Sunday, November 26, 2006

Turkey Day--and we even had one!

Just to let you know we did not suffer hunger on Thanksgiving Day. Included on the menu was apple-mango pie for a tropical twist. We had a good day with these friends and sat at the table for a couple of hours telling stories and laughing. We did miss y'all though and wish you could have dropped in for a visit!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Smooth and efficient? Not

If you have been reading our letters for awhile you may have picked up on the fact that things don't always run smoothly in Mozambique.  That has been the case this past week.


We are trying to set up some systems for the chicken businesses so that we don't have to be as hands on.  The agreement is that WR will supply the feed, chickens, meds etc and the volunteers will take care of the chickens and sell them.  Systems for transporting these items would be ideal so that we don't have to make a run 3 hours north every week.  We had a good deal with the chickens and a driver from the company was taking them up every week along with the medications.  It worked pretty well until his car broke down.  Then a new supervisor came to the hatchery "who knew not Joseph" or World Relief for that matter and all deals were off.  She raised the price of the chicks and said she could provide transportation but we would need to pay for it.  So now we need to find transportation for the chicks plus buy our meds also.


We are working with the feed supplier and they said they could transport feed for us, but would just drop it by the road, not take it off road anywhere.  The manager promised it would go Saturday or Monday.  That was OK because the chicks were going Monday.  I had not heard from her yet on Monday so I called.  "Oh, we had a breakdown at the factory so now the feed won't go until Tuesday or Wednesday!"  So now we have chicks in the houses without any feed and the volunteers are having to walk who knows how many km to borrow some from another house.  On Tuesday I got an e-mail informing that the feed would go that day and be delivered at 3 in one town and 5 in the other.  So I called the point persons and told them and they were waiting by the road for the truck at the appointed times.  Problem is, the truck didn't even leave Maputo until 3 p.m. and arrived after dark at the first town.  By then the point person had given up and gone home with instructions to the guard to leave the feed in the church and lock it up.  At 9 p.m. I got a call from the person waiting in the next town.  She was there with several women with carts to haul the feed home.  But she had just learned that the driver decided to spend the night in the first town and was not even coming.  So they all went home and will try again the next day.


It's becoming very clear that this kind of arrangement will not work.  There are several factors:  1) Mozambique is not a task oriented society, relationships always trump task 2) breakdowns happen and probably more often because preventative maintenance is a foreign thought, 3) the driver may get hungry or have some other errands to run along the way, 4) efficiency is not a high value and the concept of "time is money" is a foreign one.  A trip that normally would take one hour ends up taking four to five.


We are seriously looking for a location in one of these communities to open a store to provide feed and meds to WR people and possibly sell some to others as well.  This will help.  We may need to hire a driver to take the chicks and meds up every week.  This would probably be cheaper than paying transportation fees to others.  We are also talking to the "Rei dos Pintos" (king of the chickens), a new supplier who may be able to help us out.  So hope springs eternal and we will keep working at it until we find something that does not turn our hair whiter than it already is.


Thanksgiving is tomorrow and we are really thankful to be in Mozambique in spite of the challenges.  I love looking at the palm tree out my window and seeing the blue sky and the ocean just over the house tops.  I love relating to people from all over the world and speaking Portuguese (even though I still mess it up).  We will join with some fellow Americans to eat turkey and pie.  It is not a holiday here and I was telling our host that we might be at work.  He said “That’s not right.  It’s Thanksgiving.  Take the afternoon off!" so we are taking his advice, especially since he set the time for lunch at 1 p.m.  We will miss the family gatherings and you will be in our thoughts, but we are thankful our kids have lots of extended family at home and will be well taken care of.  They are each having three separate Thanksgiving meals!  Whoa, I can't believe I ate the whole thing.


We're counting our blessings and hope you are too.


Rachel & Steve

Friday, November 10, 2006

On the road again

Well, on the road for just two days but it was the first time we had visited the communities with chickens since we returned. We were reminded of how hard Mozambicans work and some of the challenges they face. One of these was the fact that the feed company only delivered feed that was for older chickens. So, the groups took that, put it in their big mortars and ground it finer. They already do that with the corn they eat and it’s hard work. Those pestles are heavy, I tried one once!

There is no substitute for face to face communication. Phone calls here are expensive and most people don’t say much on a call. E-mail doesn’t exist for most Mozambicans, so that leaves personal visits. It was so good to connect again after four months. We brought some gifts to our special friends in Chokwe and you should have seen their faces.

One of the guys we work with and that is one of our trainers, Alcides, (above in the middle) gave us a rare treat. He said he doesn’t know where he’d be if we hadn’t come to Chokwe. But now he is a “business professor” and has work with the chicken businesses. He’d probably be working in S Africa if it wasn’t for that, but he’s thankful he can be with his family in Chokwe. It felt like pay day!

While we were in Chokwe I visited the Child Development crew. One of the women asked Sybil, the director, if I colored my hair. Sybil said, “no they have adult children. They could be grandparents.” I overheard the conversation and said, “This hair color is all natural, after all I’m 50 today!” Well, that brought a round of singing and laughing and they even gave me some candy! That night we celebrated with a nice dinner on Maputo Bay, complete with candlelight and live music. Sunday we will have an open house for friends. We invited a co-worker to the party and he wanted to know details. We said we would have cake and punch. “That’s not a party in Africa,” he said. “That’s a tea!” I guess for a party there has to be lots more food. Someone told us the most important part of a party is the meat and the cake. Now we know.

In Chokwe we also visited one of our friends and walked through the village to his house. Lots of kids giggled and pointed to the “mulungus” and went running off. Not many whites walk through there. We saw a larger group of mostly women sitting at a house and asked our friend what it was about. He said it was a funeral of a man who died in S Africa. He left many years ago and had not communicated with the family for a very long time. He was actually married to another woman in SA. The family in Moz asked that he be buried here and his other wife agreed and came to the burial. Sometimes the second family does not agree to that and the burial takes place in SA.

We stayed with Dr. Pieter in Chokwe and he regaled us with stories of the wildlife here. He was in the village of Mucatine which we have visited. He was looking in the river and saw a large snake. The next day he went back to look for it and there it was stretched out on the hillside, catching a few rays. It was a python, 15 feet long and as big around as a man’s thigh. Pieter also saw an African spitting cobra, so I think I’ll watch my step a bit more, especially walking through the tall grass.

The people in the village killed some monkeys that were getting into their field crops and then discovered a baby monkey. By the time they showed him to Pieter he was very dehydrated and almost dead. So Pieter gave him some milk and sugar and he perked right up. He loved Pieter’s hairy arms and got quite attached. But Pieter didn’t know what he’d do with him when he travels so he gave him away.

Today, November 10, we’re enjoying Maputo Day. Each city has a holiday just for their city. We didn’t know it was a holiday so we scheduled a meeting with the groups in Matola, the next town over. They are needing encouragement and some instruction to get their businesses going well again.

Ate a proxima!