Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Jenn's Garden & Chickens

Jenn’s Garden

I’m sore, blistered, and very dirty, but I feel great. I’m finally starting my garden! I made a 13.5m x 6.5m plot right beside our house. The ground is still being prepared, but I planted my seeds in cereal boxes today. My garden will be mainly for vegetables, those that we can’t buy locally, but I’m also working on putting more green plants and flowers around our yard. I had Bill and Filipe cut up fuel drums and I’m cleaning and painting them to be flower pots.

The whole thing might fail. I mean, it’s an experiment, what more can you expect. The hardest part about this project is the 100 people watching. All our employees and neighbors out in Guija, and then my bosses in Maputo. Will it work? I can’t really explain it, but there’s something in this that means more to me than just a healthier diet. When God comes through, then maybe I’ll be able to articulate it. But I feel a combination of trepidation and expectation, of fear and faith. And I’m excited to watch a larger principle play out, as in Ezekiel 36:34-35: “The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden….’” But then, who knows what God may want to teach me in this. It still may not work.


Midnight, who turns out to be female, has been laying eggs all around our house and yard. Maria, our cook, was trying to explain this to me yesterday, that they had found an egg in Bill’s room and then April’s room, and as I explained it in wonderment to Bill, we watched Midnight half-squat and lay another one in the courtyard! I never expected to actually see a hen (in ‘hindsight’) in the process of laying an egg, but there it was. If you couldn’t see that shell, you’d think she was constipated. She doesn’t have a nest, and frankly we don’t know how to make one. And maybe we don’t really want to, because if you’ve gone to the trouble of collecting them in one place and protecting that fragile first moment from the harsh reality of concrete, what do you do with them? If we’re not allowed to eat the mother, are we allowed to eat the children?
But at the very least we are more careful to keep our bedroom doors shut now, because an egg-laying hen is more dangerous than just any old chicken wandering through the house. That first day felt like an Easter egg hunt. I started to wonder if maybe that’s how they did it originally, just let a hen ready to fire go loose through the house, or if they were wiser, the yard.

When we told April she exclaimed, “So that explains why the rooster attacked her yesterday!” And indeed, the rooster has been hanging around a lot lately. I never thought about this aspect of chicken life. I’m not sure I want to.

And on a related note, here’s my new song (guess what it’s called?):
*The colors indicate tune, but some of it’s spoken as well, in a very droll tone of voice, of course.

Chicken, chicken, chicken and rice
With a lot of oil and a bit of spice
And if you’re lucky, maybe a carrot slice
Chicken, chicken, chicken and rice!

Monday, it’s chicken and rice
Tuesday, it’s chicken and rice
Wednesday, it’s chicken and rice
Thursday, beef and fries
And then it’s Friday, and big surprise,
We’re back to chicken and rice!

Rice, rice, rice and chicken
Greasy goodness, finger lickin’
All that skin’ll make your heart stop tickin’
Rice, rice, rice and chicken

And here’s my ode to green beans
I pay homage to those elusive things
Please, can we have some vegetais??
Huh? What more could you want than chicken and rice??

Chicken, chicken, chicken and rice
--Yes, those skinny, pooping things outside—
And if that fails to entice,
Just put it on top of boiled white rice!

But be glad that you’re in Guija--
‘Cuz in the field it’s goat and xima;
And then you’ll be thinkin’, wouldn’t it be nice
Just to go back to chicken and rice!

A p.s. on that—I think our house staff got wind of it, I don’t know if they saw it in my room or it was leaked. As Maria was talking to me the day after I wrote it, she was teasing me about these very things, and I started saying to myself, “This sounds very parallel to a certain song I wrote…” I don’t know, maybe it’s just a coincidence. The fact is, and I did my best to assure her of this, that I still really like chicken and rice, and the figurative Thursday is my least favorite day. (Though that was just a fake schedule in case you’re wondering.)

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Here’s what I’ve learned this week:

Mercy, or meeting people in need like the Good Samaritan did in Luke 10:25-37 is a discipline and a habit, not just a gift. I don’t think this is an area that comes naturally to me—I’m usually uncomfortable because I don’t know how to help effectively. And I tend to turn away.

This week I have had the privilege of being forced to grow in mercy. A very old blind beggar recently camped out in our yard, just sitting there for hours singing to himself in between naps. The other day I walked out of the office to see a woman lying facedown in our driveway. Today I noticed a boy had been sitting on our back wall since the night before because he had run away from home.*

I think I’ll keep my failures and successes to myself, and let you fill in the actions yourself—choose your own adventure, sort of.

One thing that helped me this week was the time factor. In America the mercy situations we’re faced with usually come and go very quickly, while driving through an intersection. In Africa they last all day.

But anyway, I am definitely growing in the discipline of mercy— thinking especially on the actions of the Good Samaritan and choosing to do at least something, and then being creative to find something that is both practical and loving. And the good news I’ve found is that as this discipline becomes a habit, and your creativity produces results, it gets a little easier and more natural to help.

*I hope you can imagine and appreciate all the pros and cons aid workers face in making decisions to help outside of their already-set-up programs.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Hot Weather

Well, it’s hot. This week was the turning point. Even the locals are feeling it. I’m doing okay so far, but it is nice to have the air conditioning in our living room. I’m interested to see how much hotter it gets. And how deep into shock my body will go when I go home for Christmas!

We don’t have a thermometer—apparently they’re hard to find—what’s the point? is the general feeling, I guess. But you know North Americans—the difference between 31 degrees Celsius and 32 degrees is a difference worth knowing.

Every statistic on the weather I read before coming here, and even have seen locally, is blatantly understated. The hottest month is January, and in print the average high is something like 87 degrees Fahrenheit, while my colleagues swear it regularly gets up near 110. So I’ve been trying to figure out whether it’s a conspiracy by the tourist department, or whether the government invested in a small parcel of Icelandic or Antarctic property just to bring the national average down. That would be a good idea, don’t you think?

As you can see, I am caught in between Fahrenheit and Celsius. I’m in that confused no-man’s land, the same that I experience when looking at a road or trying to find the passenger’s side of a car. Growing up right next to Canada, I thought I was pretty comfortable with Celsius, but I realized today that I only know the equivalents of Pacific Northwest temperatures—11 degrees Celsius equals 52 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m lost up in the 20’s and 30’s!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Cape Town Capers

Here’s what I learned on my vacation in Cape Town:

  • A vacation over-analyzed is no vacation at all. Are we having fun yet? How ‘bout now? Should we be having more fun? Except now change all those “we”s to “I”s. Because “We” is a classic preventative to over-analysis.
  • Asking yourself “How pathetic am I being right now?” doesn’t help.
  • Having a sense of humor about all of this over-analysis helps a lot.
  • Any benefits for parallel-parking gained by renting a small car are negated by manual steering.
  • Though I made it okay, it would probably be wise to at least have directions to the hotel the next time I’m in a new city in a foreign country on the opposite side of the road in a manual steering rental car.
  • I should have spent more time on the beaches, driving through the countryside, hanging out in the small towns. Maybe next time I’ll stay in a small town on the beach, instead of in the city, especially if I’m by myself.
  • Everything is closed on Sundays, even the coffee shops. This was a disappointment, because being from Seattle, this is what you do on Sundays. That IS rest.
  • South Africans are quite friendly to strangers/customers.
  • I like planetariums.
  • I think South Africa mass-produces its tourist items on a national scale, because I’ve seen the same things in 3 different places across the country, and it’s next to impossible to find a T-shirt without game animals on it, even in Cape Town.
  • Cape Town is quite a bit chillier than Guija. I wore my warmest outfit 5 days in a row.
  • The next time I need to take a picture of myself, I should crash a tourist group (I encountered a Chinese-French business group, but didn’t have enough guts to pull this off)—after a longsuffering member has snapped every other individual with his own camera in front of whatever point of interest, I should just hand him my camera too, and smile shamelessly.I might make more of an effort next time to have a travel companion, but on the other hand, it really wasn’t so bad. The Cape was definitely worth it, and after being back a few days I liked my vacation more.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Cape Town Adventure

Though I haven't written out my thoughts yet on my solo adventure to Cape Town, here are some pictures. It's an amazing place, well worth visiting even if no one else will go with you.

Cape Town Signpost

Cape Point

Cape Town Beach

Jenn at Cape Point

Roundabout, hotel & Table Mountain

My car

View from Table Mountain

Vineyard View

In the neighborhood - photo

Jennifer & the gang

In the neighborhood - photo

Backyard Twilight

In the neighborhood - photo


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Chickens, chickens, chickens

The other night the power went out at around dinner time, and didn’t come back on until noon the next day. During this time the water mysteriously disappeared as well. I thought the gas would probably be next, but I was wrong—it was the cable, which won’t come back on until at least Monday or whenever someone in Maputo goes to pay for a new subscription.

But while the lights were out, I had a nice time sitting out on the steps next to our pet chickens, looking at the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. The Milky Way really is milky—I think that’s kind of weird, personally. Midnight and Lefty think so, too.

We inherited these chickens from the boss’s 8-year-old daughter and we’re prohibited from eating them. The house staff thinks we’re positively out of our minds for keeping chickens as pets, and then they don’t understand why we don’t want them in the house. So we often will find one or both chickens wandering through the hallway or popping into the living room to say hi. Sometimes they’ll come into the screened porch during devotions in the morning; they plop right down and listen respectively, then at the last “Amen” they jump up and start wandering around again.

I’ve told their previous caretaker that no matter what her parents say, she can’t have any more chicks unless she’s willing to let us eat them after she’s through. We can’t have a ranch for un-eatable chickens. I do like them, though, I guess. Being so isolated from friends and family, it’s comforting to have something to be affectionate towards, even if it is a chicken. Although I do find my thoughts wandering around questions like “How long is the natural life-span of a chicken?” and “If it dies, will we be able to eat it then, or will it be diseased or just too tough?” Because they’re nice-looking chickens, well-fed and happy.

Maybe if they get run over by a car… not that I’m hoping for this, but that would probably be the best solution for eating some good chicken, unlike our usual scrawny, bare, pathetic sit-and-poop chickens from a cage. Cars go by at crazy speeds, and last month April and I were just standing out front and totally saw a chicken (this one was wild, I think) fall victim to a hit-and-run. No external wounds, and the chicken was still alive at first, with the presence of mind to get off the road, but then it laid down and died right on the steps of our office. Pre-tenderized, too.

So in case you’ve been keeping track, I’ve just formed chickens into three classes:
  1. Midnight and Lefty, and other fat, juicy, well-fed and happy chickens (of which I’ve only seen one other—yes, we were driving along, saw it on the side of the road, and both of us yelled, “Hey look at that fat chicken! That’s some good eatin’!”);
  2. Market-bought chickens, described above; and
  3. Random chickens, in between the first two in quality, and which might be wild or someone’s livestock but just wander around town with no owners in sight.

Among this last class is also a turkey and a rooster, who do no help to those who sleep lightly, clucking all night. The rooster is said to start really crowing at 6:20 each morning, but lately has been drifting earlier and earlier at about 3-minute increments each day. The turkey, well if we haven’t found an owner by Thanksgiving….

Chickens, chickens, chickens - photo

Lefty, Paul & Midnight