acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Monday, December 7, 2009

of Schools and Ships and Hermit Crabs

As memories of mozambique time sail into the distance like a brightly coloured ship, I am bobbing on turbulent summer waters in a sea of green, while HMS Christmas Day steams steadily towards me, belching tinsel smoke and trailing streamers. She is on course, and will not be deterred.

But first – Mozambique. Getting there in pouring rain, that turned the national coastal road into a slippery slide of sloshy mud and potholes with drop-offs alongside to give you a full rush of vertigo. A narrow navigable strip in the center that had to be vied for with massive growling juggernauts hurtling confidently towards us. It was slow going, and it got dark, and the adventure would have gripped the imagination of any Play Station addict. But we made it. The rain became drizzle, the mud cleared and the traffic lessened as we drove further north.

Five hours on a bush track, and we were there. The warm sun sweeping away the remaining clouds, and the wide vista of aqua blues poured balm on knotted shoulders and necks. Paradise found.

First things first – down the boardwalk to the soft white sand. Dip toes in gentle silky wavelets. Greet the hermit crabs labouring through sand under water – leaving a tracery of tracks in dappled sunlight. Watch out for the sunglass stealing fish – who are there in gangs and leap from the water at a moments notice. Breathe deeply, and again, slow the pace.

Days of Dhow Jones Cruising lay ahead but first we must deliver the boxes of donated school books, stationary, toys, pencils and crayons – lovingly compiled by Geli of Letters from Usedom, who has been supporting the primary school in Morape village in this way for the past seven years. School had closed for the holidays, but word was sent around and many of the children showed up to meet us at the school.

Thanks Geli!!!

The school is currently a loosely fenced area of sand with a series of classrooms in various states of disrepair. The main school room having been destroyed in the cyclone three years ago. These kids have very little in terms of learning aids, but have no shortage of energy and enthusiasm – especially when it came to the two footballs that tumbled out of one of the boxes! Thanks to the wonderful efforts of our friends in the blogosphere, we will be able to rebuild one of these school rooms in the new year – with a tin roof, cement floor, and real solid walls.

one of the classrooms

this little girl arrived late having run all the way in her best dress

The gesture sounds simple, but it is no small feat organizing logistics, transport of materials by dhow across the bay; getting the approval and co-operation of the Chief, and village elders, and and..but we persevere and at last it looks do-able especially as the fathers of the children now seem willing to participate and assist where they can with labour, moving materials, gathering local materials and so on. It is wonderful to see their enthusiasm and interest.

On the way back from school we stopped to buy coconuts; and Dhow Jones came over the horizon. She has a motor now – an on board that sounds a lot like a tractor but can get you home when the wind drops or blows the wrong way.

She took us to islands of dreams – white sand dunes emerging from turquoise seas; she showed us turtles and dolphins and even a dugong. Gazing down into the giant aquarium seas watching starfish or many colours drift slowly by. When we were cooked, thirsty, tired and salty, she brought us safely back to camp backlit by technicolour sunsets, or later lit by soft moonlight on gentle water.

Time stood still in languid moments, but behind the scenes it was racing, and the week sped away. We drove home in two days, and jumped back in at the deep end. Suddenly everything needs to be done before the country shuts down for the Christmas holidays. We made lists; we are ticking things off – we are getting through it all. I started chipping away at the shopping list. I even stumbled over a CD of Christmas carols by Bob Dylan.

Truly. I will get it all done – I will. Then on that strange day of days, when so many people fight loneliness, I will cook a turkey , and we will pull crackers, read corny jokes, eat and drink, and toast to absent friends and family.

But first back to the list….

P.S - I finished my Nanowrimo challenge - Fifty Thousand Words in one month!! It felt good - a sense of achievement. One of these days I shall look back and read the strange tale of a river, a window in time, and things that can happen there. I had fun with it - though at times words flowed easier than at other times, and maybe the ending was abstract - and certainly the whole script calls for a rewrite, but the journey was all.


Janelle said...

beautiful, glorious, magical...! and WELL DONE for getting all those words done val! honestly! sending love and christmas cheer all round XXX j

Anonymous said...

Damn, I really am miffed I didn't make the Moz adventure!

Yippee, I'm really pleased the kids have got more stationery and school goodies. Now for that school building! I truly hope we get enough money together to get it sorted for the kids. Angela is a true Angel!

Anti-ci--pation, when can I read the strange tale??

Oh hum - not mad for Xmas arrangements.

Great post

Angela said...

Oh Val, thank you for those photos! That little girl in her best dress - I would love to hug her! Yes, now finally we will get at least one school building done, and perhaps desks and chairs too? As soon as Janet set up the donation account, our contribution will be on its way!! And hooray for Lucas and the other fathers who will now take pride in doing the work! I am so thrilled!

You saw a dugong?! Lucky you! And what sunsets...ah!
Please let us read your story! No matter how unfinished it my seem to you, anything in that setting of yours will make us sigh with bliss! Love to you Val, and for all you do!!!

e said...

How wonderful for the children and thanks for sharing yet another beautiful adventure. Wishing you the happiest of upcoming holidays.

Fire Byrd said...

Good to know that things are moving for the building of the school.
Fantastic pics, lovely to be able to share them here.

Miss Footloose said...

First, I'm late coming to your blog so don't know about the school project, but I enjoyed reading the post and seeing the photos. Having lived in Africa for years, I love hearing good news.

Next, congratulations on writing 50,000 words in one month. You have my admiration!

pink dogwood said...

So glad that you are doing this - loved hearing about it.

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

My what a marvelous trek you made, for such a wonderful cause. Loved the picture with the little boy jumping for delight with his new supplies. How satisfying it must feel to deliver these essentials to such enthusiastic students.

All your pics are riveting - such different land, sea and skies.

Congrats on your writing accomplishment. I'm sure it is wonderful. I love your way with words here.

Val said...

hi Janelle - thanks man !! Tam and Miranda did good too hey? xx

Janet - Kalahari or Moz - tough choice! handing out that school stuff is the best bit of all - lucky me. ahem, the script - well maybe after a total rewrite...

Geli - you were all around us in thoughts at the school. Those kids are heart stealers. A thousand thanks for all you do for them!

e - thanks and happy holidays to you too :-)

Fire Byrd - yes its awesome to suddenly see some light at the end of the tunnel. We are not there yet, but getting really close. January will start I hope.

Miss Footloose - there are some previous postings on mind and on Geli's - shall i send you the links?
Thanks for the encouragement o the writing project - you have my admiration for being a Real Writer

Pink Dogwood - thanks. you have been quiet lately?

Bonnie - those kids are so keen, yet so well behaved at hand out time. I keep saying this, but the handout is the best bit of all :-)
Geli does all the real work!

thanks for all the lovely comments!
blog on and happy holidays xxxV

Anonymous said...

What wonderful images of the littlies receiving the bountiful gifts from the wonderful Geli. You do a wonderful thing Val.

Of course, the visit to such a beautiful spot is added reward. Great pics and wonderful descriptions.

Kristin said...

What great gifts - the school supplies, your words and pictures, the joy in the children. All so wonderful.

Lauri said...

Beautiful pictures and lovely all of the wonderful work that you're doing.
Congrats on the book too.

karen said...

great, beautiful! loved to see the pics of the kids holding onto their new stuff - and wonderful holiday mood, too.. i did enjoy your description of the oncoming christmas express!! :)

Val said...

many thanks for your kind words Rob, Kirsten, Lauri and Karen xxx
I hope HMS christmas day brings you much joy and happiness - and everything you wish for xxxxV

Charl said...

Lovely pictures, Val. One can't help but enjoy seeing these jubilant kids, so thankful for the smallest gifts. Things are so different in this country. Also got Dylan's Christmas album and must say the more I hear it, the more I like it. (Also a great charity project by Bob). Have a wonderful holiday period and best wishes for 2010. PS-did you get my e-mail?

Marilynne said...

I did Nanowrimo too. I agree that it's a great experience.

I loved your story of Mozambique. We collected toys for kids here, but I didn't get to see them given to the kids. What a disappointment.

Vagabonde said...

What an interesting trip to Mozambique and so helpful for these kids. Once, while in Senegal, we went like that to a small village in the bush with school supplies – the kids were ecstatic and jumping all around us and we were pretty happy too. Thanks for your spirited report – I enjoyed it a lot.

Lori said...

Wow! Reading this and seeing the pictures brings tears to my eyes. What a wonderful thing you all are doing. I came here, because Angela sent me here to read more about this. I sit down for my first coffee for the day and here is a message from someone named Angela telling me about this project I might be interested in so I came here....and reading this, this Sunday morning makes my day. I want to know more about this project and what is needed. Is there something you could send me to tell me more? It has been my hearts dream and desire for many years to be involved in reaching out to children in need.

I also want to thank you for your willingness to do things like this and for having such a big heart. I truly am blessed in having read this today...what a way to start my day :)! Thank you!

Val said...

hi Charl - i have replied to your email separately. that Dylan cD is different - i quite like it so far

Marilynne - i enjoyed that writing challenge. will you do anything with your manuscript from there

Vagabonde - do tell us about your Senegal experiences

merry christmas all and thanks for commenting on MOTR

Val said...

dear Smiles4U - thank you for your lovely message! there is more info on the school, and some history on this link
I am writing in haste as guests are about to arrive but please email me on and we can chat further

have a wonderful christmas!

日月神教-向左使 said...