Friday, October 15, 2010

My Walk Home

Recently, I've started to look forward to my walk home from work. I guess that's not anything special to say, except that there's nothing particularly special about this walk. It isn't very far at all, maybe half a mile, but with the protruding rocks it isn't quite an easy walk. I wouldn't say it's particularly beautiful, either. The open sewers meander along the dirt roads and cut their way along the rock that Tete is mostly built on. Goats and ducks are everywhere and so is their smell.

In my neighborhood, Bairro Felipe Samuel Magaia, I am the only non-african. And no matter how good I think my tan is, I stick out. So much so, that when I first started walking to work, the children would yell one of three things to me, "China," "Chinese," and "Muzungu (the word for white in Nhungue)!" Being ethnically Japanese and growing up in Hawaii, that was definitely the first time I was ever called any of those.

Kind of annoyed, I started yelling back, "I'm American" and "This skin isn't white!" Eventually this Chinese turned into Americano. Which I thought was good progress, but not being good enough for me I would yell back the equivalent, "Mozambiki!" They'd smile and if they were brave enough they'd ask me for "mili (money, also in Nhungue)". To which I'd ask what their names are. They would spend five minutes explaining all their names to me; This is Eliza! This is Manolito! And they would forget the issue of money completely.

Recently, my new friends began calling out "Mano Estavan (big brother Stephen)" and "Estevan Americano (American Stephen)!" Seriously, no matter how bad my day gets, walking home to twelve kids yelling "Estevan Americano" always makes me chuckle. Sometimes they hold my hand and walk me home for a minute, which I like to imagine are tiny blessings they give me in their own way. And always they yell "Estevan Americano" until I can no longer hear them.

Your brother,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Favorite Church Picture

You are probably sick of seeing pictures from my church. But seriously, that's like my favorite place in the world to take portraits.

In other news, it's 110 degrees F today and in a month we'll be getting up to 120. It's really darn hot right now, but I guess God's gotta make life fair sometimes, huh? Just today we found a soil sieve set so we can start classifying our soils collected by the dams. I've been talking about making one of those for a month out of chicken wire and scrap lumber. Jon and I were all smiles and high fives for the following 20 minutes.

Your brother,

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Work, Part Two

The Mozambican government built this concrete dam near the community of Marara a few years ago. It is gigantic, expensive, and, well, it doesn't exist anymore. We went out last week to assess what we could do with the remains. We can't do much, but I guess we can learn from what went wrong here. I listed a few things, but I'm hoping that some of you brainiacs out there can give me some insights here.

1) The first one is unbelievable, but according to the community members, the dam was constructed directly on top of the sand in the riverbed. They didn't excavate to bedrock before construction. So not only did it fail as soon as water started flowing under the dam, but the dam wouldn't have held water even if it stood. At best, it would have been a pretty concrete bridge across a shallow river.

2) The spillway is the portion of a dam that you build to allow water to leave the reservoir safely. Spillways are important for bigger floods because you don't want the river to leave the riverbed and flood neighboring areas. From what I could see, there wasn't much of a spillway on this dam. You can see a little notch at the top of the dam that I think served as the spillway, but I bet flood flows commonly exceed the capacity designed for in this notch. This dam probably would have caused major flooding in the area. So in a sense,the community is lucky the dam failed.

3) There is water in river late in the dry season. I'm not convinced the community would have benefited from a working dam, anyway. I'm no expert but if you asked me, the money would have been better spent working with the community to separate their water uses. In this picture, you can see a dog, cooking pots, children fetching water, and women doing laundry in the same stretch of river.

This is just overwhelming for me. And unfortunately, this is a common story of development work here in Africa. It makes you want to laugh, but mostly you don't know how to react. I sometimes swear, though I'm not proud of it (don't follow my example you FMCSF sunday school kids). But seeing this sure made me use some colorful language last week.

Your brother,