Tonight I will write reflections on various themes: expectations, hopes, concerns. I am looking forward to living in the moment, immersed in a new culture and environment. I have traveled to Africa three times--once to Ghana and twice to South Africa--but I always lived at some distance from the people, on a ship or in a hotel. This time I'll be living closer to the people and that will be a radically different experience. Whereas before I slept in my own room and got up to bathe in a private bathroom, in Mozambique I will be sharing sleeping space and rising to bathe using a pail of water. This will all be new and I'm sure an occasion for intense awareness of economic and cultural difference. I'm looking forward to being somewhat disoriented in my new setting and not being sure how to act. I'm sure that I will find many of these changes to be unpleasant, but I also expect to find surprising pleasure in simple tasks that I seldom do back home.
I'm hoping to learn from the people of Mozambique a deeper solidarity with others and to grasp the African concept of ubuntu. By observing their life together I hope to have a new way of imagining life when I return to the states, more connected and more deeply concerned about my neighbors, near and far.
As a faculty leader, my deepest concerns are for the health and well being of our team members. But, I don't worry too much because of the way Shenandoah has structured each team. Each team has 3 faculty or staff, some graduate and undergraduate students. It provides a good mix of ages, perspectives, and maturity. I will have the distinction of being both oldest and least mature! We also have a good host in Mozambique. I had plenty to worry about 2 weeks ago but now I am feeling excited. Two weeks ago we had visa and passport problems (see my earlier post below), as well as unconfirmed itinerary plans. On Monday, I had a long Skype session with Amado and we were able to settle questions about the itinerary.
I am most excited to be living in community with SU students and colleagues, and with the people of Mozambique. I hope to be open to how the whole experience will change me. We'll be in Mozambique during the season of Lent, a time of turning (repentance). I hope to turn more fully to the needs of others and to embrace another people and their culture.
Below is an email message I sent to our group upon returning from an anxious trip into Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Passport Office and the Embassy of Mozambique.
Good news! With some nail biting moments today on my part, the Embassy of Mozambique has accepted our Visas.
Thanks to everyone for getting me your photos (some twice) in a timely and responsible manner. (This is all you need to know--you can stop reading here if you like. If you are interested in the process, read on.)
Rather than take a chance on getting caught in a traffic snarl, I drove to Falls Church to stay with friends (Jay will know the Fredenburgs) before my appointment with the U.S. Passport Office. What I did not tell you, because I didn't want to make you anxious, was that my passport was rejected because what I thought were the required empty pages in my passport were "amendment pages" that the Embassy of Mozambique rejected. So, I had to make an appointment at the U.S. Passport office to add pages to my passport (Semester at Sea visas had filled it.)
So, I got to the passport office an hour before my appointment. But, when I got to the administrator, I was told I had everything I needed but they could not process it today--come back tomorrow. I pleaded and she relented--she said, "Come back at 2 pm to the 'will call' window." So, I was elated. I figured I could pick it up at 2 and still get to the Embassy of Mozam in time.
But, just to make sure, i walked to the Mozambique Embassy to talk with officials. When I got there I saw two entrances. The lower entrance, to the consular offices, said "Open 9 am- 1pm." My heart sank because that was the office that handled visas. I talked with Zarina and Joane. After some more pleading they told me they would stay open to receive my passport when I returned between 2-3 from the passport office. They took all your Visa applications, photos, and passports.
Since I had some time to kill before returning to the Passport office, I found the Portuguese restaurant i wrote you about. I had a delicious, fiery lunch at Nando's and hope sometime we can share a meal there.
I returned to the Passport Office early and got in line so I coud be one of the first, but it did no good. The official took our receipts (about 40 people) and I noticed mine got on the bottom. So, I had to wait a long time. I was afraid I would not get my passport in time to return to the Embassy. Finally, around 3, they gave me my passport. I rushed back to the Embassy and they were waiting for me. Then Zarina couldn't find the prepaid envelope I left for the return of our passports. She finally found it and printed out a receipt of our applications and passports.
Woohoo! What a relief! Next week you will be able to pick up your passport from Bethany's office.
Now I can turn my attention to other more interesting items like itinerary.
I will be sending more info soon. See you Sunday.
On the flight to Mozambique I read a short written reflection of Thomas Merton. In it he discusses what he calls "Christian personalism." He writes,"Christian personalism demands full respect for the mystery of the person, whether it be our person or the person of our neighbor." The prayer associated with the reflection reads: "My God, help me to see the mystery and beauty in every person and respond with love and joy to your person within them." This is the spirit in which I visit Mozambique, where I will be looking for the mystery and beauty of the people I meet and to learn what I can learn from their life together.
Today we visited the Conference Office of the United Methodist Church in Mozambique and the Tsalala School. Bishop Nhanala met with us at the Conference Center and answered questions as well as posing with us for photos. She was gracious and generous with her time.
The Tsalala School was an eye-opener for all of us. It reminded me of missionary images from a generation ago. For lack of classrooms, students were studying outdoors under large acacia trees. They had colorful clothes to sit and were very well behaved. It was a pleasant day, but on rainy days they have no school because they are unprotected. The head mistress says she has not been paid this year. Some student cannot attend school because of the cost. It costs $8 a year. That was jaw dropping for everyone. Sadly, they hold the records of students who don't pay. In addition to their struggles with money, they have no running water. Someone broke into the school and stole tables and chairs so student must now sit on the floor in one the main classrooms. They have 470 students, 7 teachers, and 3 indoor classrooms 'that hold about 30 students each. But they have 3 rotations starting at 6:20-5:30.
It seems to me that putting in a well for running water might be the best thing for them.
The students were so well behaved, bright, and beautiful. They looked very healthy though poor. We gave them some suppplies and money left over from our money changing.
Today we left Xai-Xai to travel to Tinga-Tinga School and then on to Chicoque. The Guest House at Xai-Xai was right on the beach. The rooms were spacious and comfortable, very cushy compared to our rooms in Maputo.
We have enjoyed good weather the whole trip. I was told to expect hot, muggy weather and muddy streets. We have had some rain but it is never very long. The heat is no worse than summer in Virginia. During our stay at Xai-Xai we had perfect weather. When we arrived, around 5:00 p.m. we immediately put on our swimsuits and went to the beach. The water temperature was pleasant and everyone got in for a while. The waves were good, but were breaking too close in to be good for body surfing. Still, we had a great time and I enjoyed a couple good waves and a few that crushed me into the sand.
Tinga-Tinga does wonderful work. When it began one person could read in the community. Now there is this good middle-school. (See Diane Painter's post for details about the school.) What impressed me most were the students living in a dormitory. It is an exploratory projects that takes girls from the poorest homes and provides them with schooling, vocational skills (sewing in this case), and housing. These girls were remarkable--healthy and inquisitive. If not for the school, they would probably be illiterate.
This was an emotionally difficult day. We visited the Chicuque Rural Hospital and the Center of Hope. That sounds more hopeful than the reality. The hospital is woefully understaffed and overworked. The Center of Hope has a building, but not the staff to fulfill its purpose. We learned that HIV/AIDS is getting worse rather than better. During our tour of the hospital, we turned a corner to see a gurney headed our way. We stood aside as staff rolled a corpse past us on the way to the morgue.
I asked them about malaria. They can only guess about malaria based on symptoms because the machine that quickly determines whether a person has malaria is broken. They recently got an ultrasound machine, but have no staff yet trained to use it.
Still, they do amazing work based on a cooperative effort of the government and church working in partnership. They staff work extraordinarily long hours. Our nursing student was shocked to learn that nurses at the hospital had a 30 patient load and worked 12-24 hour shifts.
Jeremias Francas, the director, was generous with his time and had his whole staff meet with us for about an hour to discuss their work and answer all our questions. I am deeply grateful for their ministry and work and plan to join with those already supporting the work.
We made a change in our itinerary today. Students had exchanged dollars for metacais, but had not had much opportunity to shop. We were not sure that we would get to shop when we returned to Maputo, so Amado informed me that we could take the ferry to Inhambane to a market there before going to Cambine. This would delay our arrival at Cambine but Amado thought it would be O.K. He thought we could still get there around 1-2. It would be all right.
We got up early so we could get an early start to Inhambane. Unfortunately the bus arrived about about 20 minutes late. That delayed our departure at the ferry at Maxixe. Still, everyone seemed to enjoy taking the ferry and seeing Inhambane--it is an attractive colonial city that has more of a resort feeling. The market was enclosed and had a good selection of arts and crafts as well as produce. The visit to Inhambane satisfied most students and allowed them to purchase some souvenirs and gifts. We kept our schedule and got back to the ferry on time, but the ferry operator evidently had ordered the ferry to wait till it was filled. So, we wasted about an hour waiting.
After buying water and ice cream upon our return to Maxixe, we started for Cambine. We arrived at Cambine between 3-4, much later than we had hoped our planned. But, "flexibility" works both ways so our wonderful host in Cambine, Julio Andre Vilanculos, did his best to show us Cambine. He was surprised that we didn't want to rest upon arrival but to see Cambine.
For me, Cambine was the "icing on the cake." I felt it combined everything hopeful and good about the church's work in Mozambique.
We began by visiting the school, which was much more developed than the other schools we had visited. This school was where Amado, our guide, had gotten his education. The school educated students from grade 8-12. They had library of sorts, and a covered, cement floor basketball court that was used for all sports. Some of the classrooms had desks, but we visited several classrooms where students were seated on the cement floor. The library consisted of about 400 books and a few out-dated, tattered laminated maps. There were a few dormitories where students stayed who lived too far from the school to walk--the others walked to the school. They had around 600 students. As at each of the others schools, the students were very well behaved. They were somewhat curious about us but it appeared that they were used to having light-skinned visitors.
Next to the school is the Cambine Vocational Training Center--it focuses on teaching students skills in agriculture and carpentry. The center is not very old--in fact, there is a marker in front of the school honoring and naming Bishop Joe Pennel starting the school in 2005?? Students could enroll in the vocational center while in school but most of them had finished their schooling. The had a room with outdated computers and no internet. Without internet they cannot scan for viruses. Consequently, they cannot use the computers at all. Still, I thought the vocational center was a great addition to the school.
From the vocational center, we next toured the "hospital," church and seminary. The hospital was more like an infirmary but it did have a wards for labor and delivery and maternal care. The stone church building was gothic in style, enclosing a surprisingly large space with a central pulpit. Visiting the seminary was the highlight of our visit for several reasons: it was by far the most adequate educational building we had seen and we had the opportunity to worship and talk with seminary students.
Students at Cambine Seminary can start their studies right out of high school. It takes four years and students are divided into first year, second year, etc. They have a much better library than the school. After touring the seminary, we went to the seminary chapel where about 25 seminary students gathered to visit with us. They greeted us with lively singing followed by mutual introductions. I was surprised to see the first year class was all women! The other classes were a mix of men and women. They asked why we had wanted to come to Mozambique. In response, Donnie and I explained the nature of the Global Citizenship Project. I told them I was somewhat envious that they could finish seminary at such a young age--the average age of seminarians in the U.S. is 38. As a challenge, I asked them how they thought they could pastor and preach the gospel at such a young age. They responded that God had called them and did not go with human wisdom, but with the power of the gospel. Age was not a consideration. They had one faculty member with them, a female United Methodist pastor from Brazil who plans to teach there for five years.
After some more discussion, they sang a couple of lively and beautiful hymns. One woman had an extraordinary voice--she led the choir. A few of the hymns were accompanied by hand movements and swaying. They plan to do a tour of the U.S. sometime next year--I think they are good enough to draw an audience, if people can get a chance to hear some of their music.
As we had asked if we could service, Julio announced he would allow us to "mow grass" for a few minutes, something the students would be doing the next day between 5:30-6:00 a.m. They took us outside and a student coach showed us how to use the scythe they used to cut the grass. It was a long machete with curved extension for cutting grass. We only spent five minutes cutting grass but it let us know how difficult it was to keep the grounds of Cambine looking nice. Julio also thought it might inspire us to send power lawn mower! Thinking later about this, I thought it might be better to send a good push mower--that way they don't have to worry so much about the inevitable parts replacement for a power mower.
Our final visit before dinner was to the orphanage where 60 children between the ages 0-25. The orphans can stay all the way through university if they like. When we arrived it was time for the evening meditation and they were gathering in their common room for singing worship. Older children cared for younger ones. The young children flocked to our students and stayed with them till we left. The parents often had died of HIV/AIDS or malaria. When we left, it was hard for some students and orphans to part. Lauren, in particular, is interested in adopting an African child, but blanched a bit in learning that it cost about $50,000 to complete the adoption process. By the time we left the orphanage the sun had already set.
What made Cambine so hopeful to me was its comprehensive approach the many problems of the people face-it addresses developmental needs for education, vocation (agriculture and carpentry), job training, healthcare, and orphaned children.
That night I introduced several students to Wisconsin bridge or "up and down the river." We had a fun evening of cards with Donnie taking first place. (The night before our departure Aubrey won and Donnie came in 5th of 7--Mark was most improved--from last place to third.)
3/24 (Roughly a week after returning.)
Although I have no evidence that anyone is reading these posts, I wanted to enter some final reflections.
I love the people of Mozambique. They are friendly, gentle, hardworking, industrious, playful, and kind. I'm sure there are exceptions to these generalizations, but I didn't observe many. Amado's closing words to us are reflective of the temperament of the people. He told us his father taught him two words that have helped him through life: please and thank you. Those two words have helped him navigate his way through life. To those two words, he has added one word (I suggested "wonderful" since Amado uses it a lot), Amado laughed and responded "that too, but the word I have added is 'friendship'." So, he said he was grateful for SU sending us to Mozambique and for his new friends from SU.
Today I met with Jay Hanke for breakfast and we discussed the trip. Here is my short list for what I hope we can help make happen in Mozambique. 1) A well for Tsalala School 2) Fix the well/pump at Tinga-Tinga in Bungane 3) Fix or replace the quick diagnosis machine for malaria at the Chicoque Rural Medical Center. 4) Provide training for the staff at the medical center to enable them to use the ultrasound machine. That doesn't seem too ambitious but would help them a lot! I'm also hoping to return to Cambine either to teach or to be part of an educational exchange with Julio.
That's it. I'm grateful to SU and to Jay Hanke for this experience.