Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Darling Pedro!

I'm not quite sure what to write on this blog about my little Pedro. In March, I wrote about finding his mom on this blog and you can read that if you'd like. In November, he went home to live with his family so he wasn't here when I returned from the US. But he came to visit the day before Christmas and stayed until Friday when we took him home. It was SO lovely to have him here and I miss him terribly now. I think it's a bit much to try and write about so I'm just posting a photo album about him. Isn't he handsome? The photos toward the bottom (sorry they're out of order, I had problems with Picasa) are of him with his grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and two cousins. He's also in the mango tree on their property.



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Photos of Pedro 4


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Photos of Pedro 3




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Photos of Pedro 2



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Photos of Pedro 1




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What do I do all day?

People often ask me that.  I don't have a satisfactory answer, I usually talk about the planned programs I have to keep 43 boys in check, mention hugs and kisses and putting on of band-aids and so forth.  But last night before dropping into bed at 9:30 (highly unlike me, usually up til midnight!) (I had to force myself to stay up that late, as I was waiting for the three boys enjoying Saturday Night Sleepover in the living room to fall asleep) I wrote out a partial "Post-return-to-Mozambique, Post-Christmas-and-New-Years-To-Do List."  So here we have a bit of the things that take up my time:

Home:

Clean every surface: dust, sweep, mop to get rid of two months build-up of dust and dirt blown in the windows

Clean curtains

Clean bathroom

Write name on all movies and arrange in more orderly fashion so when people come to borrow them they can find them more easily.

Clean/sort three-tier shelf near lockers.

Rearrange lockers (food, crafts, boys' books etc.)

Rearrange storage chest to make room for new group toys/games.

Clean fridge

Blog about Pedro

Sort thru clothes to give away to Tias

Rearrange suitcases used for storage when not traveling

Decide what to do with box of donated videos under bed

Decorate/hang bulletin board bought six months ago

Swap wardrobe and shelf with dresser?

Thank yous to supporters from last church service

Poster to Randy Powell

Organize and name photos into folders

Clean computer screen

New medical insurance

Flight quotes for trip to New Jersey for Mom's birthday

Return 167 emails in inbox!

Mani/pedi (not the salon type, the "file the broken nails and get my feet clean"variety!)

 

Dorm:

Hang poster number 1

Laminate and hang poster number 2

Put together new bicycle

Give old, somewhat broken bike to Bendito

Repair VCR

Go thru bag of too-small or ripped clothes from Room 2

Dust and rearrange shed

Paint and repair small chairs

Give to-do list to maintenance

Move bench and store broken back part of bench until can be repaired

Move old tools to loft

Paint rooms 1 and 2

Sort thru stuff I shoved in cupboard when my house was painted

Take old clothes from Rooms 1 and 3 and new clothes handout

Arrange December birthday party

Organize incentive program for boys who "xi-xi" the bed at night

Put new plug on radio for boys

Assess shoe situation

Hang batiks

 

Shopping List, partially to complete above:

Bookshelf

Bucket, to replace the one Agostino broke yesterday

Furniture pads

Mirror tape for hanging posters

Soccer balls

Swimming pool

Batik for Room 3

Chairs and tables for all kids to eat meals in dorm after the new year

Sheets

Towels for Room 2

Small spoons

Padlocks

Chips, biscuits and drinks for New years Day meal

 

Two thoughts I have now:  so why am I taking time to blog about this instead of doing it?  And, why am I dropping it all to accept the invite to go to the pool this lovely Sunday afternoon with my friends, the Wakelys?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Zimpeto, Mozambique!

As always, Christmas was lovely here at our center. For me and my dorm, the day went off without a hitch. The dorm was lovingly decorated the night before - til 1:00 am! - by the Chefes. The clothes all fit and I even managed to find an outfit for our newest boy, Simois, who wears a size 2! I had "happened" to buy one a few months ago and set it aside - God knew I'd be needing it - it fit perfect!


The boys loved their gift bags as well. Another example of God looking after us - I had bought out a Big Lots of their watches but didn't have quite enough for everyone, we were five short. We were going to give them anyway and just a few wouldn't receive one, something I'm loathe to do with a coveted item like a watch. We had packed the bags on the morning of the 24th. Later in the afternoon, Vella arrived with six more watches exactly the same!!! God already knew and arranged for a visitor to donate the same watches!




These aren't earth-shaking matters but I love examples like that of how God arranges to bless us, even in the little things. Exactly what a loving parent would do!

We gave a couple really nice dorm gifts as well - a VCR to replace ours that's been broken for about six months, and a bicycle! They were delighted. (People often ask about the bike - yes, there's one for 43 boys to share. One room per afternoon can use it in the back garden. They take turns riding it twice up the cement path, around a circle and back. It's small but it's what they love best!)

Afterward, we celebrated in the church with a huge meal of chicken, chips, rice, salad and even sweets!

Earlier in the week, Iris Ministries hosted similar celebrations at the Boccaria (garbage dump), the children's church at the Boccaria and on two locations on the street in the city where we have Street Ministry every week. I'm amazed anew when I think of God's generosity and provision for our ministry and the people we're able to serve.

Personally, I had a great day. Although I was too tired to watch White Christmas as I had purposed to do and fell into bed instead, after a fun evening with the missionaries celebrating together. And one of the parts I'm personally most grateful for - it's not hot! It's 90 degrees now at 6:00 pm but it doesn't feel like it and I didn't even have to change my clothes in the middle of the day like I usually do. Every day it's not boiling, I remember to thank God for the delay in the really hot weather starting.

I've just said it but I'll say it again - God is such an amazing provider! I love his heart to give and pour out love on his children. Especially in the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. I hope whoever is reading this, you feel as blessed as well!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Night Sleepovers!

A while back I came up with the idea of having four boys at a time spend the night in my house on a Saturday night. They get to watch a movie that the whole dorm hasn't seen, currently Inspector Gadget, eat popcorn and drink soda. When the movie is over, they pull their mattresses into my living room and they play themselves to sleep. I think that's the part they like the best, just playing and rough-housing (tonight's four made farting noises in bed for about a half hour and never grew tired of laughing at it - boys will be boys!) until they're too tired to play any more. Normally, when it's bedtime, they climb in bed, lights out and time for quiet, so this is fun for them.

One reason I was so grateful for this idea from the Lord is that I can use this to learn a little helpful information about some of my more challenging kids. For example, one of my little ones gets picked on A LOT by the other kids in his room, and he provokes them as well. So I allowed him to choose the other three so I could see who he considers a friend so I can encourage their time together. And Selso, who I mentioned in a previous post spends a lot of time alone, I let him choose as well so i could learn who he likes and could encourage that.




So it's a lot of fun and I learn more about them as well. Can't beat that! After I've done the whole round once thru, I might add breakfast in bed!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My own Huckleberry Finn!


Selso is so gorgeous, isn't he? I laughed when I saw him "fishing" with his pole, saying he was trying to catch our dinner. He looked so much like Huck Finn that I had to take his picture.


Selso has had some rough times occasionally and he often keeps to himself but he is getting better and better all the time. He is precious!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's been quite a day!

It started our normally enough.  I was in the city, having spent the night after our Christmas party last night.  I woke up and quickly got ready - except I couldn't take a nice bath (it's cooled off unaccountably) because no hot water would come out of the tap although the cold worked ok and the toilet is broken so I have to use a five liter bottle to flush it with.  But those things are fairly normal.  I head out to the US Embassy to renew my passport, so I had my passport, DIRE (Mozambican residency), original driver's license and a $100 bill with me.  That made me a bit nervous.  But then, I got in the car and the car wouldn't start.  Wouldn't click, click click or chug, chug, chug.  Absolutely nothing.  But the radio and lights worked. 

As I was getting out of the car, my cell phone that I forgot was on my lap dropped to the street and the screen broke, but not the phone.  Little good the phone did me however, as I was out of credit and out of money since I had paid the guard his "Boas Festas", a bonus, the night before. 

So, no problem.  I walk to the corner, very conscious of the increase of crime here at Christmas time, to use the ATM.  Shouldn't have worried about the money I was to withdraw being stolen as the machine was out of money.  So was the next machine.  Fortunately, the third machine I went to had money, all in 500 met denominations. 

Which meant, when I went to buy 100 mets of phone credit, the vendor didn't have change.  After a while he comes back with change, 2 two hundreds and 1 one hundred.  I decide to buy two cards, but he only has one.  Not one to lose a sale lightly, he begs me to wait while he goes and gets another 100 met card.  Keep in mind, I just gave him 100 mets to buy the first card.  So when he returns with another 100 mets of credit to sell me, I give him the Two hundred met bill, thinking he'll just give me back the One hundred I had just given him.  No.  He used that so now he doesn't have change again.  So off he goes to get change. After about an hour, I have some money and some phone credit.  But the car still won't start and the phone screen is still broken!

We try jump starting the car which doesn't work but thankfully, after scraping the corrosion of one of the leads, it started up and I was on my way.  It wasn't AAA that came to the rescue by the way, it was the guard for the house next door and one of the waiters at the restaurant I was in front of.  There's no such thing as road service here, other than friendly help!

However, I was an hour late for my Afternoon Program, had missed giving Thabo and Domingos their extra meat for lunch, couldn't go shopping for odds and ends, including the paper I was intending to buy for the afternoon program!  No worries though - the corner store had Coke Light and toilet paper so my top two shopping items were taken care of!

But the boys are patient and flexible and our program goes great and they make beautiful paper chains (for Christmas) with what we had.

Afterward I make a cake for a new missionary's birthday and when the timer goes off, the cake isn't done.  Nor is it hot.  Hmmm.  Uh oh.  I've run out of gas for the stove.  It's five o'clock!  Yikes!  The kitchen area with the gas is closing.  Now, it's not a simple thing to change my gas.  One time, when I asked the maintenance dept if there was something they could do to keep the cupboard doors from swinging open all the time, the screwed in a board, in five places, connected to the shelf blocking the gas bottle, and the cupboard.  So, to change the bottle, I have to take out all my dishes, pots and pans, etc, unscrew five screws, take apart a shelf and a cupboard door.  Which went without a hitch actually.  So, one of my chefes (youth helpers) goes to try and change the gas bottle.  I thought about crossing my fingers but decided to pray!

I quickly head up to the clinic to bring Thabo his dinner.  The clinic is locked, closed.  Thabo, with his Tia, is staying at the back of the clinic.  I think about banging my head on the door but opt for just my fist.  After banging for about 5 minutes, thankfully, someone hears me and comes and opens the door.  Another crisis averted!

And, I go home and there's Agostino with my new gas bottle!  "Hallelujah!" I shout!  That's unbelievable, first that they were still open and then that they actually had a replacement! 

After re-installing everything but the kitchen sink, I heat up Domingos' dinner to bring him and . . . they've already fed him.  Too late! 

I sigh and turn around with my plate of mashed chicken and think about eating it myself.  I've no energy left to contemplate cooking dinner - and I still have a half-baked cake to make!

Tomorrow's another day!

Celebrating Christmas!

Last night was our Iris Staff Christmas party. Not all of our staff can go - there are approximately 150 national staff just here at our Zimpeto center, not to mention missionaries and staff from other nearby locations. There were about 100 of us there though, at a restaurant called Sagres. The place was nice, the food was really good and best of all, there was plenty of it! The previous years' buffets, food always ran out long before everyone had a plate. So this was a winner.

Here's me and Linda, who hails from Texas and is here with her husband Jimmy. They're terrific people!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Do you know what this is?

I'm gonna tell you. it's a cool squishy ball that lights up and my boys love it. I just pulled it out today and it's all the rage. I've totally forgotten where I bought it (it was packaged in a mesh net) and I thought I'd throw it out there to friends to see if people can keep an eye out for it. It lights up when you hit the particular ball and then goes off after 30 seconds or so. Let me know if you spot one!


While I'm at it, I thought I'd post a photo of two of my boys, Manito in front and Nelinho on the left. They're twins actually. Dani, on the right is their "brother" and he's staying with us for a week, just for fun - isn't that cool? Dani is actually the son of the best friend and wife of the boys' parents who passed away a few years ago. So although there's not a blood relation, they do their best for M & N. They bring them to their home for every holiday and would have them live there except there are already seven of them in the house! They'll all go home for the rest of summer holidays but Dani wanted to hang out here a bit first! The boys will inherit their parents' property when they're old enough and this family looks after that for them as well. I love these occasional stories of amazing kindess in people here!
Did I mention that it's hot???
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

A WARM welcome home!


I arrived home this evening to loads of darling boys, chanting, "Mana Laura, Mana Laura!" I couldn't even get out of my car, they just swarmed me - delightful! I met a new little one, who's name I can't yet understand, who they say is five but looks more like three, although he's very chubby and cute!


After lots of help carrying the bags and items in (during which they saw Spiderman goodies that I was planning to tuck away til June 1st but forgot were in plain sight in the car!) they couldn't wait for me to see the Bem Vindo Mana Laura display in the house - they had all made Welcome cards for me that were hanging on the laundry line in my house, so all the way across the room. I couldn't do another thing til I had looked at every card! Here's a few examples.


After I did that, I nearly ran to the clinic to see Thabo who looks SO much better!!! Praise God, I am so grateful to the Lord for sustaining his life. He's getting better all the time although still in danger. I'm excited to spend some time with him.


I thought I'd throw in a photo of my cat Puss Puss, whom I want to start calling CousCous, but anyway, she wants to be as close to me as possible, here she's squeezed herself into the only empty space near me. Cutie. My cats miss me too.


Lastly, one of my co-workers told me that another missionary heard one of the boys singing a little ditty this morning about Mana Laura! So nice to know they anticipate my arrival with joy!


Oh, the warm part also refers to the crazy heat - don't know what the temperature is but I don't think I've stopped sweating since I woke up this morning. I'm back!

Friday, December 14, 2007

I have the best nephews!


Here's one of them:  Randy!  I had just a short visit with him on my way driving from southern to northern California.  I got to visit him at work which was a pretty prestigious engineering firm.  Then we went to check out his apartment - a total bachelor pad!  Two chairs facing the TV and games!  Then we went to dinner where his dad even popped in for a visit.  It was too short but it was nice to catch up. I'm very proud of Randy and my other two nephews, Sean and James, too.

PS:  you can tell I was cold by the fact I'm wearing a scarf INSIDE the restaurant!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Landis Family!

Just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to Robert and Joy Landis who have taken such good care of me all the years I've known them, but in particular these last couple years since my cousin's moved to Oregon. Thanks for the airport runs, the last minute adjustments so readily made, the dinners, the Ipod!, the postal service, the storage, the bathtub, the chauferring . . . all these ways and more that you guys bless me. I am so deeply grateful for your loving care, support, and practical help! I couldn't do this without you!

There are lots of people who bless me in many ways while I'm visiting in America but the Landis' really provide a home away from home so I'm singling them out! But I am deeply appreciative of all my friends and family who look for ways to bless me. I am well loved and well taken care of! I would be hard pressed to continue this adventure without any of the people God has put in my life!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hanging Out In Sunny Southern California!

Hello from Costa Mesa! I am hanging at my friends, the Foxes: Heidi, Justin and their FOUR kids! I've been here three days and tonight, I go ALL the way across the street to stay at the Maddoxes: Pamela, Trent and their THREE kids! It's so fun that two of my closest friends live right across the street from each other. I've been having so much fun with them and lots of other old friends in the area. What a gift to be able to visit. People are so kind to love on me and listen to lots of stories about my boys and take me out for lots of meals. I'll be needing those cucumber, tomato and onion salads that are a mainstay when I get back to the heat of Mozambique!

Here's a photo of us from my last visit, we haven't taken a photo all together yet this year. Some of that yummy food I was talking about . . .


On Friday I head up to the Bay Area and next Tuesday, one week from today, I fly back home to Moz! I can't wait to see my boys!


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Baby it's cold outside!

Hello from chilly Oregon!  Last night it was 22 degrees - farenheit!  I've been going for walks nearly every day, which have been just gorgeous in the country, but have resorted to wearing gloves because a couple days ago my hands felt frost-bitten!  I am thoroughly enjoying the cold, especially when I can come into a warm house with a fire in the fireplace.  AND - bun-warmers in the car!  There was snow on the not-too-distant hilltops.  In two days I'll be driving to California and I really hope the snow stays on the hills rather than on the roads.

I had such a lovely Thanksgiving!  It was such a treat to be here for it after not being here for the last few years.  It was nice to celebrate with family, to share what we're thankful for in the year that has passed and it was really nice to eat the delicious (if I do say so myself) pumpkin cheesecake that I made!  Times like this make me miss my Kitchen Aid mixer in Mozambique!

I have so much to be thankful for!  God has blessed my life with so many riches, so much joy, so much beauty to behold!  I look forward to seeing what tomorrow holds!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hanging out with Mom and Larry in New Jersey

I've been in New Jersey since Saturday and I leave tomorrow. I've really enjoyed my time with my mom and Larry, visiting people, going to a couple thrift shops, eating early . . . this was our "dinner" at 3:00 in the afternoon! My mom is doing really well which is nice to see in person. She is currently doing so well, she doesn't need chemo now and won't go back to the doctor until the end of November. We're praying she won't need chemo then either! I'm not sure the exact terms to use because they don't talk in terms of remission but the number and size of cancerous areas seem to determine the need for chemo treatment. I'm just glad she's feeling so great!

Thanks for everything Mom - it's been a great visit! Love you!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fun with Family in Florida!


My sister Sandra and I love this photo of her with her boyfriend Doug and our Dad. Usually, my dad has his eyes closed and his mouth open in photos so we were really excited that he got it right in this one!




I had a lot of fun with my two youngest nephews, Sean and James. We played Bocci Ball and although my athletic prowress was held in check, I didn't do half bad. James became a teeneager the day after I left, November 4th, so we had a fun little party as well. I loved being able to hang out with them.


I realized as I was about to leave for the airport that my dad and I didn't take a photo together during this trip so I took one of those long-arm shots - not bad I don't think.
I had a great time in Florida - now I'm off to my mom's in New Jersey.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bilene was a lovely little getaway with friends!

I was so thrilled to have my friends, Debbie and Katrin, visiting me in September and October. They both used to live here in Mozambique with me. Katrin left for Germany in December of 2005 and Debbie left for the US in February of 2006. I've missed them a ton! Katrin actually came in August, with her boyfriend Michael. Then Debbie came at the end of September. Debbie stayed at my house with me and left for home one day before I left for Europe/Home. I will be sad to go back and them not be there. But I'm so blessed they came and it was fun to have them at the same time. We used to have getaways together so we were determined to do so during their visits. So we went to Bilene, a little town on a lagoon, about 2 1/2 hours north of my house.

Amazingly, we decided we wanted some shrimp for dinner and about two minutes later, up popped a man walking on the street selling a bag of shrimp! Here's photos of our adventure:

We asked the guards if there was anyone who might come help us clean and prepare the shrimp to make sure we were doing it right. Good thing we did, she helped us prepare them lickedy-split! It was a lot of shrimp! Five kilos I think.












Katrin and I were the chefs for the night in our amazing kitchen. We had fun!






The finished product.


We discovered we could take a boat for free over to the other side of the lagoon if we ate lunch at the resort there. I am so glad we discovered that place. The food was great, the beach was private the service was terrific. There was one server in fact who tried three separate times to get our phone numbers!

Me and Debbie on the lagoon beach. The first day was cloudy and cool, the last day was sunny and gorgeous.

Three countries in one week!

I flew into Frankfurt at 7am on Tuesday morning. I took a Rhine River cruise and passed many castles and beautiful scenery, with fall colors in full flouish! It was lovely and chilly!

I spent the night at my friend Katrin's parents in Koblenz and they were such great hosts, making me traditional German food and showing me around. I would love to spend more time there with them - next time Katrin needs to be there instead of in Mozambique!

Then I headed down to Stuttgart to meet my friend Debora and her two friends, Susa and Tabia. We had planned to go to Vienna, Austria for the weekend. Here, I'm on the overnight train - I felt like I was in a movie. I'm such a tourist!



My German friend Debora greeted me at the train with the question: "Do you want to go to Hungary while we're in Vienna? We can take a boat up the Danube to Bratislava!" I said Sure, let's go! Well, when I did a search online for Bratislava, Hungary, it turns out it's in Slovakia (the southern half of what was Czechoslovakia)! So we had a good laugh about that but went anyway. We opted for the train which was only 14 Euros, return. We had a great time in this charming old city. Slovakia only entered the EU this year and it still has a very Eastern European feel. It was perfect to explore for the afternoon.




Vienna was lovely, with beautiful architecture and lots of gardens. It would be amazing in the spring or summer to sit in the many parks and try and spot traditional Austrians, as I was trying to do - men with feathers in their caps! It was too cold to sit around much, we had to keep moving! We even got on one bus, just to drive around to nowhere and get warm. it was about 40 degrees on average during the day!





After coming back from Vienna, I spent the night at Debora's house in Winterbach, outside of Stuttgart. We went to the main restaurant in their village for my last traditional German meal and . . . they were celebrating Sweden week! So everything was Swedish! It was still good! I slept on the divan in the living room, right in front of the fire - that was so amazing! The next day, I went to Heidelberg to meet Katrin's fiance, Michael. I spent the day exploring by myself and met him in the evening after his exam. This photo was taken through one of the lookouts from the Castle.

Here I'm on the bridge below the castle, jsut before Michael and I walked The Philospher's Path, up along the treeline.

I "slept" that night in the Frankfurt airport. I had to be there at 6am and decided it was just as easy to hang out there instead of try and find a room and get to the airport super early. Then I flew home to California!

I really hope to fly through Germany again because there is so much I still want to see and do. Plus, I'd like to visit when Katrin's there! And, see Debora again. Maybe for Katrin and Michael's wedding !!!