Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend in KwaZulu Natal

Well it was a wild and wonderful weekend February 20-22 as we made the long drive to the middle of nowhere in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal outside of Durban SA. We went primarily to take another couple to be trained as coordinators in the Ancient Paths process, and completed one hopefully significant errand along the way just outside of Durban.

We left Friday morning at 8 and headed for Swaziland (a shortcut to Durban).It took us four hours just to get through Swazi and then we hit the expressway and tried to get to Durban before 4:30 when the head office for Spar, a large food chain in the region, closed. I had spoken to them and wanted to drop some virgin coconut oil samples for them to see. It was only supposed to take 6-7 hours to get there, but it took us 8.5, with me running into the lobby at 4:35, just hoping there would be someone there to give the samples to. Yikes!

We then took off for the hill country to attend the seminar. Supper was to start at 6, but we were still in Pietermaritzburg and at 60+ kilometers from our destination. To make it worse, we drove into rain and fog and missed our first exit. We found the road to the hills and then things got interesting. We did have a map with km marked on it, so marked our starting position and off we went. The fog was so thick we had to drive about 25 mph and the road was twisty, wet and basically unmarked. The couple that were with us were good for us as they sat in the back and sang and laughed like they didn’t have a care in the world. Why worry when you can praise instead? And wonder of wonders, right at around 33km a side road appeared. We turned off and sure enough, there was a y in the road at the designated distance. We arrived at a farm gate several km later and drove through a pasture, found a house and the place we were supposed to be by about 7.

The weekend seminar was very good and a great encouragement to us personally. The view was beautiful once the fog wore off and it was great getting to know our hosts Leon and Marietjie better. Imagine rolling hills, virgin forests, lakes, many flowers and birds, cool weather. It was like a different world!

We had taken a liter of oil as a hostess gift and everyone got excited about it. I think we could have sold alot of it. One woman said she could forgive me for not bringing some, but as the weekend went on and she liked it more and more, it was harder to keep that attitude.

By Sunday afternoon the fog had come back so we couldn’t take a shorter way home, not knowing the roads or conditions. We did make good time back to the Swazi border, but then things went awry. We needed to get to the border exiting Swazi before 8 pm when it closed. To make a long story short, we missed a turn off as it was getting dark and drove much farther and longer than we would have needed to, arriving 6 minutes late, thus needing to spend the night in a hotel.

As I woke up during the night some thoughts came to me that might be worth sharing.
1. It doesn’t matter how fast you drive, if you are going the wrong direction, you won’t get there.
2. We had been given a road map to the farm that we followed carefully and arrived. We did not do the same going home and did not arrive without much more effort, frustration and cost.
3. Teamwork would have helped to prevent these mistakes as each of us does the things we are gifted in doing.
4. Most Swazi’s don't read maps and the country doesn't have enough road signs (ok, maybe not worth sharing)

So all is well that ends well. We do have a choice. We got lost, so we can be grouchy and lost or keep a good attitude even if we are still lost!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Customer Service

Customer service in Mozambique cannot be taken for granted. Once we drove ½ hour through terrible traffic to pay a bill. When we arrived, they worked at getting the invoice around, hummed and hawed and finally said, “Why don’t you come back tomorrow?” Now this is a common phrase we hear a lot. But we were there to give them money and were not about to spend another hour in awful traffic plus fuel at $6/gallon to come back. So we politely declined and said we could wait until they figured it out and then pay them that day. Well, thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and paid the bill.

We could tell you lots of other stories, but we try not to remember them or be too negative about things that are counter to our culture.

It’s come to the place where we are actually surprised when we come to the Midwest and are greeted politely and thanked after the transaction. We just don’t expect it anymore.

But today I was pleasantly surprised. Yesterday when I got my glasses out of their case, one lens had popped out. Apparently the case got bumped somewhere. There is an optical place not too far from our house, so I took the glasses there. When I walked in, one person was sitting in a waiting area so I went up to the counter and waited. Another person came in and I showed her what I needed. She told me to go to the other counter and the person waiting got up and helped me. She never said a word to me, but she took the glasses and fixed them in about 3 min. Then she cleaned them and handed them back to me and that was that! I thought maybe they’d ask for some payment but since she never said anything I walked out of the store. So you never know. Just when you start to always expect inefficiency and bad service, someone changes your mind and you realize there is hope.

Here's a funny sign at the capulana store storage room. It says "Prohibited the entrance of strange people to this sector." I'm sure there are people laughing at my Portuguese translations also!

Monday, February 09, 2009


Our daughter Joanna first met Judit when she came to Mozambique in 2006. They immediately hit it off in spite of the language barriers and became friends. We slowly came to know parts of Judit’s story.

Judit was orphaned at a young age and her extended family declined to take her in. She lived with some nuns for awhile and this is where she learned to cook. Now it is her passion and she does a good job of it!

In 2000 Judit was in a very bad vehicle accident. She was in a “chapa” which is a van that is used for public transportation here. The chapa and a semi were in a head-on collision and the chapa ended up under the truck. Ten people died and of the survivors Judit was the most critical. She had injuries to her back, stomach, hip, and abdomen.

She spent one full year at the Central Hospital in Maputo. The surgeries and physical suffering she endured would be enough for anyone but she also suffered a lot from the lack of care that we take for granted in a U.S. hospital. Having a bed pan or a bath requires an extra tip to the nurse and if you have nothing, you are just stuck. Having friends or family to come assist you also requires extra money. I can only imagine what Judit went through that year. She came out of the hospital with a severe limp and has had numerous therapies and procedures since then. She was able to get a corrective shoe with a large platform to help her walk. However, during the explosions of the bomb arsenal in 2007 she had to run for her life and left her shoes behind. Thieves came into the house where she was staying and among other things, took her special shoes.

She was a cook in a home for awhile until others in the household became jealous of her and accused her of stealing. She felt she could no longer stay there and moved back to Maputo.

She has been living with a woman that she met in the hospital. This woman is willing to have her, but asks that she help with household expenses. This is impossible for Judit until she finds a job. This past week a job opportunity came up and Judit spent a couple of days with us while she pursued it. It was to work as a cook at a bakery that also sells hamburgers, chicken, fries, etc. She would be the only cook and dish washer. She would not be allowed to sit all day or take any breaks. The owner also required that she work for 7 days without pay and at the end of that time she would be notified whether she would be hired or not and what her salary would be. It could be as low as $40 a month or a bit higher. The owner does not trust any of the employees and tends to fly off the handle and scream at them. Judit went to work for a day and did her best. Her feet started to swell and she could no longer wear her flip flops so she went barefoot. At the end of the day she was exhausted but willing to try it again. But as we processed it together, she decided that this would not work for her. Although she is willing in her spirit to give it a try because it is a job that she desperately needs, her body just can’t take the stress.

It looks like she will go to Beira again to finish high school. She will live with some relatives who don’t really want her there and barely feed her. Last year the local priest helped her out by buying food for her when he saw how thin she had become. Judit is an optimist in spite of all the struggles and willing to suffer whatever it takes to finish school.

I am impressed with Judit’s generous spirit. Whenever she comes to visit, she brings mangoes, or other food. When Joanna came this year, she brought her a capulana (a meter of cloth used as a wrap around skirt and many other things). She never comes empty handed even though she has so little.

Please pray for Judit. When I shared Jer. 29:11 one day when she was discouraged she was touched to think that God does have a future and a hope for her. Judit is one of the thousands of people in Mozambique who have had very hard lives and who sometimes find it difficult to go on. I believe God brought her into our lives for a reason. It is easy to let these sad stories burden me too much. But I believe my part is to encourage in different ways, to pray for and believe God to intervene and really fulfill His promises of a future and hope for Judit.

Trying on the earrings Joanna made. She loved them!

Sitting on our kitchen floor mixing up cookies because it hurt to stand and for some reason she didn't want a chair. She baked them on a 100 degree day too.

Pictures of South Africa

We'll let the pictures do most of the communicating in this entry. We went with Joanna and Keith to Kruger Park last month and had some memorable encounters. (Thanks to them for the great pictures.)

We were driving along and this guy was on the road. We stopped and watched him flapping his ears and walking slowly toward us. There was still some distance so we just waited. But when he started trotting, I put the truck in reverse and we got out of there! Later a guide told us the elephant was trying to defend his territory and we were in the way so he decided to charge. After we backed up, he stopped and ambled off of the road so we could pass.

After a day of not seeing much at all, we went on a sunset drive with a guide. We saw about 20 rhinocerus, some in a herd of mothers and babies. Then we came upon a pride of lions parading down the road. I had heard of parades like this before but had never seen one. We stopped the truck and they stopped and stared at us like this one. They were so close it was almost scary!

The guide had his window down with his arm resting on it. He was also down closer to the road and I asked him what would prevent the lions from just jumping in. He said they were used to the truck and thought his arm was a black stick! Hmm, I hope for his sake that he knows what he's talking about. Earlier he told us about the time an elephant charged him right through the windshield and one tusk went right beside him and into the seat. Wow, he's had some adventures and lived to tell about it.

We've posted pictures of Blyde River Canyon here before, but it is such a beautiful place, we will post some more.

Here we are on our last night together playing cards as we got in the habit of doing. This is "Up and Down the River" where you have to say how many tricks you will take starting with 10 cards and going down to 1 and back up. When you get to 1, you cannot look at it, you put it on your head and others see it and guess whether they will take the trick or not. Keith always covers his mouth, he says he doesn't have a poker face!

Fun times, and we will remember them gratefully. It was hard to say "see you later" but it is one of the realities of being here. We were very blessed to have them visit.