Archive for the ‘Mozambique’ Category

Living to tell the story is hosting the 48th Friday’s Fave Five. Here’s mine:

  1. We have returned home after two months away and are packing up as we prepare to move to France at the end of August. So I was greatly relieved when the dearth of boxes came to an end on Monday with the arrival of second hand boxes of various sizes, by foot and car from various sources. Thanks to Isabella, Orlando and Richard.
  2. Joanna and Benjamin were desperate to return home after their long sojourn in U.K. and South Africa (plus a camping trip to Swaziland with Yayee, Papa, Aunty and Uncle, Joshua and David where Benjamin caught six fish, his first ever). Benjamin couldn’t wait to reunite with his best friend Michael, but Joanna’s best friend left back to the States,  just as we left on our travels. Then walking down the Marginal on Sunday we bumped into Caroline, a Zimbabwean I lost contact with, when her cell phone was stolen and she moved house. So I was able to invite Milagro her daughter to come for a playdate, and she has come every afternoon this week, and is coming for a sleep over tonight. Four happy children completely absorbed in their respective imaginary worlds, definitely a big motherhood reward.
  3. I heard from Akiko who has been trying to fall pregnant with her second child for a number of years and she’s pregnant! I can’t help wondering if it had anything to do with that raspberry leaf tea, which would make her the second friend to possibly benefit from that small piece of advice.   I suppose I’ll never really know.
  4. I’m leaving Quelimane, I’m leaving Quelimane and going to live on a small holding in France in a 17th Century farmhouse for a year.  After living in one of the poorest regions in the world for 12 years, we’re off to live within the vicinity of Paris!!!!   As awareness of this slowly sinks in I can’t help but feel like a 9 year old  just before Christmas.  Thank you oh my Father …
  5. As Richard and I face a completely new unfamiliar future, it’s great how we feel like we’re in this together.  As we search on the internet for a cheap, second hand, Left Hand Drive car or talk through the need  to grow loads of  cherry tomatoes,  as Joanna munches her way through yet another tomato.  The Proverb, ” two is better than one”  has been very apparent this week.




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I leave tomorrow to the UK for  home leave.  A whole month of it.  While there, our future after August will probably be decided.    As our time here in Quelimane, finally  draws to an end I have been musing about what I will miss.

I have learned so much here.  It’s been my coming of age, I think.  I have grown up, finally.  Though not completely.  I have learned to let go of what I consider the basic requirements for happiness.  I have had daily lessons in opening my eyes to the hidden things of God.  I have learned to love.

Nothing new lasts long here.  So many people and things come and go.  The 5.30am tennis, such a great way to start the day, with the yearly Easter tennis tournament, when no-one escaped Jan’s match making.  Long gone.  It was delivered a death knell when the tennis court, laid down by the Portuguese, was dug up and replaced by a thin layer of cement which was lethal underfoot and soon broke up.  The Chinese take-away came and went, followed a year later by the Chinese Restaurant, also gone.  Sun downers at the Referba, a thing of the past.  The  5.30pm jogging-with-mates stopped when the mates left.   My piano lessons ended  when the teacher from Japan, went home.   Help with homeschooling stopped when the qualified teacher helping me, moved on. The municipal pool purchased and made operational off and on for 15 months, has now been empty for two months with no sign of regeneration in sight.  Sometimes there is Feta cheese for sale, then for an entire year none.  There are times when the entire place runs out of petrol/diesel, long life milk or popcorn.  We now drag ourselves out of bed early on a Sunday because the time of the International Quelimane Fellowship moved to 7.00am, when we lost our venue.  Joanna said goodbye to her best friend yesterday.  Her mother, a nurse practitioner from the States, who came to work with an organisation helping distribute antiretrovirals to people suffering with HIV/AIDS,  had to leave when her employer was threatened with a massive fine for having nine ex-pats over the quota of 5% expats per organisation.  This despite a shortage of qualified Mozambique doctors.  The pot holes are deeper and more proliferate then ever.  The new  rain drainage water pipes put into place only last year,  are already showing signs of collapse in places.  The rats still run about, I counted five in one sighting in the garden of a restaurant the other week. As Richard says, the scientific principle of entropy is very apparent here.   The women keep sweeping the streets so that we don’t get completely submerged by the dust.

NEVERTHELESS I have learned that none of these loses  truly, really matters in the big scheme of things.

I have said goodbye to so many people, and learned  to grab hold of every opportunity to make a friend and be a friend, for its better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.   I have learned to discover the hidden treasure in many a person,  I would not have given the time of day to, if given the option.

I have learned so much about what education should be about.  Living here has forced me to grapple with home schooling.  I doubt I would have learned this anywhere else, as given the chance to send the children to a half decent educational institution I probably would have done so.

I have learned to play the piano.  I have learned a dozen poems off by heart.  I have learned to love dappled sunlight and Mango trees.  I have learned to walk with God.   I have learned to respect resilience.

I daily salute the resilient inhabitants of this place called Quelimane. A place full of smiles despite the daily struggles to survive and heart breaking  tragedies that abound.   I will miss the humbling experience that living here provides.

I will miss the choral singing and drum beats coming from the Cathedral across the street.  I will miss going to see the dramatic African/Brazilian dancing at the Cultural Centre down the street.  I will miss living at the cutting edge of the battle between hope and despair.   I will miss the spectacular  sunsets over the Bons Sinais (good signs)estuary, thus named by Vasco da Gama when he came by, some time long ago.

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Wordless Wednesday


Watching a community theatre on the importance of Vitamin A, photo by Richard Dove

Wordless Wednesday

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I have had very limited internet access this week, both because I’m homeschooling on full throttle again with the presence of a friends child, and because my broadband connection’s slogan of the week has been, ‘limited connectivity’. However I quickly popped in to check out this week’s challenge for Monday Poetry Stretch. And it’s to write about something you can find or see outside your window! My heart did a double skip as one of my favourite things about my life here, is what I get to see outside the windows of my slither of an office. Because our house is raised, my office which is more window then wall, feels a bit like a tree house, guarded as it is by four friendly Mango trees. So I went haiku crazy. Thanks Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Outside my window
four Mango trees sit waiting
to show juicy fruit

Outside my window
happy, yellow marigolds
shout and wave at me

Outside my window
fish arrive upon men’s heads
in leaf covered bowls

Outside my window
spunky, groups of school children
make their own new way

Outside my window
a towering Cathedral
sings with bells and drums.

Outside my window
a candlelit procession
enchants us watching

Outside my window
beautiful variety
walks by and is seen.

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Our chicken laid it’s first egg today. We watched it clucking about as it chose the spot to drop it’s treasure. Joanna was delighted. She said it made her want to do science, “because eggs is science isn’t it!”. So I found her science activity book and told her to choose one. Benjamin jumping on his sisters bandwagon, was given his science activity book. Each book is accompanied by a DVD in which a rather fun teenager carries out each experiment with varying degrees of success. So at one point I sat on our sitting room carpet surrounded by two eager scientists, noticing a yellow butterfly flitting past a window and recognised the preciousness of the moment.

And I thought this could all be about to end.

I have applied for a full-time position based in the UK, where my children will attend school, looked after by their father who will complete  a PHD.  We are so closely knit in our current lifestyle.  Benjamin and Joanna tell me everything. Even how I scared them after a bad PMT inspired rant and rave.  When I apologise for scaring them, they forgive me so willingly.   I love being so in the loop of their lives because I can keep them safe, their sense of self intact.  When their minds fill with lies such as, “I’m dumb” I can counteract this by pointing out the truth.  “Learning to read is hard, it is a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you’re dumb.  It’s good to know how to persevere with something that is hard to do, because struggle is a big part of life.”  I fear that when I am away from them for a big part of the time, I will loose some of their trust and they will start to keep some of their experiences hidden from me.  Would this be a good thing or not?   Don’t they need my wisdom, the fact that I have been there and done that and know what potholes to avoid.  The fact that I have a greater grasp on what is true and what is false.  Or do they need the space to make their own distinctive way.  Are they old enough for that yet.

One of the experiments didn’t work out because Joanna was her clumsy self.  She is such a fairy child and has a real sense of being a princess yet her large hands frequently drop or knock things over, much to her chagrin.  Richard and I ALWAYS make light of her frequent mishaps but I detect she is aware of them.   As usual I made light of the fact that the only four sugar cubes (sent with the science kit) for thousands of miles around in all directions had just been destroyed, rendering the science experiment null n void.   But later I slumped down on the bathroom floor behind the locked door and silently sobbed.  And ranted and raved to God, like the Psalmist asking: “Why is this so hard, for me?”

And I thought this could all be about to end.

Then Joanna and I went shopping.  Going the long way around to avoid the largest of the pot holes which are currently filled with water.  As we clang our way along the pot marked roads in my twin cab buckie without power-steering or air-conditioning,  with the sound of Joanna’s endless sweet chatter by my side, I realise how much I’ve grown.  I’ve shed so much petulance and entitlement, and I prefer my new more stretchy skin.

I start to sing, “hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back, no more, no more, no more, no more, hit the road Jack….”.   I experience deep peace and contentment and turn a grateful heart towards God, concluding my personal Psalm for this day.

This could all be about to end.

(Or my nick-name ain’t Jack.)

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The three words at Three Word Wednesdayare: burden, natural, ubiquitous. These three seem to have given me verbal diarrhea.

The Ubiquitous Three Words

Finding my ubiquitous children a burden, I send them out to play and come and see what 3WW has to say. My 8 yr old son, Benjamin, soon runs in declaring, eyes shining, “Hey mummy, can you come and see my snowman?” I dutifully follow his excited footsteps out of doors. He has made a natural looking snowman in the ubiquitous sand pit, with round sand buttons for eyes and nose and down it’s front. Full of enthusiasm he scrapes away a peep hole in the the ‘snowman’s’ head revealing the rock burdened by the sand. I am impressed and role-play what a natural mother would say. But I am burdened by whispers in my head saying, “is this really what you want to do all day?”.

My utterly natural daughter Joanna, unburdened by societies ubiquitous media demands of how a 6yr old ought to be, runs in breathless. And announces in a pitch belonging to a soccer match, “Mamma, Mamma the chickens have had a baby”. This forces a natural laugh from me. We only bought the chickens yesterday, two hens and one cockerel so naturally they can’t have reproduced quite yet. In this scenario it’s definitely the egg that comes before the chicken. I go out to see, feeling burdened by their ubiquitous need of me. It’s the neighbors chicken who, burdened by the absence of a cockerel in her neck of the wood, has sought out ours, quite naturally.

At lunch time we sit down around a table, a conventional four member family. I’m feeling burdened by anxiety as my ubiquitous emotions invade me. I ask Benjamin if he showed Daddy his snowman and discover that the snowman had been transformed during the course of the morning to a birds nest, mole hole, rabbit warren, badger set and finally a baby’s bed. Suddenly Joanna blurts out, “I love you Daddy, I love you Mama, I love you Benjamin”, as if unburdening herself of a ubiquitous feeling that for some reason is not naturally said. Benjamin’s response is to declare the fact that he loves everyone. He repeats this twice as if warming up, then finally responds to the love gauntlet laid down by his younger sister. Rapidly unburdening himself he also declares, “I love you Mummy, I love you Daddy, I love you Joanna”. Then with an extra special grin he adds, “And I love me.”

Too bad if I’m not a natural mother, safeguarding their happy childhood is something I have chosen to do. Too bad if I feel burdened, their ubiquitous love is my sweet reward.

Later I read scripture and am reminded that naturally I can’t do this in my own strength but there is a ubiquitous divinity who says, “”Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28

And …

The ubiquitous heat
can be a burden
but it’s quite natural

Natural heat,
a ubiquitous burden
but it’s to be


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On this day…..

1 March 2009

It is Sunday and we have woken up at Zalala Beach after spending the night in a Zalala Beach Cottage, the first time ever.  I remember visiting Ute, a couple of years back, when she was staying at a Zalala Beach Cottage, but that doesn’t count.  That visit was particularly eventful as I was accompanied by three small children and two dogs and managed to run out of petrol and get a puncture.  Richard was away, so Eric came to the rescue but that’s another story.

When we arrived here yesterday it was extremely hot.  And we had to get our heads around the fact that there is no kettle, stove or running water.  Why do we still expect these things?  When will we ever learn? But that was yesterday’s story.

Today, it is 6.30am and we are walking along a sandy trail towards the beach.  Wood pigeons are calling and the grass is singing.   We pass a little grass hut, perched on a sand dune, under the towering pine trees planted by the Portuguese.  The hut looks like it belongs in the story of the Three Little Pigs, luckily no wolves in this part of the world.  Apart from the wolves of hunger and pestilence but that’s a completely different story.

We round a corner and locate the source of melodic singing, a young man is clearing the undergrowth with a machete, filling the air with it’s pungent aroma.  Then we cross over a sand road, up an inclination, and there is Zalala beach stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions.  This is the spot where we had Zina and Mark’s farewell with the prawn braai or was it Aukje’s birthday.  Different stories.

There are the ever present  crows, of course, and the patchwork sail of a fisherman’s boat waves pirate- like from the middle distance. Two busy bicycles glint in the sunlit sea.

busy bicycle glints in the sunlit sea

busy bicycle glints in the sunlit sea

I can still distinctly recall being deeply disappointed the first time I visited Zalala and encountered it’s chocolate brown sea.  A brown sea, an oxymoron for me spoilt by Kwazulu Natal’s beaches.  But now Zalala holds so many memories.  There is Smithies era, when Noel played golf on the beach getting children to collect his golf balls for him, while those without the benefit of dark skins turned deep red in the midday sun.  Then another time under the shade of the pine trees,  the image of 4 yr old William determined to hold his nose for the duration of his beach visit.  And the stress of wanting to rescue an injured wild bird offered for sale but knowing this would perpetuate the selling of birds.  The time Benjamin crawled for the first time as we sat on the sand in the late afternoon sun with Tim and Lyn and possibly also Catherine, listening to an old man crouched down besides us singing to the accompaniment of a three string tin guitar.  Benjamin was transformed from a sitting thinker to a crawling dancer, at his first taste of the wild side. A mix of crab and wolf pup.   Then much later, there was Cindy’s 30th birthday and  beach rounders and the famous photo of nossas amigas wallowing hypo-like,  in a line, in a large sea puddle.  And little Jonathan and his sister were also there – a huge story all of its own.

In today’s story we plunge into the waves, Joanna in her many-coloured plastic ring holding tightly onto my hand.  Yeah!! the sea doesn’t feel like warm bath water as it did yesterday.  How on earth does such a huge quantity of water actually cool down overnight. Joanna is full of six year old glee as I lift her over the waves, skin touching skin, joy connecting. Benjamin the 8 yr old incessant talker says: “I like the smooth part of the wave, just before its about to crumble.” “Now for some peace and quiet”. I wait with bated breath will he stop talking. “”I call these waves floaty waves.” And on goes his verbal diarrhea. His exhilarated, full-throttle energy carrying us along.

I go to shore to relieve Richard and take over the camera watch. Joanna and I build a sand ‘mud hut’ and decorate it with shells and a zig zag of tiny sticks. It has a leaf flag jutting out the pinnacle of its roof.  This suddenly takes me back to the  fact finding mission I was part of, when Namibia were about to have their first democratic elections. Most the houses in the township’s displayed flag’s, jutting up on the end of poles, from their roofs showing their party allegiance. A historic tale.

The fishing boat comes to shore loosing all hint of pirate and we buy two manteiga fish and two peixe pedra. . Richard walks back to the Zalala Beach Cottage to pay the fishermen, taking Joanna with him. Benjamin sits in the shallows playing a game with clam shells, talking to himself.


I lie on a towel, against a piece of drift wood. Silence and solitude abound. Until an olive green crab pops up by my toes, clasping a clump of wet sand, bearing two ‘stick flags’ side by side on top of his head. I notice that with the absence of footsteps crabs now litter the beach. If these things were ten times larger, no way I’d stick around. But then if they were ten times larger they would probably have all been eaten. Down goes my olive green crab, he’s got work to do. Next time he comes up, he opens a star-trek door where a mouth might be, and in a split second cleans something from one of his ‘stick flags’ which bends towards the opening.  He exudes busy importance, in a sergeant major type of way.  A coral pink crab pays my olive green friend a tentative visit but decides against it. I tell you olive green is awfully busy today, no sabbath rest for him.

Benjamin comes thumping up the beach and instantly every crab vanishes.  He has a tiny, fragile, pink butterfly type shell to show me. It looks like it might melt in my hand.

I return for a swim and both Benjamin and I are stung by something unseen in the chocolate sea. A reminder that this sea does not simply exist for our amusement.

Back at the Zalala Beach Cottage, I decide to make pancakes but soon realise that spontaneous decision making is not suited to the available technology, as I watch the person employed to fill the gap of no kettle, stove or running water, run off down a sandy path with half a coconut shell in search of fire.

But despite my awkward attempts at  making pancakes over a fire in the baking sun, the cockroaches floating in the container of water in the bathroom and emerging from the gaping hole in the shower, the heat beating down.  We would recommend a stay in a Zalala Beach Cottage any day.  Take your own kettle.


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