Thursday, February 23, 2006

Yes it really was an earthquake

Just to let you know we are all well with no effects of the quake here in Maputo.  I woke up and felt the end of the first shocks, but Rachel slept through it all.  I didn’t know there were aftershocks until the morning reports.  Overall, it looks like there was minimal damage in the country.  There may be some more damage discovered in the epicenter when they get to investigating further. 
 Blessings, Steve and Rachel

Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake Hits Mozambique

By EMMANUEL CAMILLO, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 51 minutes ago

MAPUTO, Mozambique - A powerful earthquake struck Mozambique early Thursday morning, shaking buildings and forcing people from hundreds of miles around to dash into the streets for safety. There were no early reports of injuries.

The magnitude-7.5 quake struck at 12:19 a.m. in southern Mozambique, 140 miles southwest of the coastal city of Beira, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The temblor was felt in the neighboring nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia and as far south as Durban, South Africa, 800 miles away.

Elias Daudi, Mozambique's national director of energy, said on state radio that authorities still do not have any information on casualties or the extent of the damage. He also urged people not to return to their buildings because of possible aftershocks.

Mozambican state radio said the quake was centered near Espungabera, a small farming town in a remote and sparsely populated area near the border with Zimbabwe.

The quake shook buildings and sent frightened people into the streets in Mutare and Masvingo, two Zimbabwean cities about 100 miles from the epicenter. There were no reports of damage in Zimbabwe.

In Beira, Tivoli Hotel manager Johana Neves said none of her guests was hurt but many tourists awoke and ran terrified from the building.

"It felt like the building was going to fall down and it went on for a long time, the trembling," she said by telephone. "It felt like you were in a boat, it was shaking everything yet, it's strange, nothing is broken, even the windows."

Hotel guest Antonio Dinis said the streets were full of people afraid to go back home.

State radio said there was an unconfirmed report of a collapsed building in Beira.

Buildings swayed in Maputo, the capital of the this Indian Ocean nation, 400 miles south of Beira. Radio reports said hundreds of people fled their homes for the street, as they did in Chimoyo, some 300 miles west of Beira near the border with Zimbabwe.

A newspaper editor in Maputo said he was in the 11th floor of an apartment building that was rocked by the quake.

"It shook a lot. We could feel it very strongly," Fernando Velosa, editor of Jornal de Mocambique, told Lisbon radio station TSF. Portugal is the former colonial ruler of the African nation.

The quake was shallow, which increases the potential for damage, said Dale Grant, a scientist with the USGS in Golden, Colo., which is a clearinghouse for temblors worldwide. A quake nearing magnitude 8 is capable of causing tremendous damage.

At least five aftershocks were immediately recorded and more were expected in the coming days because of the quake's size, USGS said.

The temblor occurred near the southern end of the East African rift system, a seismically active zone. Since 1900, the largest quake measured on the rift system had a magnitude-7.6, according to the USGS.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pulled over

New words,  We found out in Chokwe that “mulungo” means white person in Shangaan.  Interesting, now we hear it all the time when we are out and about!  It’s funny, even we stare when we see white people walking along the road outside of Maputo


One day I was driving with our friend, Alcides.  He hooted and howled when I went the wrong way down a split road.  I was in the left lane, only the wrong side of a divided section of the road!  It was just a short stretch, so I thought it was no big deal, but he kept laughing and saying, “I have a story to tell now!  Do you see how that guy is staring at us?” (He sounded just like my kids.)  Anyhow, we were going along and ready to turn down a dirt road.  There were some men on the corner and one said, “This road is closed to cars.”  I just kind of looked at him and half believed him because with the rain the dirt roads are pretty rutted and bad.  But then he said, “Actually, I’ve never talked to a white person so I just wanted to meet you.”  Then he took my hand and kissed it!  I said, nice to meet you and we went on.  Alcides said, “He’s a clown.”


We went on to buy some chickens from one of our houses and I heard them discussing the price and the word “mulungo” came up.  So I don’t know if I got a higher or lower price because of being a “mulungo.”  It seemed like a fair price so I paid it.  Steve says we are mulungos malucos (crazy).  I think he just likes the play on words, but half the time he can’t remember how to say it so then we have a good laugh.


Pulled over.  We got pulled over by the traffic police last week.  We have been here one whole year and not pulled over. Then is happened three times in two weeks.  We are driving a different truck and don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not.  The first time it was a random, point the finger and pull you over type of thing.   He asked for my drivers license and said, “this is not an international one and not good here” and we said “really? We have been told it was ok and you didn’t need an international.”  “No this is only good for your country” he said.  “So you can get a local one or international.”  Then he let us go.


The second time was my (Steve) “fault.”  We were behind a big semi and as we came around a curve I could see that the road was clear so I passed him.  What I did not see was two policemen about a km down the road who were standing in the middle of the road watching traffic.  Well there isn’t really much traffic anyhow so they pulled me over.  “Do I realize what I did?” they ask after they look at my US license (and make no comment about it not being international).  “No, I said, what is wrong?”  “You passed on a solid line so we need to fine you a million ($40).”  Not something I wanted to pay very badly. 


Then I had this thought pop into my head, I wonder if he would pardon the offense?  So after asking Rachel for how to say pardon in Portuguese I said, “can you pardon my offense?”  He said “can I pardon you?” and I said “yes.”  Then he asks, “are you suggesting or asking?”   I wasn’t sure what the difference was, but I said “I am asking.”  He asks  another question or two and hands back my driver’s license and we drive on, thankful. This week, I was looking at the road markings and realized that the white line I crossed  was the one for the other lane as you go into the curve and not for my lane coming out of the curve, I did pass pretty quickly after the end of my line, but it wasn’t a flagrant offense.  Maybe that is why he let me go.  Anyhow I have resolved not to drive so much like a Mozambican.  Probably a good reminder to take it easy. 


And again, #3.  This time we were traveling back from Xai-Xai going through the little burgs that have signs to slow down to 60 km.  Because we had been warned that there is a radar gun amongst the police force, and what town it is usually installed in, we are very careful to keep our speed at the limits in these areas.  Otherwise, they will get their million.   We came up on the town and I slowed down to the correct speed.  Sure enough there they were and they waved me over.  They say, “you were going 71”. I said “no that is not possible, I was watching my speed.”  I thought they said “you are lying.”  So I said no, no I don’t think so.  (Rachel says she heard him ask, “are you calling me a liar?”)  Either way the answer works.  I just kept shaking my head and quietly saying, “no, no this isn’t right” and after about 30 seconds he said “OK, go on.”  As we drove away, Rachel asked, “how many more times do you think you can get away with this (before they give you a fine)?”  I don’t know and I hope I don’t have to find out!


Feb 17

Our Friday night adventures include burning some marula jam.  I was cooking the juice and sugar, turned my back a few minutes and poof, it burned.  Marula looks like quenepas (small green balls with a pit inside) but tastes different.  I poked holes in them with a fork and cooked in water to get the juice.  There is fruit everywhere, laying on the ground so it won’t be hard to get more and try again.  Part of the problem is there are no recipes, it’s just experimenting and trying to see what works.  I do recall something about stirring constantly now.  No SureJell here either.


Work challenges continue on different levels.  Thankfully the HIV/AIDS coordinator in Chokwe got the volunteers together and straightened some things out.  They had misunderstood some key things (which we thought we had explained) and basically needed a talking to on taking responsibility and working together as groups and what the purpose of all this is to begin with.  Many are not doing their share but then want the same amount of money.  It’s better to have Mozambicans tell it like it is to their own people and we’re glad they are willing to.


In Macia some batches of chickens are dying right and left and we are pretty sure it is the feed we switched to right before we left in Dec.  The same kind of chickens went to Chokwe but they had different feed and were fine.  So, we need to talk with the feed producers but are having trouble getting through to them.  Apparently they have insurance and hopefully they will make it right with our people.  One group lost 60 out of 200.


Next week we will stay in Maputo since we have meetings Mon-Wed. and are also working at setting up the next training close by.  Jemane, our Malawian friend will be here for the meetings and will stay with us.


Steve preached at MICF two weeks ago.  Then he went to worship team practice and now it seems the leader is ready to give him  the leader job.  Rumor also has it that he is on the short list for elder candidate.  People come and go so fast from the Fellowship that they are quick to snatch good people up.  We’ll see.  We turned down the deacon position as we felt we could do the work without the title (and the meetings).


Enough for now, the adventures continue.




Steve  and Rachel

Friday, February 10, 2006

African new year's resolutions


Well, it’s past New Year’s but we recently received these and thought you would enjoy the different perspectives.  It’s nice to know that Africans think fat is beautiful as several times we were told “you’re fatter” or “you’ve gained weight” after we returned from the U.S.  The other thing they say is that it is good insurance for malaria!


We are doing well and hope you are too.




An African New Year’s Resolution

By Jim Muir

Having spent half of my life in Africa, I am bemused by our yearly American ritual

loosely termed “New Year’s Resolutions.” To contrast, here is what I would

picture as an African set of aspirations for 2006:


This coming year I can only hope to regain the weight I lost last year. It was a

hungry year: drought took most of my crop and we were forced to sell our best

nanny goat to buy grain.

If my wife keeps losing weight, my neighbors will think her tuberculosis or

malaria is resurging, or worse, we have AIDS. Fat is beautiful, like young calves

grazing after the rains bring a sea of green.

My wife unfortunately lost weight last year, hoeing weeds for days. I remember

back when I first met her, attractive rolls everywhere.


If I could only increase the animal fat in their diet, my grandkids would be

healthier. I remember how shiny their skin was for a few weeks after we

slaughtered our last sow. Now the family is limited to consuming the wild greens

and last sacks of whole-grain millet we used to feed the pigs.


I plan on exercising less. Riding my rickety bicycle to work every day is killing

my old legs. My youngest child is getting skinny walking to school and back

every day. At least she has the option to attend classes. I must stop by and

compliment the teachers for being harsh and demanding on the students.


I wish there were some way to have fewer grandkids. Our fifth son occasionally

sends us money from the city, but that’s becoming rare since he had his seventh



If the trees in the mountains weren’t so distant and the rains made the thatch

grow thick, I could rebuild our house. Thank goodness that, with our children

growing up, we can have a smaller house next time around.

Thank goodness I can still work and have a job. Hopefully I can stay at the same

workplace for many a year to come.


I hope to get as little as I can out of the government this year. In the past few

years we’ve been lucky as politicians forget about us and the military has

stopped stealing from our stored harvest.


I plan on staying at the same church, where I can do the most to help others. If I

move on to a bigger or more popular church, my wife and I won’t be able to

assist the young members of the congregation as much.


At least I can look forward to growing one year older. My hair and beard are

growing white, a sure sign of the wisdom that only years can confer. The village

respects age and the young can only dream of the experience my hard-won

wrinkles represent.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Back in the Saddle

We are starting our second year in Mozambique.  We actually observed the first anniversary of our arrival in Moz/05 while we attending Strategic Church Partnership meetings in Minnesota.  Quite a contrast to the weather we experience in southern Mozambique.  This week I asked Rachel if we had sent a weekly letter to folks back home and she said, “no, maybe we don’t have so much to write home about now that everything is “not so new” anymore.”  So maybe we won’t be “flooding” your inboxes with mail.


It has only taken a few encounters with retail establishments here to remind me of the ease of doing business in the USA and the difficulty of doing it here.  We wanted to buy a phone card of substantial size with a substantial discount, so we went to a place where they were prominently advertised.  After paying and getting a ticket indicating I had paid, I was directed inside another part of the business and told to collect the card there.  When I went in and asked, the guy behind the desk grimaced and said, “oh the cabinet is locked and the guy with the keys is gone.  You will need to go somewhere else to buy your card today.”  You’ve got to be kidding!  He wasn’t, so we did.


The same day, we tried to find a store listed in the phone for 2005-2006.  Well, they apparently closed the store or moved it and the phone book is so badly outdated that it has all the old area codes from before the middle of 2005.  We should have called before we tried to find it, to verify it still existed.  It is tough doing business as well when the South African rand is so strong and many of the items sold are linked to the rand price. 


During the week we spent time in Chokwe and met with one of our facilitators who is working out in a village doing child evangelism.  The name of the village means little witchdoctor.  It is a very dark place and needs lots of prayer and grace.  She seems to be struggling and we ask that you pray for her.  Her name is Herminia.


We have had three different vehicles to drive in the two weeks we have been back.  Ours was supposed to go north after we came back, but it went while we were gone.  We managed to retrieve most of the items we had in the truck, but not all.  Then we had to negotiate/borrow and work at getting other vehicles freed up to do our travel and work.  Oh, well.  We manage somehow. 


While at the fuel pump I noticed the price of fuel is at 26 per liter and it was 14 when we first started driving a lot 9 months back.  Prices for feed is higher and we are told that it is related to import costs of the raw materials.  The Rand is also strong against the Metical, so that doesn’t help.  Chicken feed has gone from 475 to 580, about a 20% increase with no real increase in prices for the sellers at this point.  Challenges abound. 


The AHA! moment of the week came one morning when I opened the fridge and saw two antennae moving behind the mayonnaise jar in the door.  Yikes.  I made quick work of the 3 inch long cockroach as he was pretty cold.  Who knows how he got in there.   Thankfully we only see one about once a month.  Our apartment is definitely not air tight.  Welcome to the tropics!


Take care,


Steve and Rachel