Saturday, October 31, 2009

How houses are built in Mungassa

I found it interesting to see how houses are built in Mungassa. I find the houses interesting here because each one is very unique and has a lot of character.  Here is the process on how they are made:


They start by making a skeleton with wood and bamboo and then fill it with rocks.


Once the walls are full with rocks, they usually put a roof on the house.  The roof is usually made of straw (thatched) but I’d say that about 30% of the roofs are now made with zinc, which lasts longer and doesn’t leak as much as thatched roofs.



Here is another example of a zinc roof.


This is the thatched roof.


To finalize the house, one must mix mud (or if fortunate, cement) and throw it against the house until it is all covered.  Then they make it smooth as shown in the picture of the mud finish above.


This builder is throwing cement on the house that he is building.  It will last much longer this way.


Many people are now turning to the use of cement blocks to build their houses in Mungassa. This way of construction is preferred but more expensive so only some have this luxury.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pure Joy

I have found pure joy here in Mozambique…and its the children and their beautiful laughter that brings it. I feel that the joy of the people of Mozambique is summed up in its children.

In each community we are greeted by children – first they start out observing us from a distance until they get more confident or until we smile/wave at them. Then they start jumping up and down of joy and begin giggling. Then the following starts – some of them follow us for an hour or two never getting tired of staring at us and finding us terribly interesting. The interest and staring is actually mutual because they are beautiful, happy, innocent, some shy, some daring, some confident, some curious etc. Personalities come through fairly quickly and it’s fantastic to interact with them. Most of them don’t speak any Portuguese, (they speak the local language called Zena), but that does not seem to stop them or us from interacting. The best is when we pull the camera out. First they don’t know what’s happening to them, but then we show them the pictures we just took of them (thanks to digital cameras) and they start giggling, jumping around, teasing each other about what they look like on the picture and then they start lining up for more pictures – it’s like free candy. I have never felt like such a good entertainer – all I need to do is take a picture and I am the star of the show (or better yet, they are, but I am making it happen for them). I think only with children is it that easy to make somebody that happy that easily. So we are surrounded by laughter and giggling all day long and it is as I said – Pure Joy!!

As you can see from some of the shots I took the other day the children are incredibly beautiful. Some have tremendous smiles (though they rarely show them on pictures) or beautiful eyes or well done hair (though that’s mostly reserved for the more grown ups). All in all they are the cutest things ever…


Even after the picture was taken she was not quite sure what to think. She was shy and quiet, but curious as she kept studying our every move.


How can you say no to that smile?!


She was born in June – look at those lips…


Little Jaime – the youngest son of one of the leaders in the community


The older children seem to be a little more reserved than the very young ones. So they are usually quietly curious, as this one was.


He was one of them that could not stop giggling whenever we took a picture.


He and his friend (see below) followed us, I think, for an hour. They kept on laughing and jumping around and trying to get our attention and of course have us take more pictures of them.


He was wonderfully confident and though he was a little older than the rest of them, he was equally amused by all the pictures.


And that’s the friend I mentioned above. There are no words for a smile like that!


We were watching a community lesson and this girl was looking up at Talmadge.


Here are the two boys together that followed us all morning…and the famous camera that brings all that joy into theirs and our lives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our First impressions of Care For Life


This is Tal...
We are learning so much these days and each day we feel like the learning curve gets steeper!  We've decided that we are just going to just write the little that we know about Care For Life and then as we get more understanding, we will add more understanding in future posts.

Before Care For Life: Organizations would come into communities and give food and provisions to try to help the people of Mozambique. This would help people for a few weeks and then the people would look for the next truck full of food or provisions. It was all about GIVE, GIVE, GIVE.
Care For Life's approach is different. They work with families and not for people. They believe that the families (and individuals) need to take charge of their lives and their future. They believe that people need to work in order to better their situation. Each family works for rewards instead of receiving a hand out.

Family Preservation Program:
The core program of Care For Life is the Family Preservation Program.  It is my understanding that the Family Preservation Program (or FPP) is exactly what it says it is… all about the preservation of the family. Joao (the program director) was telling me last night that the problem with aid in Africa is that many people are focusing on the wrong things. Organizations try valiantly to fix the results of broken families (orphans, vulnerable children, etc) and some have good results while others don't get anywhere. It's my understanding that Care For Life and the FPP is more about the offense (working with and teaching families how to strengthen) rather than the defense (working to fix the problems caused by broken families).
Care For Life started the FPP program about 4 years ago. It is basically a program where Care For Life is a partner (not a provider) to a community (they are currently working with 8 communities). CFL works with communities for 3 years and during that time the families in the community focus on self reliance and sustainability in all aspects of their lives.
When I first heard this, I thought well, that sounds nice, but I bet it is really hard to get people to change the things that they are used to doing. People like to receive handouts and don't want to have to work. Well, so far I am seeing that I was wrong. I have seen over the last few days that this approach is working. I know it has only been a few days and we are already seeing that there are lots of hitches and difficulties, but overall I have seen that this program really is working.

What does CFL want Tal and Anita to do?
One of the communities is now finishing its third and final year in the FPP. We have been asked to really dig into the community of Mungassa and find the good and bad outcomes of this program.  We will do focus groups, conduct in depth surveys, and really ask the tough questions of how things went over the last three years.  We are also interested in finding out if the families will now continue to practice the principals learned over the last three years.
I am excited to say that we had the chance to see "our" community of Mungassa for the first time today. It is a beautiful, verdant place where people take good care of their land.  It has nice dirt paths between hand made houses and gardens. It has palm trees and banana trees everywhere and kids follow us wherever we go. The people all wave at us and are very familiar with Care For Life.
One of our tasks while here is to collect at least 130 surveys from individual families in the Mungassa community. We had the chance to do our first two surveys today with two different families.
After asking a bunch of questions, here is what our first interviewee,  Dique, said about Care For Life and their involvement in his life and the life of his family:

"This work is for us to do... not for Care For Life. It is for us to do ourselves. The cleanliness, the building of latrines, the washing of hands, taking baths... These things are for us and for the good of our bodies... We, in Mungassa are very happy. Before [CFL] we didn't have very many houses, now we have houses. Before we didn't have bricks, now we have bricks. Mungassa is clean! This cleanliness will continue. Now that this has been taught, we won't stop and we will teach our children."

I know, it sounds rehearsed and like a perfect answer, but this shows the kind of impact Care For Life is having on at least one family.  We are excited to really dig in and find out what has worked well and what really needs to be done better next time. 

Below is a picture of Dique (the man who gave the quote) with his son


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekend Activities

This past Saturday Joao brought us to his favorite beach. The beach area was quaint and simple the way an old beach resort in Mozambique should be. When I say resort, I mean a bunch of small rooms with thatched roofs that surround a restaurant area. The beach is then about 30 yards away from this area. It was so nice to just relax there and take an occasional swim in the waves.

Before lunch we walked about 10 minutes down the beach to a to a tiny fisherman village and I have attached pictures of that below.

We had a nice lunch and then Joao went over what he wants us to accomplish while we are here. It is A LOT of work and that is OKAY with us because he has organized it so well and has told us exactly what needs to be done and why it is important to Care For Life and to the people of Mozambique. As he was explaining what he wants us to do, I had a very distinct impression that the work that he is asking us to do is very important. It will have a direct impact on the lives of many people here in Mozambique. Anita and I were talking about it a little later and we both feel an overwhelming desire to do the best that we possibly can while here. We have a unique opportunity to focus on this task together and we want to do a great job. I will explain our responsibilities in the next post. For now, enjoy the pictures.


After parking the truck, we used this boat to get across the tidal basin and to the actual beach. Later in the afternoon, we had to wait in the little “terminal” on the upper right when we wanted to get back to the car. A boat goes back and forth every hour.


Here is the walk to the beach


Here is the beach with little pavilions (which I thought were a very good idea). I loved how chill it was there. This couple next to us was doing a little bbq.


We took a 10 minute walk down the beach and saw this cool little fisherman village.


They let us take pictures of their catch.


They carved the boats from one piece of wood. It probably took about 40 man hours…


This is a typical sign in the “resort”.


We stopped at a market on the way back to get some veggies.

IMG_1361 IMG_1360 IMG_1356

Friday, October 16, 2009

Inhamatanda community

So we seem to not be able to put pictures and text underneath...for now. So until we have figured this out, here are some comments to the pictures:

Picture #1: The children love pictures. We take pictures and then show them and they squeal and laugh out loud.

Picture #2: A special woman that was thankful for Anita

Picture #3: Before the community meeting in the "machesa"

Picture #4: This is one of the new latrines that they just built. It is very well done and helps them significantly in terms of hygiene.

Picture #5: These guys wanted to see what was going on in the meeting house.

Picture #6: What's up?

What a day! We were speaking Portuguese all day and it has been a long time since we have used a full vocabulary in Portuguese and I must admit that I was a little lost at some points because it has been 10 years since I have spoken the language and the accent is different here. Also, the small villages speak another dialect called Zena, so there had to be some translation today.

There was a community meeting today at Inhamantanda that we attended today with Joao. It started with some beautiful singing which was so good that I looked over at Anita and she was a little cloudy in the eyes. This community has great voices. Anita and I were introduced and we said a few words. Right after we talked we asked if any of them had any questions. After a little pause, a woman got up and thanked us for being there but especially for Anita because she and the rest of the women had never seen a woman from Care For Life. The rest of the meeting was all about letting the women speak first on the community success and issues. It was great to see how having Anita here has already made an impact. I like this lady that said that about Anita so much that I asked her for a picture after the meeting. The picture above is of that lady with Anita.

Just a few impressions... smart people, good at building things, good sense of humor, happy, cute little kids, hazy streets filled with people, loads of people walking anywhere and everywhere, killer potholes in the road, many women carrying heavy items on their heads (up to 140 pounds), etc.

Care for Life is really doing a huge amount of good. Joao, the director, is a good man and has incredible leadership skills. He truly is in this for the right reasons as is Soloman, the country director, who is also the district president for the Church of this area. We had a long drive with both of them today and really enjoyed learning from them.

We are soaking in methods of Care For Life and feel like we are educating ourselves enough to give you a overview soon on what they are doing here in Mozambique and what they have asked us to do.

T and A

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Manga, Mozambique

So...we just got to Mozambique and are excited like on the first day of school. We are looking forward to visit the first community tomorrow morning and working with Care For Life on their Family Preservation Program.

But before we get there we wanted to show you our new home...and which will be our home for the next two months and where all emails, skype convos and blog updates will happen (in case you love to see where that all takes place). It's very simple, but we already love it.

This is Tal... It feels like I am back on the mission! (The best part of that thought is that my companion is Anita!) As many of you know, I was a missionary in Brazil from 1998-2000 and being back in a Portuguese speaking area like this is bringing it all back! The tile floors, the mold on the walls, the delicious beans and rice that we had for dinner, etc. They even have a shower here that is just like the ones I used in Brazil. It gets heated electronically as the water enters the shower head. The problem is that most of these showers are too low for me and if my head touches the shower head near the wires I get an occasional jolt of electricity! It's nothing to worry about but it certainly wakes me up in the morning.

Mozambique greeted us with a single runway airport and 90 degree weather. Luckily, a slight zephyr kept us cool as we walked to the very small airport. We are both a little nervous about how hot it is supposed to get over the next few months.

We were picked up from the airport and went straight to the Care For Life Office/House. It is on located a main road and we drove through the town of Manga before we arrived. The poverty is so much worse than in South Africa and much of the town of Manga reminded me of some of the very poor areas of Brazil.

When we walked into the Care For Life house we were greeted by some of the staff. They all seemed very nice and were excited to have us here. The Care For Life building has offices in the front and living quarters towards the back (which is where our room is located). We had a "orientation" briefing from Joao, the director, which was very good and it got us excited about what we are going to be doing here. We also got answers to some of our questions. We are excited to continue our orientation over the next few days and visit a very successful community tomorrow called Inhamatanda.

T and A

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Quick update - we are in Kruger National Park in South Africa.

We got up this morning at 5 am and headed out of our Tent/Camp at 5:30 am in search for the "Big Five" (Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Water Buffalo, and Rhino). Within 10 minutes of leaving camp we spotted a small herd of Elephants right off the road. It was absolutely beautiful and it could not have been more amazing. Then not too much after that we saw Zebras, again just right off the road. (Just so you know in Kruger the best way to view the animals is to drive in your own car and explore. FYI - we are still in our mini car, that is so small it looks like one of those kiddie cars where the kids push with their feet in order to move.)
And so our day developed with sightings of the Big 5 as well as giraffes, hippos, warthogs, beautifully colourful birds, a very poisonous green snake etc. We are having the best time!!!

A and T

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mossel Bay, South Africa

Brief update from beautiful Mossel Bay, South Africa.

You may wonder where that is, so here a little geography for you. We are on the southern coast of S.A. on the "Garden Route", an area stretching between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg on the south western cost of S.A. and one of the most beautiful places on the earth. It's about 4 hours east of Capetown where we have spent the past few days, visiting Table Mountain (which is on the list to become one of the next Wonders of the World), Robben Island (where we learned more about Nelson Mandela and the struggle of Apartheid here in South Africa), the most astonishing Kirstenbosch Botantical Garden (you think you have seen flowers, but wait until you get here - there are more species here than anywhere else in the world - it's remarkable), and last but not least the Cape of Good Hope, which brought me (Anita) back to 5th grade where I learned about Vasco da Gama and the sailors of that time discovering the world.
What we love most about S.A. though is how kind everyone is and ready to make sure we have a great experience.
We don't have any pictures right now to share, but when we get to Mozambique next week we should be able to update this more with visual aids. But to draw a little visual image, picture this - we are driving from the wine lands towards the Garden Route and as we are passing field after field we see some cows and then sheep grazing... a little later we approach a field in the not too far distance that has another sort of animal on it ...grazing? We get closer and the field is full of Baboons!!!!!
On that note, we leave you here as we are off to discover Mossel Bay that has the second nicest climate in the world after Hawaii.

This is Tal.... we also saw whales yesterday in a place called Hermanus which was pretty cool and then just five minutes ago a very inquisitive little old lady stopped me in front of our Bed and Breakfast and asked, "how long are you?"

Keep up the comments... We love them!

T and A