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 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!!!!