Friday, April 20, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
I'm struck by the irony of a harvest moon in a country struck by drought. There won't be much coming in from the fields this harvest season, the stalks are brown and withering in a season where it should be green and lush. It's hard to be optimistic knowing the hunger that awaits every face I look into here. If only dust were nutritious, this would be a land of plenty again.
Friday, April 13, 2012
So much to say, so little internet access! We're safely in Zimbabwe and in the amazing care of our new friends, Farai and Mildred, and their family. In fact, I'd say, we're already family. We're living with them, sharing their home and it feels very comfortable. Water is plentiful and clean in Zimbabwe although it may not always come when you want it. Running water can mean an hour in the morning, an hour in the middle of the night or maybe not at all for a few days. Electricity is on the same schedule. It doesn't matter. You bath when you can. Cook on the fire if the stove is not working. Last night we made pancakes for the entire family (10 of us) on the fire outside. Maple "flavoured" syrup from S. Africa was the closest we could manage to a Canadian meal but it was well received...we thought. Then we walked into the kitchen to find the little girls scarfing down sadsa (nshima, pap) as fast as they could behind the closed door, pancakes discarded in the corner! So funny. They looked like they were busted for a crime when I came in but I laughed and then they did too! If they only knew how many granola bars I've had discreetly while funneling fish or sadsa off my plate onto some small child's nearby. Zimbabwe is warm and welcoming. Mountainous and lush. Water is clean, containers? Maybe not so. Easton and I learned the hard way but thankfully other than some embarassing moments vomiting in a supermarket parking lot behind a bush (not so discreet as the only mzungu!) or Easton having to use a "toilet" hole in the ground while naked men showered and small children watched him...we've survived. No stomach pains...just some gross moments as our bodies react to some weird little bug in our system. We're fine now and even on the days we weren't well, we did a lot of walking and home visits etc without any interruptions so that was really good. The care workers here are inspiring to say the least. I hope to share many, many of their stories as we are able. Each one could be a book in its own right and an example of love lived out. The community of Sekubva has 18 care workers that love the children that are abandoned, orphaned and vulnerable. They love the grannies and the aunties that are struggling to put food on the table. It's going to be a hungry year. It's a drought year and with that comes so much hunger and angst. Water, while plentiful, doesn't fill bellies. Living conditions are crowded and urban and difficult and yet the people we've met? Open. Friendly. Polite. Welcoming. Loving. Worried? Yes. Hungry? Almost always. The Zimbabwean dollar has totally collapsed as the economy here bottomed out. Denominations of 50,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars aren't worth the paper they are printed on. One granny told us that she doesn't ever even hope to hold a U.S. Dollar. More will come as we are able to share but let me just ask you this. If you pray, pray for Zimbabwe. Pray for the grannies and the aunties, the children and the communities. There is so much hurt and hunger here. If you "send good thoughts", send them this way. Just south of Zambia, ten miles to the west of the Mozambique border, through the Honde Valley and around the Bvumba mountains. This is just a corner of Zimbabwe.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
...and we're off! We're heading to Zimbabwe tomorrow. We've fully packed the teeny tiny little car we rented (with just four bags). We're having dinner tonight with our friend, Emily and her niece and nephew...they are from Zim so we're excited to hear all about our next leg of this adventure. It's encouraging that everyone here is telling us how jealous they are of our time with Farai and of being in Zimbabwe for a few weeks. That's always good to hear...even if they're making it up. I don't doubt it's going to be great...we'll let you know all about it when we can. Until then - Zimbabwe then Zambia. I'm jealous of myself.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Oshoek is a community just kilometres from the Swaziland border of South Africa. Some of the people living in Oshoek have come across the border into South Africa looking for a better life for themselves and their children. Some cross legally, some just walk across without papers or identification. Last week, our family of four met a family that had done just that. We were on our second day of home visits with the care workers from Oshoek’s Home Based Care. One of the homes we went to was that of a woman with whom care workers were well acquainted. Nomsa* had been living in Oshoek for the past three years, having crossed the border illegally with her three children. Her eldest son was 10 at the time, her younger children just 6 and 3. She came after her husband and most of his relatives passed away, leaving them with little family support and very little hope for an education or a future for the children. An acquaintance in Swaziland had a house to rent out in Oshoek, so this mother and her children made their way across the border and began a new life in South Africa. Unfortunately, the new life did not prove much easier than what they had left behind them. The mother, though employed, earned barely enough to feed the children regularly. The children, enrolled in school, were getting an education but without identification papers there would be no official records of their efforts. The house they had come to was hardly a shelter, with two small rooms, barely big enough to turn around in. The one room, used as a kitchen, contained a small shelf with water pails below it, and a small wood stove. Once the door was opened, the wood stove was blocked. It was dark and the windows were small and cracked. There was no electricity in the home. The second room contained everything the small family owned: clothing, bedding, etc. The family seemed to use it as a storage room and not for sleeping. I could understand why, the door to the outside of the house hung loosely on its hinges and would give way with very little force. The mother explained that often people came by the house in the night, banging on the door and yelling. She told us that she and the children sleep in what was probably meant to be a garage at one point, the only space with four solid cement walls, a roof, and most importantly a door that could be chained shut and padlocked once they were inside. While we chatted, we sat out in the yard on a collection of wooden benches and stumps to accommodate us. The house was not set back far from the main road leading to the border of Swaziland and it was often too loud to speak with large logging trucks and other big vehicles flying by. Though life for the first few years had been difficult, Nomsa clung to the hope that this move was providing her children with an education and a chance to improve their lives. Several times in those first few years, care workers would visit and find her so sick and unresponsive that they would believe her to be taking her last breaths. They watched as her children took care of themselves and her, as best they could. When she was sick, they didn’t have food to eat. The care workers would do what they could to keep the family afloat while she recovered. Last September, things went from difficult to unthinkable. Nomsa’s son, Tanda, was playing near the border when he was apprehended by the border patrol. While it’s unclear whether he was asked for proof of identification or he just confessed to having crossed illegally, Tanda was deported immediately and put in jail for two days. He was thirteen. For two days, his mother did not know what had happened to him. She didn’t dare call the authorities for she knew that she was in the country illegally. She had no resources to call around for help or to drive around looking for him. After two days, she finally received word that Tanda had been in jail and that he had been set free but was now stuck on the Swaziland side of the border, while she and her younger children were unable to cross from the South African side. After limited communications and the aid of care workers and relatives, Tanda and his mother found a relative on the Swaziland side that would take him in. From there, over the next few months, Tanda found a job working for a cattleman herding. He was being paid almost R300 a month, under $40, and given a meal a day. Occasionally, Tanda will cross the border illegally, risking imprisonment at the age of 14, to visit his mother and siblings. Nomsa begs him to come home but he is unwilling, telling her that he is making money and being fed daily, which is more than South Africa can offer him. Now, Nomsa is in a position where she needs to make a decision. She must choose whether to stay in South Africa without her eldest son or to move back to Swaziland where she will surely be unable to find work and pay for her children to go to school. As she speaks about it, I am very aware of the presence of my own children, sitting beside me. Aidan, at 13, is the same age as Tanda when he went missing. I can hardly look at him without tears coming to my eyes at the thought of being separated from him. I feel guilty hearing Nomsa’s story and having the company of my son while she wrestles with the separation from hers. Her choices are unimaginable. Neither brings much hope or relief. For now, the choice is hers to make. Unfortunately, they may be out of her hands soon enough. The acquaintance who owned the house recently passed away. She’s heard rumours that his family want to tear down the house and build their own, leaving her homeless. The care workers sit with her and listen to her fears and challenges. Watching their faces, I can see that they too are torn for her to have to make decisions such as these. They do their best to encourage her and give her support, praying with her and just being available to her and her children. There are no easy answers to the questions of this family’s life and wellbeing. The next morning, we drive past Nomsa’s home on our way out of Oshoek. I see her shaking out a mat in the half hinged doorway and her two youngest children, setting out for school. I turn my head to watch them as the car picks up speed on the way out of town, and I glimpse Aidan in the seat behind me and I think of Tanda, walking behind a herd of cattle, forced to be a man on the other side of the border that separates him from his family.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
This week in the Hands Village, it's been really quiet. Slowly, people are making their way towards Zambia in preparation for a huge gathering called "Celebrations" that takes place in just a few weeks. One by one, the rooms around here have emptied out and I'm not going to lie, it's getting a little quiet. A few days ago, a nice family (again, one girl...two boys....seriously, what is going on!) has come to visit some friends who live here. They went to Africa School of Missions (just across the road) some years ago and have come to spend some time off here catching up with friends. I was talking to the boys about this family and we were talking about how nice their kids are. I asked my boys if they had asked the kids where they were living and why. The boys knew that although they are South African, they have come from Mozambique but didn't know why they lived there or what their parents did there. So, I explained that they are missionaries there. Easton got very quiet and his eyes just got bigger and bigger as I went on to explain that they worked as translators for a tribe far in the bush in Mozambique. They've been living there for five years, learning the language which, to this point, has only been verbal, and writing it down phonetically. Easton's fork was halfway to his mouth and not moving. I was amazed at how interested he was...but told him that the parents have now completed writing out the whole New Testament for this tribe, in their own language. At this point, Aidan is looking at Easton as well. He's completely spellbound. I asked him if he was ok. Suddenly, he shook his head and said, "What did you say they did?" I repeated, "They're missionaries in Mozambique?" and he dropped his fork in relief and said, "OOOOOH! I thought you said they were MERCENARIES! I thought this wasn't going to end well!!"
Last night, Easton went to bed with a mild stomach ache...around 11 pm, he woke up in pain. He was doubled over and writhing and obviously not feeling so hot. I gave him some Pepto Bismal and sat with him and talked him through some breathing so that he could focus on that rather than trying to plead with God to kill him. (He's dramatic, like his father...) He would fall back to sleep for short stints but then the pains would start and we'd go through the whole routine again. At one point, after one in the morning, we went out to the toilet building and I sat in a plastic chair, in the dark, while he was in the bathroom. Poor guy. Poor Mom. Nothing like being away from home when you're not feeling well. Thankfully, we are still here in S. Africa where he is fairly comfortable with the surroundings and it didn't phase him too badly. I, however, walked up from a morning meeting to find Joanne, Agnes and Zoewa with various bricks and brooms in hand watching Aidan and Herman looking into a pipe. Apparently, Easton had come out to use the facilities and there, where I had sat the night before, was what he thought was a large lizard. He looked closer at it and it turned its face to him and it turned out to be a small snake. A Mozambiquan spitting cobra at that. Not one you want to be leaning into for a closer look as they are attracted by the shining eyes of its victims and spit venom at them. Thankfully, it did not spit at Easton! Apparently his sleep deprivation saved him as his eyes are not so shiny nor bright this morning! The snake retreated into a water pipe under the walkway and it was there that Herman used a series of brooms and sticks to coax it out where Joanne was waiting with a brick to bash its head. We all started laughing at Joanne as she delicately "bashed" the head of this small little snake in. It seemed harmless in size but really, they can be very dangerous. Even in death, the venom can cause you to become very sick. So, of course, Aidan picked it up and I seized the opportunity for a few pics, because of course, Jason missed all of this domestic bliss as he is in Swaziland.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Around here, there's a lot to do if you're a boy. Well, there's a lot to do for girls too but such as it is, there aren't a lot of girls around here. The Waspe Family has three boys, Marley, Sonney, and Micah. Herman and Charisse have two boys, Michael and David. Divine lives here with his aunty, Emily. Girls? Well, since Tawonga left...there's just N'ala the village dog. Well, she's actually David and Michael's dog but we've all pretty much adopted her. She has a regularly scheduled dinner date at our place immediately following dinner up at her house...but don't tell David or Michael that. The only girls that have visited here have been Heidi, outnumbered by her two brothers, and Kasia, outnumbered by two brothers, and Zoey, also outnumbered by two brothers. There's a pattern here...