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)!!