Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Timline

Since I'm posting in such big clumps of journals, all reflecting widely varying attitudes and events and often transcribed in somewhat varying styles and from varying proximities of perspective, I've decided to put up an itinerary map that can serve to temporally orient any given post along a given timeline. This is as much to help me remember and organize my thoughts and experiences as to give my 3 readers a grid for where I've been and how long.

May 23rd: I land and stay the night in Johannesburg, SA at the Road Hill Lodge (roughly $80).
May 24th: I land in Beirra, Mozambique. Picked up and driven to Morada da Paz, headquarters of Africa 180, just outside Gondola, by Tracy Evans and Itai ($300/month)
June 22 (there-abouts): Levi Silk arrives at Africa 180
June 28th (there-abouts): Paul returns home to Canada from Africa 180.
July 24th: Bus to Maputo with Charles for a weekend with his fam.
July 27th: Head back to Gondola with Charles and Colbus in Colbus' vehicle (got a flat) Stayed at St. Antonio's Inn near Vilanculos ($18)
July 28th: Arrive at Morada da Paz.
August 20th: Depart in Vehicle for South Africa with Kolbus, stay St. Antonio's Inn near Vilanculos ($18)
August 21st arrive in Nelspruit, South Africa, stay at Betor House missions guesthouse ($15/day)
Sept. 8th: Shuttle to and Fly out of Johannesburg, SA, Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya, Stay at Upperhill Backpackers ($9)
Sept. 9th: Bus out of Nairobi, Arrive in Arusha, Tanzania, stay at Borden's house with Jesse and Fam.
Sept. 20th: Bus out of Arusha, Arrive in Tanga Tanzania, Stay at Inn by the Sea ($16)
Sept. 21st: Dala Dala out of Tanga, Arrive in Pangani, Tanzania, Stay at St. Catherine's by the Sea ($21)
Sept. 22nd: Cycle from Pangani to Ushango, tent at Drifters Beach resort ($10/day)
Sept. 26th: Cycle back to Pangani Stay at St. Catherine's by the Sea ($21)
Sept. 27th: Bus back to Arusha, stay with Borden Family
Sept. 28th: Bus back to Nairobi with Jesse, stay at Upper hill campground ($9)
Sept. 29th: Fly back to Johannesburg, SA, shuttle to Nelspruit, SA, Stay at Nelspruit Backpackers with Eva ($15)
Sept. 30th: Stay at Betor missions guesthouse with Eva ($15)
Oct. 1st: Bus to Maputo, Mozambique stay at the Base Backpackers with Eva ($12/night)
Oct. 3rd: Bus to Tofo, Mozambique stay at Fatimas resort with Eva ($12/night)
Oct. 6th: Bus back to Maputo, say goodbye to Eva, enter Arco-Iris Children's center in Zimpeto, Mozambique.
Oct. 9th: Driven to Arco-Iris children's center in Machava, Mozambique.
Oct. 16th: Returned to Arco-Iris children's center in Zimpeto.
Oct. 29th: Driven to Arco-Iris children's center in Khongoloti, Mozambique.
Nov. 4th: Returned to Arco-Iris children's center in Zimpeto.
Nov. 7th: Leave Zimpeto under guise of outreach and spend a night in town at Miguel's house.
Presently Awaiting with eager anticipation final departure for home.

Tanzania part 12 (final)

Baker showed me his room which was furnished with posters of American rap artists and movies, a shelf displaying toiletry items, a boombox stereo system, and queen sized bed with spring mattress in the middle of the concrete floor amongst other teenage necessities that I was not perceptive enough to commit to memory (I have since grown accustomed to the sight of very western commodities [especially media and communication oriented commodities] adorning 3rd world dwelling places. It is not uncommon, for instance, to see a 40inch LCD television fully decked out with dvd player and surround-sound car-speakers, resting just raised off the dirt-floor of reed-hut. There will usually be an antenna strung to the top of several wood poles consecutively fastened a-top one another to form a long arcing phallus that vertically dominates most of the surrounding trees. There won't be any 'outlets' to speak of, rather electricity will be rendered from dangerously exposed wires stretched many yards to the nearest rusted-but-miraculously-working transformer where the line is lost in an electrician's nightmare of spliced wires and unlabeled connectors.) For my part I admired the skill and symmetry with which he had engineered his mosquito net, remembering my own surprisingly arduous endeavors in the pursuit a functional sleeping guard amidst similarly unoblidging concrete walls we had in Mozambique.

The family invited me to stay with them for the remainder of my stay in Ushango. In retrospect I think I'd have been the better for the experience, but at the time I'd already paid my for my tent for all 4 days and the awkward silence that marked the majority of our interaction between 'Karibus' and 'Asante Saunas' heightened the insecurity and intimidation I felt in the face of our cultural divide. I was also still leery of any unaccountable offers of generosity from my experience with the city touts. I paid for dinner, which Baker seemed embarrassed to tell me was 1600 Tsh instead of the 1200 he had originally conjectured ($1.30 instead of $1); the price apparently have gone up when the cook learned that I was white. I asked Baker where I might find chapattis for breakfast in the morning. He told me that I would have chapattis with his family in the morning. 'This time' he told me, 'No pay. You eat here.' The idea made me a bit nervous, but we agreed to the time and I returned to Divers where I grabbed a beer (which cost more than my entire seafood dinner) and a book.

I was embarrassed when after only a few minutes of reading, I looked up and realized that Richard, who was sitting with Sam just two tables down (in an almost empty bar), had been very audibly beckoning me for the last 20 seconds or so. By this time in the night (nearly 830) I was rather tired and not only had I failed to notice the pair when I sat down, but my brain simply was not responding to my newly adopted nick name, especially when not when uttered without the African emphasis of projection coming from the front of the mouth. I was immediately forgiven my rudeness, aided I think by a number of anteceding drinks, and the rest of the evening was inhabited by good conversation. (This section of the blog has been moved to my blog for sensitive materials)

Breakfast at Baker's was very good. It was just me and him and his friend eating though, not the whole family as I originally imagined. I guess the girls don't eat with the men in this culture. I remember this being the case in the Masai community we worked with when I went to Kenya with the Bethel mission team in 2006. Breakfast was delicious and filling, very characteristic of chapattis, though a bit sandy. I was offered an exquisite juice concoction made from an almost sour tasting fruit, the name of which I've forgotten. After breakfast I snorkeled. I didn't want to pay the $50 to go out on the boat to the good snorkeling so I just went out during low tide. I saw a few fish and some other sea stuff for which I haven’t the knowledge to name. The tide was a bit too low when I went out and I was more crawling across the ocean floor with my hands and feet than swimming, holding my midsection aloft while submerging my masked face into the underwater world upon which I was so awkwardly imposing myself. This crawling with my head underwater was not ideal and I was paranoid of disturbing the fragile life formations around me, especially such a life formation as had specially adapted to discourage being disturbed via mechanisms of punitive retribution. The formation of the sea floor was such that sand-bottom channels, 2-3 feet deep and a little less wide, made a labyrinth of twisting, arching canyons cutting through seaweed-topped tables of sand and coral. Crawling through these canyons limited severely the capacity of my vision to ascertain my surroundings. I was especially alarmed whenever I found myself in proximity of a sea urchin (I think that is what they are called). These immobile creatures call to mind some terribly destructive atomic force that one might find illustrated in a Japanese anime cartoon. The particular kind that I encountered were solid black, bodies the size and shape of a softball, with great 15inch-long needles protruding from it from every direction. I don't know whether these menacing looking objects have any toxic properties to speak of but I dare say I'd have been as comfortable swimming amongst underwater mines.

I saw Sam swimming just in front of the resort. He was imploring the attention of Richard who was reading a book on in one of the hammocks. Once attention was achieved, Sam proceeded to lie still in the water. Richard explained to me that he had been giving Sam swimming lessons and at the moment Sam was showing off his mastery of the floating technique. I baulked that someone having grown up so near the ocean had yet to learn to swim. I recalled a line from Life of Pi that said something about those living nearest the ocean think most peculiarly of people who choose to swim in it. I wanted to ask Sam some questions about the area and proceeded to join him in his exercise.
(Sensitive Part)
Sam was more than willing to divulge information about himself and the area. He wanted me to know that in fact he actually did smoke.
"I am a Rasta! Of course I smoke!" There were in fact a number of things that Richard didn't know about Sam, like his girl friend in Dar Salem, the trips he often made about the country, much the company he kept, the jobs he worked. Richard was in fact led to believe only the things that Sam conjectured were most conducive to stimulating Richard's favor and support. Many aspects of this affected personship, like marijuana abstention, were eventually found to be unnecessary, but once established could not be revoked lest the character inconsistency be offensive. Later I went with Sam and Baker to a shop down the road where Sam purchased some weed and we smoked it behind the shop with the chickens.
(End Sensitive Part)

Later still we went to the Turtle hatching. Everyone in the area, tourists and locals alike, maybe 100 people total, came to see the well-advertised turtle hatching. Environmentalists had started a program earlier in the year in which sea turtle nests from a nearby sandbar were relocated to the mainland where they would hatch. The reason offered for this transportation was that global warming had rapidly contributed the ongoing disappearance of the sandbar and that turtles now born on the sandbar, upon returning to the exact place of birth in 50 years to continue the cycle of existence, would find their future nesting place underwater. Events for the hatchings were held in order to garner cooperation for the local (i.e. please don't steal and eat/sell our eggs) and support from the tourists (money, please). Myself, I was rather impressed that they had so accurately predicted the date and time of the hatching. I guess Sea turtles are pretty consistent creatures. Sam showed up rather drunk and was eager to display his recently acquired knowledge of environmental sciences by challenging some of the practices of the event leaders. A white lady walked up to him, rebuked him, and told him if he didn't settle down he would have to leave. Sam left rather offended. I don't know what he had said in Swahili but I was disinclined to believe it had really earned him such a reproach and I was uncomfortable whenever the lady came near me. The hatchlings were small and awkward and as cute as might have been expected and surprisingly quick once in the water. I noticed one white family with small children amongst the throng of observers. The children were chatting excitedly in Swahili, the two youngest were not wearing any clothes.

On the way back from the hatching Baker introduced me to his friend John. That night we all smoked and drank and talked, except Baker and John who wouldn't drink because they were Muslim.

The next morning I packed and paid my bills. Baker and John helped me get some andazi for the road. I gave them my Buddha book which they received with expressive gratitude and upon their request we all took photos together with the camera on my US phone. Baker and John refused the gift of money I offered them but they accepted some non-monetary tokens of our friendship. After a final dip in the Indian Ocean I hopped on my bicycle and rode into the sunset, thus ending my time in Ushango and the content of this blog.

Baker and John

Me, Baker, and his Witch-doctor grandmother

The witchdoctor and her menacing grin

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Late night sermon

a story. about good stuff. I once did something wrong. actually I didn't. But I was very much led to believe that I did. I rather decided that whatever it was that I did or didn't do I certainly don't want to know exactly what it was. Because that would hurt. I don't know why this should be the case, but there's not a soul in the world that could convince me otherwise. Except of course Jesus. That is what I imagine Jesus is for actually. I wish. I wish a lot actually. It's quite a bit easier than living. Wishing doesn't hurt too bad, but it doesn't make me very happy either. In fact it makes me quite unhappy. I think thats what wishing is for actually, to make you unhappy. Because when your unhappy you change. And when you change, well, you live. and living is what life is all about. When you live you are. Why is it then that life is so often unpleasant? Is it only because we have confused living with wishing? I believe I have done this. But I only wish because I find living itself so very difficult. This difficulty is a strange thing. I envy the people who do not experience this difficulty. They do exist. I have seen them. They are the ones that are happy. But they have difficulties. They're difficulties are unfathomable to me though. Their difficulties come from outside themselves. For these people living is the most natural thing in the world. They cannot fathom doing anything else. I'm trying to get somewhere here, but I'm getting distracted. distraction is the ... I have got it. Jesus is supposed to remove the difficulty. "My yoke is light" Jesus said that. The difficulty is a fear. A fear of losing control. An addiction to control. Because living and controlling are incompatible. You cannot do both. That would be like wishing and living. This is the dichotomy of good and evil. The two trees in Eden were the tree of 'knowledge' of good and evil and the tree of 'life'. The tree of 'knowledge' of good and evil introduced to mankind the ability to control. The devil was right about becoming like God, because God is in control. Except that God is infinite and we are not. So when we control we lose precious life, because we choose 'knowledge' over 'life'. When we control we sin. They are the same thing. Control and sin. Sin is separation from God. God is Love. Love is Life. In order to control something you have to step outside of it. To control our lives we have to step outside of our lives, outside of the present moment and think about the future or the past, how to learn from one so as to determine the other. To control our lives we have to stop living. We can't live and control at the same time, it is one or the other. Control is like acting outside of faith. Faith is awareness of the ultimate reality of God. Presence. Presence Presence. Oh you Christians. You sinners. You murder the God want to worship by calling yourself a Christian, by acting like a Christian, by 'living' like a Christian. Just live live live. God is love, God is life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Night in Khongoloti

My last night at Khongolote. Today I talked to the pastor about staying here another week. He said that he needed to talk to his wife about it, but I couldn't foresee any reason why they'd object so I was pretty confident that I'd be accepted. Kote and Miguel came to visit me. Kote was supposed to come yesterday. They both said they were very busy yesterday. Today they had nothing to do though apparently, so they walked here. We took a chapa to the internet cafe. I will miss chapa's very very much when I leave. We took an open chapa (a little two seater Toyota pickup truck) to Benfica. I've ridden open chapas several times since I've been here though they are technically illegal (especially for white people who are specifically targeted by police in hopes of earning a bribe), my favorite so far being the great big lorry, piled high with maize and charcoal and bearing several tethered goats and chickens, that Levi and I rode into Chimoio back in June; but today's experience was novel in its combination of far too-many people in far too rickety a truck on far too treacherous a road. Treacherous might be a bit of a hyperbole, but it was a really bouncy ride. We caught our ride early enough to earn seats around the edge of the bed, but after we took up the last sitting spots the rest of passengers piling in had to stand in the middle, balancing themselves with whatever they could hold on to, which usually happened to be the heads and shoulders of the passengers seated precariously on the edge of the pickup. For most of the trip I found myself leaning as far in as the girth of my fellow standing passengers in the middle allowed, with one hand trying to grip the side of the pickup directly beneath my rear-end while the other had nothing to hold on to except my own knee. There was a lady with a hand on my shoulder and a hand on the should of Kote who was seated next to me, and another lady with her hands on my head (well padded these days with hair that hasn't been cropped for 6 months) and other shoulder. I'm pretty sure they were both flirting with me. The effect of the bumpy road was such that I spent a quarter of the trip in mid-air, and the rest focusing every muscle and balance-related synapse against my two admirers who seemed with every bump and jostle intent upon ejecting me from the vehicle. At the internet cafe I helped Kote and Miguel reset forgotten facebook passwords and we took turns lying to each other about which of the pretty girls in our friend-list have been our girlfriends.
Finding my way back by myself through that 4 mile grid of narrow, crooked, unlabeled streets had me lost for 1/2 hour but I eventually ran into a pastor who knew of the orphanage and happened to be heading for his church which was very near by and conveniently just a little ways beyond. Back at the compound Pastor Kawende told me that in fact there were more visitors coming tomorrow and so I would indeed need to vacate the next day in order to make room for them. The rest of the night, excluding a break for dinner, was spent with the children listening and dancing to Regina Specktor. They were especially fond of Specktor's hit song, Fidelity, which they called 'Ajuda Mai Mai!' (Portuguese for 'Help Mommy') because of its similarity in pronunciation with the bridge's reputation of the phrase "I hear in my mind..." They sang along with perfect unison, 'Ah-zhoo-da my my...'
I will probably miss Khongoloti more than any other place I've been in Africa so far, except maybe the coast. The kids here are unequaled in my experience. I'm not a kid person by any means, but I like these kids, most of them. Jito is often a brat and gets into tantrums that he unleashes against older kids who justly return his blows and accentuate the drama, but he is also small enough that I can toss him nearly 15ft in the air, with an 80% degree of confidence in being able to catch him properly on the way down. Phalish is another brat that refuses to touch the replacement toothbrush he was given upon the occasion of his losing his old one, but he lets me brush his teeth as I pretend to admonish him in Chinese (the children are all convinced that 'Mano Jack' [which is me (mano means 'brother' in the religious sense here)] speaks fluent Chinese. While we work together on the grounds, the children teach me words in Shongana and I, in turn, teach them words in Chinese. They are learning very quickly.) I don't know but that Neide (or Ned as I call him) gets me the worst. Ned simply doesn't belong here. I know that none of the kids belong here, but Ned, Ned doesn't have a depraved synapse in his nervous system. I can't find words that give justice to the fortitude of his countenance. He never ever portrays any of the malicious, sadistic or selfish tendencies that nearly all children, even the most well brought-up, have to learn to out-grow later in life. He is happy and content all of the time, except of course when he falls victim to one of the other children's violent pranks, which usually includes a slap to the back of the head, a firm kick to the rear or an unprovoked snatching of whatever might presently be holding his attention. In these cases he admonishes his assailant in the cutest possible terms, and after taking whatever immediate course of retribution might me available to him (usually nothing) he returns to being engrossed in the beauty of life around him. He often has to seek the refuge of isolation in far areas of the yard as some of the kids find his unguarded ways too tempting to resist provocation (To be fair to the others, fighting is easily the premiere source of entertainment at the center and all such provocation is as much an invitation to engage in the fun as it is an expression of egotistical dominance. Neide himself is not one to shy away from a good melee, though more often than not he ends up at the bottom of the fray) I observe him when I can, emerged in the wonderful little world that he lives in, peaceful and content but never dull. Happiness as I can not even imagine. Oh that I could know, but I am sure that I never shall. For Ned, life itself is good, every moment (when he is not being antagonized) is a good moment, it’s also somehow new and fresh for him. How? How has he so easily achieved what I have spent the last 5 years trying to know? Sometimes he notices me observing him. He looks at me and smiles, aware of being observed but not self-consciously suspicious of or even concerned with what I might be thinking about him. I always hope that he will invite me into his world with him, introduce me to life as it is or should be or can be I don't know. I hope that he will let me stay with him in this better world and that all that I have ever desired will present itself to me with perfect sufficiency and I can say 'Thank you Ned, I've found what I've been looking for'. But Ned doesn't share his world with me. He knows better. He is not distant by any means. He gets along with the other kids gleefully when they are not being sinister. He doesn't hesitate to be a buddy to the bratty Phalish (though the latter is often one of his tormentors) when all the other boys are teasing him for crying over a toothbrush. But only Ned can see what he sees. The rest of us are stuck in our frustratingly Newtonian worlds where only proper application of force and manipulation can achieve anything. And perhaps its better that way. I'd hate to see what I or anyone else would do with Ned's world if we had the chance. I just wish we could take all the Neds in the world and ship them to the same carefully preserved place, like an island or a national park. Then the rest of us could travel there on our vacation time to see the exotic species of Happy Human Beings. I would apply for a job as a park ranger and stringently enforce the "Please do not slap, kick, or in anyway abuse/provoke the Happy People" signs. I should also mention that Ned is also ill. Bethany suspects that he might have aids (his parents died of aids) and he seems to be perpetually with a cold or cough or something. His nose is always running and he is always sniffling. My Happy People Park would have an excellent healthcare system.

Antonio is one of the other kids that I would like to send to my Happy Human Reservation. He is 11 and a bit small for his age and he takes endless flak from his compatriots for being so unguardedly himself, but he never takes it to heart. The kid glows and makes fun of himself right along with the others. If he were in America he would be the coolest kid on the planet because he has the best sense of humor and the most becoming personality, but here in Mozambique, at the orphanage, he is near the bottom of the pack because he does not possess the will to dominate. Who the fuck set up this world up? I have some serious bones to pick. How on Earth did God neglect to create the Happy Family Robinson Island? Antonio and Ned deserve to live in an awesome treehouse with perfect parents on a gorgeous island with other exotic creatures. Somebody seriously fucked up and it wasn't Antonio or Ned so to hell with original sin. I guess it was me wasn't it? That's what we all both want and don't want to believe. It was me. It was me. We all both want and don't want to be selfish. We all both want and don't want all the responsibility, all the blame, all the power. It’s what we all want and don't want. We all want and don't want to be Jesus. The human dichotomy is not all or nothing, its all and nothing. Give up your life so that you can have life. This tension and our awareness of it defines us as human beings. We are everything and we are not.


Kids in front of Church


Jito dominating phalish

Ned with bananas in both hands

More Kids

Shtelyoo the beautiful one (This image does not do justice)

The kids engaging in their favorite activity, fighting (That's Ned being stretched like a medieval torture victim)

I don't know this one



Ned breakdancing

Something from Khongoloti

Yesterday I exited my quarters in the morning to find that the imaginative and competitive play which I have by now become quite familiar with in the form of uninhibited shrieks just outside my window some hours before I finally decide to wake myself, was presently engaged in by a troop of 8-3 year-olds ceremoniously dressed for bath time. The children here are bathed two at a time by the Mozambique Tias ('Aunts' in Portuguese) that work here but for some reason, perhaps out of solidarity or maybe just simplicity on behalf of the Tia's, they all uniformly adorn their birthday suits from the get-go and stay that way till after they've all been bathed. The grandeur of their attire, fit indeed to decorate the most famously suggestible of emperors, exercised no noticeable influence over their behavior, and the careless festivities of their everyday youth were carried out blissfully unhindered by the vain conscience of self-perception. It's not uncommon in these parts to witness children mindlessly enduring utter exposure, but the scene of 15 or so naked 8-3 year olds tromping about the area that serves as one's front porch was novel enough to commit to this journal.

Later that day I returned from my participation in the construction work to find two or three of the smaller children seemingly engrossed with a new play-thing. As I neared, the leader of the pack exultantly displayed for me their precious new entertainment source and I beheld in his miniature fingers a brightly colored florescent green arranha approximately the size of a US 50cent piece ('arranha' [if I spelled it right] is the Portuguese word for spider). The unfortunate creature was caught by one of its excessive appendages and was futilely (I hope) endeavoring to sink his fangs into the child's surprisingly resilient skin. The child received unremmitent delight from releasing his victim and, unexpectedly at first, watching it float just below his arm on an invisible string. The mixture of fear and ecstasy audibly emitted from the child upon first discovering that instead of following the expected gravity-inspired trajectory toward the ground the spider preferred a lofty position hovering just in front of the child's belly and would in fact pursue this notion of proximity upon any attempt by the surprised child to retreat was indelibly satisfying to observe. Children have a knack for presenting the essence of life unguised. More experimentation unveiled the mechanism of the creature’s magical powers and the child triumphantly expostulated to me 'cordel!' 'cordel!' which means twine or string in Portuguese. Having determined that any likely danger inherent in ongoing scenario was either too far past due to currently exist (i.e. the spider being dangerously venomous) or else (as in the case of the spider's clearly broken leg) already manifested, I left the children to further quiz their prey's survival mechanisms.