Saturday, December 7, 2013

Life as I know it.

I’ve been asked more than once in the last few weeks what I do all day. Am I catching babies? Am I studying? Working? What?

The answer to that is simple; I do whatever needs to be done.

Some days it requires action with meetings, shopping, working, and such. On other days it requires less action and more prayer and a pulling aside to seek His face.

What do I mean? Well... let’s look at this week for example. It has been an unusual week in some regards, but not so unusual as you might guess.

Here goes:

Sunday: Wake early for housework and Bible study, then scoot off to church. Church is a loud, happy ruckus and we find ourselves sharing testimonies of Thanksgiving in honor of the Oh-so-American holiday a few days before. Lunch is a quick sandwich which I eat over my computer, trying to catch up on emails and back-logged everything. But the heat of the day makes much of the afternoon impossible. I find myself planting seeds on used egg trays and praying something will grow.

Monday: Wake early to talk with Jesus. So much to do. Today is a shopping day in Chimoio (a 45 min drive away) for construction supplies. I’m supposed to get the sheets of wood (if I can find them), paint, and concrete to complete some of the clinic repairs coming up next week. By mid-morning, I’ve completed the shopping but am disappointed to find out that the truck we rented to carry our supplies back to Maforga fell through. Something about a strike of bus drivers keeping all the major trucks out of circulation for fear of police retaliation, etc.

Disappointed but unfazed, I move on. The truck will pick up my supplies the next day. But I have something else in mind for this week. I have to go to Maputo to follow up on my clinic papers. So I buy a bus ticket to Maputo which leaves in the wee hours of the morning. I take the bus since it’s so much cheaper than flying, and since the highway is open again. Finally. Ticket in hand, I return home to pack and close up my house for the week. Later that night (achem at 2 am actually), I return to Chimoio to catch the bus.

Tuesday: Travel from 3:30am to 10pm on a cramped, swaying bus which has been modified to fit more travelers than the manufacturer ever intended by squeezing them in makeshift seats in the aisle. Elbows rub ribs, knees knock against seats, butt cheeks cramp continually. Every inch of it is crammed with boxes, backpacks, and people. We inch painfully toward our destination but with the periodic stops (to pee alongside the road) and the massive potholes the advance is slow. Achingly slow. Finally we arrive in Maputo. I step out of the bus into torrential rain, find a cab, and make it to the youth hostel in time to find it still awake and bustling. I fall asleep in a dorm room with backpackers and vagabonds from all over the world. Sleep fitfully.

Wednesday: Rise early to prepare for the day. I have to return to the Ministry of Education to follow up on my application for my degrees to be approved. I tried for two weeks to follow up by phone but the number they gave me was ‘offline’ or ‘out of service’ each time I called. Thus the need to go to Maputo in the first place. I catch the bus to bounce through the capital’s streets, it’s glaringly clear not many foreigners take the bus. I’m conspicuously white but happy not to pay the outrageous fees for a cab ride there.

The office staff remember me well and ask if I was able to drive down. When I told them I had to come by bus they are surprised the highway is open again... but more surprised I took the cross-country bus in the first place. When the clerk asks why I didn’t call first, I informed them the number never worked and I had no choice but to follow up in person. Then I’m quickly informed that my papers are still being processed. However, on closer review only one was sent to be done. I ask that my second degree be processed and it is submitted immediately... but it still won’t be completed for another week.

The rest of the day is spent trying to stretch out my cramped legs in a street cafe full of smoking Portuguese and the occasional street vendor. I buy a newspaper off one of them and learn that the Ministry of health is inviting all NGOs working in the health sector to a planning and cooperation meeting the next morning. Do I stay and attend? A few phone calls to my team back at Maforga and it’s unanimous; they all think I should attend. I decide to postpone my return a day and attend it. I return to the backpacker hostel I’m staying in with a can of tuna and a piece of bread for dinner. I sleep well but the guy in my dorm room is too chatty for deep rest. I fall asleep late and wake up the next morning exhausted.

Thursday: I breakfast early and freshen up quickly to make it to the 8:30 am meeting in time. But when I get there, only three men in suits are waiting with me. The meeting room is set up for at least 60 people... and in the adjoining room movement for some kind of lunch is being prepared. But where are all the people? An hour goes by and only one more person arrives. I decide more coffee is needed for this kind of rigamarole but when I return, only one more person has arrived. I leave to get my book back at the hostel, ready to wait it out. But when I return, I find none of the original crew there. In their place, two new men with stacks of papers are shuffling around the room, looking rushed. Finally, I ask someone when this is suppose to start indicating that the notice on the wall said it started at 9am. She tells me it isn’t supposed to start until 11 am and smiles. Ugh! I leave.

Frustrated. I go have an early lunch in disgust and wait another hour or so. When I return, the room is full and everyone’s introducing themselves. The meeting is okay... but not what I expected. By 1:30 pm, I’ve had enough and head home. Feels like a complete waste of time. I finished up a few emails, then rush off to get my bus ticket home.

I’m not sure where I’m going so I go early to scope it out and buy my ticket. Two hours later, I have my bus ticket in hand and am feeling quite accomplished. I return to the backpackers to pick up my bags, eat a quick dinner, and head out again. But this time the traffic isn’t as bad and I make it to the station in only a half hour. It’s 9pm and I’m ready for bed. But with the constant comings and goings on the bus, more fitful sleep on stone hard seats awaits me. At 3:30 am we take off in a rumble of engines and diesel fumes.

Friday: Basically, the reverse of Tuesday. More cramped seats. More potholes. More street vendors through the cracked bus window. Fitful and cramped sleep. But when we get to the spot in the highway that has been under attack by the RENAMO forces, there are more delays than usual. This is the stretch of road that has the periodic rebel attacks and therefore must be patrolled by the military.

As we arrive, we are told there had been some shooting around noon and we might have to wait until morning to pass through. Discouraged but with nothing left to do but wait. We sit curbside and chat. I meet a darling granny named Teresa Maria with a unique story (which I might tell another time) and we look for water together. The water we find is salty, but still wet. She drinks it. I don’t.

After 2 hours of waiting, the convoy arrives and we are allowed to cross into the heavily guarded stretch of brush, but we must wait another hour or so before the escort is ready. The soldiers usher us through the 100 km stretch, stopping now and again to walk --guns at their shoulders-- ready for combat. Because of these delays, we arrive in two hours instead of one.

Once safely passed, our bus driver starts praising the Lord over and over again marking his praise with progressively louder “Hallelujahs”. More driving. More stopping. I make it back by 9:30 pm and am thoroughly worn out. I’m welcomed back to news of a possibility that RENAMO has been suspected of scoping us out in hopes of attacking the clinic for our outdated meds and linens. (More about that later.) I go to sleep --once again-- fitfully.

Saturday (today): I wake rested, but late. I spend my morning in my pajamas since the on and off rain storms have cooled my cabin to a slight chill. The lush and low clouds of mist invade my house and I feel protected. But in the distance, I can hear the sounds of preparations. Today is Maria’s wedding. (More about that later.) Maria is one of the orphans who has grown up at Maforga. She married a man named Manual, a widower almost twice her age and with four kids at home. A beautiful bride. A happy groom. A church full of dancing, food, and deafening keyboard music with the occasional (painful) speaker feedback. Ouch! Food was fabulous. Everyone leaves by 5pm with high spirits and full bellies.

This is what life looks like for me these days. This is what life is like... as I know it. 

I share it with you so you might pray. Please pray for perseverance and a drive to move forward in all He asks --day after day. Pray also that I would not grow weary in doing good, and that I’d have more wisdom and patience in the details... and not get distracted along the way. Also pray, that I’d find a way to avoid those silly buses in the future. Ha!