Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trees and a Party

August 4, 2012 – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

I peek through the door which divides customs at the airport from the waiting area and I spy my friend Lisa who is visiting us for a few days.  My heart is happy as I know that Lisa will get to see the work AFCA does first-hand and that she will enjoy her time here. Like Jodi, she is easy going, ready to do anything and to eat anything.  It will be a nice stay, I am sure.

We have so much to do in the next few days! 

August 5, 2012 – Matopos, Zimbabwe

After church, we pack up a picnic lunch and head out to Matopos National Park in search of some animals and beauty.  Most of the Stambolies are with us, as well as Lennon and we are out for some adventure!  The drive is gorgeous and the sky is bluer than blue, expanding from one horizon to the next.  Breaking up the horizon are acacia trees -those loved by giraffes - looking valiant in the dry earth. They struggle for water, but somehow, still have greenish leaves in a landscape dominated by sand and brown earth.   I have found the trees in Zimbabwe to be beautiful, full of character and strength. With gnarled limbs and trunks, these old beauties house birds, big cats and insects, providing life to many.

During tea time, Juju and I walk off to take a potty break.  Hiding behind a rock, we believe we’ve found our perfect spot when I hear Juju say “we have a problem, mom” and I look up to see that we are situated between the rock (behind us) and a troop of baboons in front of us, on some more rocks.  We are literally between a rock and a hard place.  I convince J to remain quiet and to get on with business when suddenly, a fight breaks out between the baboons and we hear screaming behind us as Eric and the rest of our friends think we’ve been attacked by baboons.  I hear feet rushing towards us and all I can think of is “my pants are down!!”.  As we try to get ourselves organized as quietly as we can so as not to stress out the baboons even more, our friends worry that we aren’t popping out, telling them that we are ok.  But, we are just fine, my Juju and I.  We laugh together once again.

August 6, 2012 – Sizeze and Mayezane, Zimbabwe

We pile into the truck to do home visits and to make sure that the animals we’ve given out and beneficiaries are doing well.  Q drives us and there is an air of excitement as we head out to Mayezane and later, Sizeze. 

I am always amazed at how Q knows where to turn and which small path to take.  To me, each path looks the same and if dropped here, I’d be lost in 3 minutes.  I drive as Q tells me where to go, passing by trees, huts, fences, goat pens, and dust.  Unending dust. A grandmother comes out to greet us, wobbling on her aching feet, holding herself up with a cane.  She creeps over to her goat pen, smiling and laughing as she tells us that one of her goats has had a female baby.  These are welcome news, indeed!

As we visit different families, we hear the same story – babies are being born and the animals are doing well.  We are told how excited families are that their flocks are already growing and that they are benefitting from the milk and that their gardens are growing thanks to manure from the goats.  As we make our way back home, Q tells us that these visits are what encourages him. It makes him know with all certainty that this program is working, that it is changing lives and that it is of value.

August 7, 2012 – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Fiesta time!  Throughout the past two weeks Eric, Morgan and I have been making tortillas in preparation for this evening.  We’ve invited approximately 50 friends over for a Mexican goodbye party.  The day passes with us chopping tomatoes and onions, making guacamole, spicing ground beef, grating cheese, making Mexican rice, hanging a homemade piƱata the kids made (Chicken Joe), and decorating the yard.  We purchase wood for a fire and get ready to light it on a wheelbarrow so we can move it anywhere we want once we set up seats outside. 

Soon, 5:30pm is here and friends start arriving.  Juju and Ria stand at the gate welcoming everyone with a loud “bienvenidos!”.  In no time, the main house is streaming with people and everyone has a fabulous time with Gypsy Kings playing in the background and chocolate cake topping off the meal. 

How neat it is to have so many of our Zimbabwean friends joining us on this night!  We don’t say goodbye, but rather, “until we meet again”.  I look around the room and know I will miss these people terribly.  They’ve welcomed us into their homes and into their lives and we are grateful.

August 8, 2012 – Coronation, Zimbabwe

The dancing and singing start before we arrive at the meeting place where grandmas are waiting for us.  We make our way through a huge group of people who are waiting during a feeding program and I am grateful that we are not doing feedings in that way.  I firmly believe in development (unless the help is in response to an emergency) and am grateful that we are working on getting families to a place where they can help themselves. 

We arrive at our meeting place and join in the singing and dancing, clapping to the rhythm. Feeling incredibly welcomed, we sit with the grandma’s to discuss how their animals are faring and to plan for the garden pilot project. They each receive three packets of seeds and Aiden passes them out as each name is called.  I am so proud of these children of mine – how they have adapted, how they are growing up showing mercy and kindness, how they are not afraid simply because someone is different from them, how they eat foods which aren’t in their normal food repertoire, and how they willing to try new things.  The children have a blast visiting some of the grandmothers and children, holding newborn kids and petting older, cantankerous ones.

The day is long and we don’t get home until after 8pm.  Aiden and Juju are asleep by the time we return. I wish I were too, because I know tonight will be a long night. 

As we enter the cottage, we are faced with packed suitcases, suitcases needing the last minute items in them and a myriad other small things to be done. Up until close to midnight, we get it all done, saying over and over again how we really aren’t ready to go home yet.  We miss our families but we love the slower pace of life in Africa and the less focus on time.  I am not looking forward to hectic days but would rather be in place where I can get my work done without a ton of stress attached to it because of other outside stressors. 

 Zimbabwe has been a refuge this summer and I am grateful.

I want to do more for this country.  Will you help me by voting for a photo we have in a contest?  We have four days to bring the photo back to first place and to win.  All we need is for you to vote using your email address and to share on Facebook and email to your friends, asking them to do the same.  We have approximately $6000 riding on this contest, thanks to generous donors.  The link to vote is:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Having just returned from a mission trip to Central America, I realize now more than ever that Americans are the sole occupants of a large and shiny social bubble. If you’ll pardon the generalization, I’d say our concerns can sometimes be pretty narrow, limited to ourselves and more significantly our group, i.e. Americans. We buy glossy electronics for our children and friends. We fret that our upper and middle classes may have money unduly taxed away from them. We relegate to the back of our minds children and families around the world who struggle to survive and sometimes fail to.
A quick disclaimer—I’m not writing this blog entry to harp on material inequality. I’m certainly not going to say that a gigantic transfer of economic resources from rich countries to poor countries needs to happen, because if orchestrated blindly, with little or no cross-cultural interaction, such a transfer can never bring justice. Hopefully, we don’t expect money to solve problems like HIV/AIDS. No, my particular objection is to something much more terrible than global inequality, something that indeed fuels it.
My objection is to our suffocation of global neighborship, our shrunken definition of family. I object to our selective indifference. I object when, for example, the voices of countries such as Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are drowned out in global affairs. I object when children live through their favorite holidays without any gifts because no one with resources thought about those children. The unimpressive images that float into our heads when we visualize global poverty and disease are faceless, dark, far away, not real. Oftentimes we convince ourselves subconsciously that the world’s poor are ‘over there.’ They are outside. They are Other.
This tendency is human nature. It’s nothing to beat ourselves up about. But it is definitely something for us to realize and, better yet, to transcend. Because on a deeper level, we know that citizens of other countries are not beyond our concern. We know that they are in fact family, our brothers and sisters. We know that we are their Keepers, as they are ours.
Service is recognizing who is family. To serve someone, they must be real to us. We must place them in the same category that we place ourselves, the category worthy of our care and our attention. Objectively, that category is all-inclusive.
Therefore, I say Go. Get out, see the world and its people, and get to know them. Serve them, be there for them, and let them do the same for you. And then come back home, with something in your heart that feels a lot like selflessness, like freedom, like justice. Go.
The AFCA regularly sends people to Africa to interact with and improve the lives of children with AIDS and their biological(!) families. We would love for you to come and serve with us. Maybe, however, this is a commitment that you just can’t make. That’s perfectly understandable; there are a myriad of other ways for you to help your gigantic extended family out, and the AFCA is one of many pathways for your help. Whether you choose us or not, please serve as you are able. The rest of our family needs us. For more information on how to serve through the AFCA, visit our main website.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mopani Worms and the Weavers

August 1, 2012 - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Last week we were given a bag of Mopani worms because we were curious about them.  I'd heard that they are quite delicious and that they are easy to prepare and full of protein and everything that is good.  While I wasn't about to go running to pick them off the Mopani tree, I wasn't put off by the bag of worms we received.

The worms came to us dried up and shriveled in a plastic bag.
I ask Q what in the world to do with them since he is quite the fan of the "little fellows", as he calls them.  He asked his wife for the recipe and before I know it, my cell phone dings and the recipe is ready for me to use.  Today seems like worm-cooking weather (if there is such a thing), so I came home early from the office with a goal in mind.

Boiling the little fellows
First, we cook the "little fellows" for 5-8 minutes so that they get reconstituted.  Those suckers got plump and soft and it was really easy to see the neat colors on their back, which I had missed when they were shriveled up.  The water turns all sorts of brown, making me think about all the things worms tend to crawl through.  OK.  Not going to dwell on that!  Moving right along.  At the 8 minute mark, I take the worms off the stove stop and pour them into a strainer.  I heat up some oil and in they go. 

I fry them for what seems like an eternity, trying to get them crispy.  I don't want to burn them, so I keep flipping them over and over, making sure they get cooked on all sides.  Once I hear the sound of something crispy frying, it is time to put some salt on them and to pop them in our mouths.  Morgan and I give them a try and they aren't bad at all!  Aiden runs into the house (he's been outside all afternoon), asks what we are eating and decides he'd like to try them.  The kid loooves them!  He pops them in his mouth, chews, swallows, and asks for more. 

tasting the worms
A second recipe received from Q suggested cooking tomatoes with the fried worms, so I added tomato to half the fried worms. 

We prefer the original recipe, without the tomatoes.

I'm guessing the mopani worms were a hit for us.  Not something I'd order at a restaurant over filet mignon, but not something I'd turn my head to.  If I ever didn't want one, I know Aiden would eat his portion and mine, with no problem whatsoever.

worms with tomatoes
I hear Eric chomping on worms as I type.