretty efficient. The airport reminded me of the airport near Tikal in Guatemala, but about half the size. We waited for almost an hour to change our money into meticais because they had run out of money. Yes... they ran out of local currency at the airport!

We then made it to our housing arragements. We are staying in a nice neighborhood for Mozambican standards. Most of the members of the group who served in nicer areas in Brazil or Portugal were a little shell-shocked, but I feel right at home. We live in some apartment buildings, the boys a couple of blocks from the girls. I am teaching my fellow roomates how to live without running water (it comes in the morning for an hour or two - you just have to make sure you get as much as you can and then plan how to use the rest of the day). We have to buy our own food and cook it too, which is fun because I have a bit of experience of living from the food of a three-shelf market.

I am so happy to be here. We weren't able to make it into the school where we will be working today - we spent the day chasing after passport copies at the embassy and facilitating the guy that took six or seven hours to put in hooks for our mosquito netting, but now all is done. We have our first mozambican poetry class tonight. Our professor, Dr. Williams is renowned among Mozambican poets and has done most of their translation into english. (He published the book we are using.) He has many great connections with people of the literary community here, and we'll be meeting some of the prominent poets.

I feel like I am back on my mission, but with much less responsibility and am thrilled that I get to walk around in shorts and my new mozambican sandals and shades. We can chat with whomever we please without feeling guilty for it, and can even watch all the soccer on tv that we can stand! Thanks for your prayers. I feel safe and happy.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

London II

Just another quick update. This morning I woke up super early and went and took pictures of Westminster Abbey and Parliament as the sun came up, then I walked over to the London Eye and the Jubilee Bridge. Then I took the tube to St. Paul's where I attended Communion. There were extremelly few people there because today is also the London Marathon, so I was able to sit in upper court area, where the Archbishops sit when there are important meetings. It was a very nice service and I talked for a while with the Bishop afterwards. That was at 8:00 and got over by 9:00, which left me enough time to walk across the Millennium Bridge and over to the London Bridge where I caught the Tube down to Penton Street where I attended the Penton Ward's sacrament meeting. I sat next to a very nice black lady from Barbados and read the words to the music aloud to her because I perceived she couldn't read them. It turned out it was her first time at church and so I took her up to the missionaries afterwards. They were pretty happy! Now I just came and checked out of the hostel and am headed up for one last look at Hyde Park before I scoot on back to Heathrow. London was AWESOME!
Hope you are all happy and well.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


It had to be Oscar Wilde - but I don't think he's actually buried here!
St. Paul's Cathedral and the Thames

Houses of Parliament, Big Ben

The flight was great - the weather has been perfect. What a day! Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings... like Dubai!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Where is Mozambique?

Some have been asking, others have just been wondering:

They say...

They say that once you see the sun set in africa, your life will never be the same.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Out with the old, on with the new

This post marks the break between mission posts and... the rest of my life posts. The blog hasn't been active for a while, but now it will be updated regularly for those of you who would like to keep in touch with me while I'm in Mozambique.