Wednesday, December 31, 2008

8 Photos from 2008

The Train to Cuamba

If anyone is interested in reading my perspective of the train experience here I can email you a copy of my 11-page letter about it.

Mena and Me

Mena is the youngest child at the orfanato. She came here at age one and is now four-years-old. She is probably the one who spends the most time with me. She helps me cook, has cinnamon toast and tea with me on the porch, takes naps with me (and Simba) outside in the shade on a little bamboo mat when it’s too hot, and sits next to me in church. Mena is one of the funniest kids because she often says things you would expect to hear from an old lady, not a three or four year old. Everyone loves entertaining each other with stories of things Mena says. Yesterday I gave her a piece of bread and after taking a bite, in a very stern tone of voice, she said, “Mana Christina, this bread is dry.” (This might be a normal thing for an American child to say, but you will never find a child here who will say something like this.) I told Victor and he said at least it shows that she is used to eating fresh bread here.

Anamuculama Jumping

Last year we took the staff to Nacala, a port city on the coast, 200 kilometers from here. It was SO fun. Most of those with us had never seen the ocean before and were able to play in water for the first time. We are hoping to take the whole orphanage to Nacala next year. There might be only one or two kids who have ever seen the water before.

Victor Before Church

This is our little church which is about a mile down the road from the orphanage. It's made out of mud and has a grass roof which is SO nice for staying cool in the heat.

A Door of No Return
Some people only learn about West Africa when they study the history of slavery. But East Africa had the same horrific story. Here is the Door of No Return on Mozambique Island, the last door that mostly Macua people stepped through on the African continent before being forced onto ships headed first to Arabia (before the Portuguese) and then to Brazil (after the Portuguese). For me, there is a lot to think about when I look at this photo.

Me and Victor

Nampula is surrounded by huge dramatic rock formations that are unique and beautiful. Whenever I see this picture it reminds me of this day – I saw these rocks, I saw pineapples growing for the first time, we had ice cream at a little Portuguese restaurant, and we drove home on the bumpy red dirt roads in a huge rainstorm.

Victor and Mia

I loved playing with my little niece Mia this summer and I loved seeing her playing with Victor. Every time she would find me alone, she would immediately demand, “Where’s Dictor?!!!” I can’t wait to have Mia here playing and dancing with the kids and singing in the children’s choir in church! The kids have heard me talking to her on the phone and now whenever they see a picture of her they all say, “Mia!!!”

Mama Maria

Mama Maria is one of our cooks and she lives in a little house on the orphanage property. She is fun and funny and is like a grandma for all the kids. Her personality makes everyone happy no matter what. She grew up in a remote village where people were still wearing clothes woven from tree bark when she was little. Her husband died when her only daughter was still a baby. Today her daughter, Estalinda, is married to Victor's brother Charles. I love this picture of Mama Maria wearing the dress that Trish sent her.

There are many Macua games that only girls play and this is one of them (it’s fun to watch what happens when a male tries to join in). It was really entertaining watching Jenni play games with the girls because she always got SO into it and would be screaming and laughing the whole time, which made it SO fun for everyone.

The Road to Our Property
Daily life here is quiet. When you first come here from a fast-pace place it takes a while to get accustomed to it. But once you do you will find great enjoyment in little things that would go unnoticed somewhere else. I love watching the kids play.

Going Home
All the chapas (mini-bus public tranportation) stop running when it gets dark, which is around 6pm during the lightest part of the year. If you don't have a car (or it's not working) and you need to go somewhere (without walking the whole way), you have to be REALLY creative and willing to ride in almost anything. This was riding home with all the kids from the recording studio in the back of a truck that I thought might collapse any minute. Apparently I am the only one who is scared of standing in a speeding truck on half paved, half dirt roads with ten billion pot-holes in the dark with no street lights because everyone made fun of me for wanting to sit down. But now I'm glad because I like this picture.

(Sorry for the misleading title to this post. Half the pictures are from 2007 and there are more than 8 of them but I just really wanted to write that title.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day! Feliz Natal!

Christmas Day at the orfanato was PERFECT.
The day began with baloney and egg sandwiches, french fries, and apples for breakfast.
Victor, Alzira, Santos, Helder, and Adini in the kitchen.
Claudia cooking.
The weather was very hot but we were thrilled that it did not rain. We set up tables, chairs, and bamboo mats under a huge cashew tree, our current dining hall when it's not raining.
Simba patrolling for food during breakfast.
After breakfast all the little boys (whose clothes have worn down to almost nothing from playing) got new shirts and shorts that people sent from America. Look how handsome they are now!
Manuel, Samito, Mauricio, Canito, Belson, and Dionisio in their new clothes.

Next was Capture the Flag and it was SO fun. None of the kids had ever heard of a game like this before but all were able to understand the rules easily (unlike when I tried to do baseball last year and couldn't stop people from returning to bases they had already passed). We made a border across the whole property with little stones and the kids decided that one side was Mozambique and the other was Congo. I think this is the best Capture the Flag group possible. The thrill and enthusiasm that comes from the kids here is so energizing. Even Mama Maria played and chased and caught people. I think this was the most fun spectator experience I've ever had. Victor has malaria so he couldn't play but was laughing as he watched the entire time. Though everyone has shoes now, most still prefer to play soccer and other running games barefoot, so there were tons of feridas ("wounds," another one of my favorite Portuguese words) happening but no crying. All the ones with feridas were the ones who didn't want the game to end the most. I can not WAIT to play this again.
After Capture the flag most kids were too tired to go on, but some continued playing other games that I'm not going to attempt to explain. I'll just say they were fun and funny as well.
Back, Knee, Foot Game.Macua game involving bridges, singing, and carrying people shorter than you.

Finally it was time to eat dinner. We had chicken, rice, a gourmet salad created by Victor (that included Italian salami, feta cheese, and three kinds of beans nobody here had ever eaten before), french fries, and refrescos (soft drinks). All the food was REALLY good.
Rock, Carlitos, and Ruben.
Clara, Minoca, Leonora, Silas, and Tercia.
Victor's siblings: Estefano, Miqueias, and Carmina. Simba patrolling for fallen food again.
Ofeita, Belson, and Isac Pequeno.

Victor's parents went to Cuamba to visit his oldest sister Madalena for Christmas but all the other brothers and sisters, nieces, and some cousins were able to come to the orfanato. Estefano traveled from Pemba in Cabo Delgado Province, Carmina traveled from somewhere in the jungle a few hours from here where she has been working for an NGO, Heliane came from Niassa Province where she has been working this year, and Miqueias from Nacala where he is in his last year of agriculture school.
Sisters, Cousins, and Nieces: Laura, Carmina, Artimiza, Estalinda, and Heliane; Front: Milena, Vana, and Amelia.
Victor's Family: Estalinda, Laura, Charles, Artimiza, Victor, Carmina, Estefano, Miqueias, and Heliane; Front: Amelia, Milena, and Vana
Finally it was time for presents!
Kids lined up, waiting to receive gifts.

This year we received amazing gifts for the kids. The church in Utah compiled cards, letters, and presents for everyone and sent it all in big boxes. We were also able to add things from South Carolina, Seattle and a few other places as well. And every single child got a GREAT present. I don't even know how to explain what it was like when the kids opened them but I have honestly never seen anything like it. I knew the kids would be excited but their reactions were so far beyond that. It was like pure jubilation.
Kids opening presents.
The kids really went CRAZY over their presents. Everyone was screaming and clapping and jumping up and down and ripping everything open and then exclaiming huge joy over whatever they found. Even though they have had stickers and candy before it was like this was the first time.Many kids brought their cards and letters to ask what they said and after reading several and seeing how the kids were listening so intently and smiling I started even getting really emotional - a card or letter would say something like "welcome to our family" or "we have your picture and are praying for you." To read this and then look at the child's face and see how meaningful and what a big deal this is to him or her -I can't really describe this but all the kids, since they have ended up living in an orphanage, have obvioulsy come from some kind of tragedy and place where they did not have someone able to care for them. So when you see them listen to a letter where a family is saying, "we are praying for YOU" - it's just really big. I just wish all those who have written to the kids, not just this Christmas but ever - if you could see what a big deal it is - it's really a big deal. The other thing that was so funny - one child asked if "this" was to eat, about to put a big chunk of playdough in his mouth. We were like, "No! Not this one!" Everyone thought it was really funny. After that we saw all the kids scrambling to bring all their candy to find out if it's "to eat." Little Caneto ran full speed to his bag and then returned as fast as he could, out of breath, with a little pixie stix in his hand, demanding excitedly, "What is it?!!!" I said it was to eat and he was jubilant all over again, ripping it open and running off. He reappeared a minute later with all these nerds (the candy) in his palms, out of breath again, asking if it's to eat, as if he would collapse if he didn't get an answer soon enough because he couldn't wait another second to find out. Another kid came with pez candy and another with tic-tacs. The girls remembered they had learned about tic-tacs from Ashlie and were happy to "see them again." I don't think I ever really realized how exciting American candy is! It's like toys and candy at the same time.
The day finally ended with an orfanato picture slide show and a huge cake made by Janete.Thank you so much everyone who made this Christmas Day possible for us. We had SO much fun. Thank you so much for all the gifts and letters you sent, as well as the financial support that made it possible to have a huge feast today with special food! Not just this month but all year - every single thing that is received here is greatly, greatly appreciated and makes ALL the difference. Thank you. God Bless you. And Feliz Natal! (Portuguese for Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Party

On Tuesday we had our Christmas ornament and cookie making party. Last year (and the year before) Jenni and Corey brought the party to the orphanage. This year they (and their whole church) sent the party in the mail! We received four big boxes with enough construction paper, colored markers, glitter, powdered sugar, cookie cutters, and sprinkles for the kids to make all the ornaments and cookies they wanted. AND we have enough left-overs to decorate a cake for Christmas and make more cookies and crafts afterwards! The kids all made ornaments with their pictures (Jenni’s idea) that look so beautiful, and other creations (even a spaceship ornament – and I have no idea how one of the little boys found out about spaceships). Of course the cookies were a huge hit. On Monday a little team of kids baked them and at the party each child decorated several cookies with bright colored frosting and sprinkles. They LOVED the cookies. The kids even decorated a few left over scraps with pink frosting for Simba who had been waiting patiently under the table the whole time. A few of our missionary family friends (the Rogers and the Kerns) came and helped too, which the kids always like! In the boxes from the U.S. we also received little presents for each child from Utah and Seattle, which will be SO fun to give the kids on Christmas Day! Thanks everyone for giving us a great party!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recording a CD

The BEST thing is happening here. We got a little bit of funding for music and AMAZINGLY it covers the cost to record one CD here in Nampula! AND we have now started recording!

About three weeks ago at 3pm we packed all our instruments and all of the band (8 kids) + me + Victor into our car + Domingos and Silva on the bike and drove to this tiny little recording studio that is in a part of the city that has an overwhelming garbage pile plus smell to go with it. (Thankfully the recording studio itself did not smell bad). The studio is a tiny room and the inside is painted red, yellow and green - the colors of Africa. It is cute, cosy, and HOT (or very cold when the air-conditioning is on for a few minutes without making the power go out).

The kids set up all their equipment and then they started recording - I've never been in a recording studio before. I've seen it on T.V. but I've only seen the singing part - I've never seen recording instruments. This is common knowledge to some of you, but to me it was all new. They had each instrument play sozinho (“solo” or “alone” – one of my favorite Portuguese words) one at a time inside the sound proof booth, all starting with the drum.

Gil is only 13 years old and he is the drummer who had to start the entire thing and set the beat. He sat in the sound proof booth and had to drum the entire song completely alone with no help. He was SO concentrated and did a great job! Nobody in the band has ever played their part without the whole rest of the band to play off, so each person going sozinho was really impressive because it was not easy. Next came keyboard and then a guitar and then came the saxophone. Everyone is now calling the saxophone "menina de Domingos" (Domingos' girl) because it NEVER leaves him and is always treated like a baby - when all the other instruments stay in the concrete rondoval, the "menina" (saxophone) stays in our house. When the other instruments wait in the car, the "menina" goes out with the people.

Anyway - after the saxophone came Clara singing, then Graça singing and then Anabela singing. They all did an amazing job. Graça got a positive malaria test at the hospital the day before and felt kind of like a fever but she sang her heart out. She was wearing a big fleece in the recording booth and when she was in there all alone singing her heart out, with everyone else on the other side of the glass watching her - seeing her little face in there - so innocent and beautiful and calm - it made me so emotional. I looked at Victor and he had his head down because he was so emotional too. Graça is SO adorable.

There was another part of the recording where they had to do another drum to go with Gil's drumming and Domingos was SO into it that he went into the sound booth and meticulously and SO aggressively beat the drum for the duration of the song - everyone else was just watching him like it was the most interesting sight ever. Victor was saying it looked like he was killing a cobra and everyone agreed. Domingos is the kids music teacher and he is an amazing musician. He is like a mad man with every detail but still coaching and encouraging every kid with complete patience and kindness.

After our first-day trial song finished it was late into the night but Frango King was still open, so we all went there for dinner (which is a HUGE treat for all of us)!

I think being able to record this CD for the small fee it cost is one of the best bargains I have ever seen in my LIFE. I thought I was going to get bored sitting in that tiny recording studio for hours and hours, watching each kid play or sing their part one by one, but it was SO much fun and so wonderful. There was even hair braiding while waiting (which feels so good - like a head massage). Now I want to be in the studio for the duration of the CD recording!

Anyway - I just wanted to share the WONDERFUL experience that I (and 11 others) had this day!!! I absolutely can not WAIT until everyone will be able to hear this CD!!!