Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Night Open Air Service

Almost a year ago we began having an open air church service every Sunday night under a big cashew tree in the orphanage.  The service goes from 4pm to 5pm just when the shadows are long enough to keep everyone in the shade.  Marta prays and the orphanage band leads singing.  Then Victor preaches and then people who want can get prayed for.  We have loud speakers so the whole neighborhood can hear the service and some people say that they listen to the singing and messages from their homes.  Other people have heard and then started coming.  Besides the kids in the orphanage and some neighbors, youth groups from different churches and even many of our friends from the Congo come once or twice a month.  After the whole thing is over some go home while others stay for hours into the night singing and dancing along with the band.  The service has a really great feel to it and it's a really nice way to reconnect with God one more time before the weekend comes to a close.

Victor preaching.

Dorcas and Yohani in the audience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Girls Dorm Cleaning

Many "housekeeping" (literally in this case) things turn into whole-day events when you are doing them with over 40 kids.  And fire is usually involved when it's in Africa.  A few weeks ago there was a gigantic cleaning out of the boys dorm and then a week later, of the girls dorm.  It's actually more like a room inspection or "locker check" type thing and then everything that should or doesn't need to be in the kids' possession (as determined by the staff) gets thrown into a blazing fire bin.  The boys seem to handle this fine, but the last time the girls dorm was "cleaned out" (monitored by Victor and TJ) it resulted in a lot of tears and hysteria (from the girls, not from Victor and TJ).  So this time the staff was determined to have a spring cleaning that was nice and peaceful (and the boys were there to watch in case it wasn't).

Clearing everything out of the (temporary) girls dorm.

Virginia, Nolita, Tercia and Regina trying to sort through their stuff before Victor comes to see what items need to be thrown in the blazing fire bin.

Some of the boys watched from the doorway of their dorm.

Canito and Samito.

The wiser ones watched from a distance.

Francisco, Manuel, and Yohani.

And the wisest ones just went to the other side of the property and stayed under the mango trees by the well until the whole thing was over.

Belson, Merecido, TJ, Celso, Little Victor, Jose, Jordão, Gil, and Jeremias.

The blazing fire bin burned the entire day.

There is no trash collection or disposal system here so you have to burn everything (yourself).  This really means everything - like plastic tubs, suitcases, batteries - everything.  (I'm sure you can imagine how good it smells and how long the aroma of plastic (and other things that should never be burned) lingers after the fire is put out!  But the smell reminds me of traveling in other parts of the world so it always gives me good memories.)

The whole day went well and the girls were able to part with the things they "didn't need" and even appreciated being able to go back into a fresh and clean dorm at the end of the day.  It is sometimes really entertaining to watch Victor and the other guys on staff handling the teenage girls when they act like American teenage girls.  But it's a good thing that the kids are in an environment where they are comfortable enough to be themselves when they are happy and also when they are frustrated.  And ideally you want every experience to be a learning experience.  During the last cleaning out several of the girls had huge melt-downs when stuff they were not supposed to have got taken away.  Afterwards there were a lot of meetings and discussions over how the whole thing went and this time everyone was more prepared and had good attitudes about the cleaning day.  And our kids are really, really great.  Even cleaning is fun with them and certain kids always bring energy and laughter to the most seemingly un-fun situations!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Leonora's Lunch

 Me, Regina, Leonora, Gabriel, Marta, and Zaqueio eating Leonora's birthday lunch.

Victor, Yohani, and TJ eating the birthday lunch.

A few weeks ago Leonora turned 21 and she came up with a little bit of money to make lunch for the staff and a few of the oldest kids here.  She and Regina made chicken, coconut rice, and salad, and they got refrescos too.  It's really amazing and fun when the older kids initiate doing something on their own and then include us in it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nolita and Cocas

Nolita and Cocas making pink heart cookies.

I really love Nolita and Cocas, two girls in the orphanage.  They both came from pretty difficult situations when they first arrived here a few years before I did.  I used to really worry about them when they were about 12 and 11 – seeing how much they would have to struggle to overcome the situations that led them to the orphanage.  Now they are 15 and 14 and they are both doing really great!

I used to do occasional baking projects with all the girls at once but it was such a huge ordeal that we hardly ever did it.  Then I finally realized that if I just worked with two girls at a time (week after week) – they could actually really learn to bake and cook well and then teach others.

Even within the chaos of the entire group baking/cooking (like 20 girls at once, which is really fun but really crazy) I was kind of shocked to learn that Cocas and her older sister Minoca had actually learned to bake a cake!  Once in a while the kids get a chance to go out and visit their relatives and the last time Cocas and Minoca went they came back and told me they had baked a cake for their relatives and the family had loved it!  This really touched me and made me realize they were getting much more out of the opportunity to cook than I realized was possible in this setting.

So I decided that I would just work with two girls at a time and I chose Cocas and Nolita because they were two of the girls who have not been involved with the other things going on (like the band and different things that come up in the orphanage, at church, or in school).  

This has been a really great thing for me and I think for them too!  I at first planned to just work with the two of them for about a month, then extended it to two months and now it’s been almost a year.  I can just see how valuable the whole thing is and I don’t want to end it with these two.

I know that to most people reading this – it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to learn to cook with measuring spoons.  But here it is a pretty foreign thing and when I have worked with different women and girls here– using measuring spoons has been a really difficult thing to “get” (and don’t even get me started on the concept of fractions (not) being taught (for understanding) in school here).  So I know this may not sound like a huge “feat” – but if you could see how difficult a thing it is to follow a written recipe here . . . We can now just give Cocas and Nolita a recipe and they can go into the kitchen and basically bake anything by themselves – and I am very happy and impressed with them for this!

During the week we usually ask the kids what they want us to bake for breakfast Sunday morning and they usually want corn bread (my mom's yellow cake corn bread recipe but with corn flour).  Other favorites are banana bread, carrot cake, and cinnamon rolls.  Then each Saturday the girls walk down the road and buy eggs from the local egg seller.  Recently the egg sellers have become interested in what they're doing with the eggs and when they heard that they were making "cakes" they wanted to know what kind.  When they heard they were "American cakes," the egg sellers got even more interested and then asked if next week we could pay them in cake instead of money!  

This week the girls asked if there was such thing as coconut cake and if so, could we make one?  (Little do they know there is EVERY kind of cake.)  We have coconut trees all over (including a really good one in the middle of the orphanage) but our coconuts (according to those who know these things) aren't ready.  So this morning we came up with some change and then the girls went and bought some coconuts and grated all the coconut meat out with this little coconut grater stool thing (I'll put a picture up another time - it's a really good little contraption).

Right now Nolita and Cocas are in our kitchen baking coconut cake for all the kids for breakfast tomorrow morning and our house smells really good!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Counting in Macua

How complicated could it really be?  

You have NO idea!!!

Over the past few years I have listened to countless conversations in Macua, the local African language.  I only know about 30 words in Macua and I get really excited whenever I am able to pick them out of a conversation.  I can also recognize any Portuguese words that people use when there is no Macua equivalent, and I have noticed on numerous occasions that people always use Portuguese when they say numbers.  Whenever I hear this I ask the people if they know how to count in Macua and this usually results in some arguing and confusion.  Obviously people here counted before the Portuguese arrived but for some reason Macua numbers have been replaced by Portuguese numbers even for those who don’t speak Portuguese.  I have always wondered why this was and planned to some day investigate it.

For Yohani’s birthday my mom sent him a really great book that teaches kids how to count in Swahili.  As I started reading the book to Yohani I decided that if we (Yohani and I) are going to learn to count in Swahili, we should also learn to count in Macua (since Yohani IS Macua).  I got my pen and paper and went over to where a group of kids, some neighbors, and our cook (who is a grandma and mainly only speaks Macua) were sitting near the cooking house.  “Can you teach me how to count in Macua?”  Again – big confusion, lots of discussion and arguing - nobody knows for sure.  Finally everyone agrees to agree with whatever the grandma cook says.  I write down the numbers.  And then later I even find a website that claims to teach how to count to ten in every language in the world.  I compare the 1-10 I got from the grandma cook, kids, and neighbors with the 1-10 on the website.  They’re close enough.  I feel that I have the right numbers and can now memorize them with confidence.

And the fascinating thing about the Macua (and some other Bantu) number system is that it is 5 based instead of 10 based.  (This means it starts over after 5 instead of starting over after 10.)  VERY interesting to me.

Counting from 1 – 10 in Macua (or so I though) . . .

1. èmózà
2. píli
3. tháru
4. xéxè
5. tânu

6. tânu ná mózà
7. tânu ná píli
8. tânu ná tháru
9. tânu ná xéxè
10. m'lókò

After seeing the whole base 5 number system thing I thought I knew why people must have switched to Portuguese numbers.  If you’re counting by 5s instead of 10s, numbers are going to get really long and complicated really fast and it will be more confusing to talk about larger numbers.

Meanwhile . . . I had been searching for a Macua dictionary or grammar book for a long time now and I recently finally found one being sold on the street (Método Macua by Gino Centis).  I bought the book and then excitedly looked through it.  Sadly, I was immediately completely overwhelmed with the complexity of the language.  Macua is REALLY complicated.  

After a while I thought to myself that I would just find the page with the numbers 1-10 to confirm that at least I know ONE thing in Macua that is simple and straightforward (to encourage myself).  Well . . . when I got to the page with the numbers I was in for a surprise.  It turns out there is no simple “one, two, three” (or “emoza, pili, tharu”) in Macua.  Instead there are four different ways to say every single number.  There is one set of numbers for counting “atthu” (people), another set of numbers for counting “mahiku” (?), a third set for counting “itthu” (?), and a fourth for counting “miyeri” (?)!

There are four different ways to say EVERY SINGLE number!!!  For example – if you want to say the number 2 – and you’re talking about 2 people, then you say “anli.”  But if you’re talking about mavaka then you use the word “manli,” if you’re talking about itthu you use the word “pili,” and if you’re talking about mirima then you use the word “mili”!!! No wonder nobody can agree on how to simply count and no wonder people have just switched over to Portuguese!

As soon as I saw what was going on here I became so discouraged that I just decided to give up on the entire Macua language.  I am already SO bad at learning other languages – simple counting being SO complex was the last straw for me.

Later that week I told Erica and Jonas about my “discovery” about Macua numbers and I showed them the page with the sets of numbers.  Jonas looked at the page and started laughing and told us that one of the number sets was just for counting spears and another was for counting pots.  Erica and I thought this was really funny and it actually kind of encouraged me to give the whole thing another try.  I mean, how intriguing that there would be a whole set of numbers JUST for counting spears!!!

So in case anyone reading this actually cares . . . here is how you count in Macua (I think) . . .

If you are counting people:

2. ànli
3. araru
4. axexe
5. athanu
6. athanu na mosa
7. athanu nànli
8. athanu n’aràru
9. athanu n’axexe
10. muloko

If you are counting spears:

1. nimosa
2. mànli
3. mararu
4. maxexe
5. mathanu
6. mathanu na mosa
7. mathanu na mànli
8. mathanu na mararu
9. mathanu na maxexe
10. muloko

If you are counting things (like pots):

1. emosa
2. pìli
3. tthàru
4. xexe
5. thanu
6. thanu na mosa
7. thanu na pìli
8. thanu na tthàru
9. thanu na xexe
10. muloko

And finally, if you are counting hearts, souls, consciences, lives, loves, understandings, and other things like that:

1. mmosa
2. mìli
3. miraru
4. mixexe
5. mithanu
6. mithanu na mosa
7. mithanu na mìli
8. mithanu na miraru
9. mithanu na mixexe
10. muloko

Macua’s pretty deep.