Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear family and friends,

I hope this finds you well. I am looking forward to seeing you soon and I hope to catch up with all of you personally. I am planning on being in making my way through Orange County and Los Angeles on my way to San Francisco. Please contact me if you have some time in your busy lives wherein I can stop by. I am still hoping to bicycle tour a bit before going back to work in San Francisco, but I decided I need to get my life in order first.

Tomorrow will be my last day in Tete. From there I will travel to Beira, Johannesburg, New York, and Pennsylvania where I shall spend a week before returning to California. The work here isn’t complete, but my part will be. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to play a small part in it. I hope that at least some part of my contribution will be useful to some. It seems unlikely that we will meet our plan of ten dams this year, but I believe that our objective of increasing water and food security in the province will still be met.

I am on the verge of uprooting my life again. Moments of change always make me introspective. Knowing that life will never and could never be the same, I often look back for a few seconds, hoping to fix the images in a chemical bath of the mind. These moments are always bittersweet, as are all the important moments of our lives.

What I see when I look back are the faces and names of people whom I used to only refer to as the world’s poor. I can also see my colleagues who have challenged me to learn more about my work and my own personal beliefs. I can see my friends who, by virtue of living here, have overcome impossible challenges and seem to have each lived a thousand lives. I now know a man who pulled the hair off the tail of a surprised bull elephant and friends who at gunpoint have been given 24 hours to leave their homes forever. The other things I’ve learned this year are small in comparison.

As my final thought, I want to share something that Walt Whitman once wrote. I came across the poem earlier in the year and it has stuck with me ever since. It isn’t powerful to me because it describes what I do; it describes only what I hope to do. I can think of no better way to sign off from these letters for the last time.

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body

Thank you again.

Your brother,
Stephen Esaki

Friday, July 1, 2011

As I've been preparing to end my term here and leave Mozambique, I've become more interested in figuring out how to measure the effectiveness of our project. Part of this interest is because we need to do this as part of the work, but also I'm just curious to know the answer to the question did I even help at all?

Measuring success sounds easy, but I've spent a lot of brain power on it for a long time now and I've realized that it ain't. You would think you could just ask people if their lives have improved because of the project, but how do you measure how much better or in what ways is it better? Or even for how many people is life better?

If you built a dam in a community and people began using the water stored in it to wash their dishes, to wash their clothes, to irrigate gardens, to give to their livestock to drink, and to drink themselves, then how do you measure that? I mean, where do you even begin looking for the kind of data you need to estimate this impact at all? And what if it doesn't rain at all during the year you go out to take measurements?

This stuff makes you sympathize with No Child Left Behind, because that stuff is probably way harder than our work.

One of the impacts of our project is to reduce hunger in the area. Ending hunger is a great goal, but it turns out to be a surprisingly difficult thing to quantify. I've looked around to see how other organizations mark their progress towards ending hunger. I've written about the United Nations before and their MDGs, and fortunately they have an MDG that clearly states to reduce by half the proportion of the population suffering from hunger. So you would think we could just copy what they do, right? Nope. They measure hunger in two ways, both of which are crazy difficult. The first way is to look at the Body Mass Index of children under five. So that means going to some representative sample of children, measuring their height and weight and comparing that to some standard value. The second way is to look at the food imported and produced within the country, the population, and the inequality within that country and from that calculate an amount of calories available to the population. Neither of which we are planning to do anytime soon.

The only lessons we can take away from the UN is that we will need to use survey questionnaires and that they will be a lot of work. These surveys actually do what I said we couldn't quite do earlier - ask people how their lives are better (my bad). The difference is that we need to ask simple things like "how many vegetable plants are you growing - let's count them" or "how many minutes do you walk to get to your water source" and repeat those questions for everyone in the project.

Simplifying the questions is the hard part. There's this term used in economics called externalities. An externality is the cost or benefit of an act to someone that wasn't initially taken into account when the act was done. An example of a negative externality is the pollution you emit into the air when you drive your car to the market. The increased pollution you just added to the air is a cost that someone else has to pay (asthma) for your combustion.

Positive externalities to our project include the clothes washing, dish washing, and bathing that occur there. People clearly benefit from the dams in those ways, but since they are tangential to the main point of our project, namely water and food security. Therefore we don't ask things like "where do you wash your dishes" or "how much clothes do you wash at the dam?" Ignoring positive externalities helps us cut to the heart of what is important, and also prevents us from overstating the value of the project to our donors.

Then we need to figure out whom to ask these questions and how many households we need to visit to create a good idea of the aggregated benefits of the dam. It's impractical to ask everyone in a 1,500-member community all these questions, so we ask those questions to a part of the community (like a poll). However, we don't yet know how big that part needs to be or how many people we need to ask to get a pretty good idea of the whole. So I've been brushing up on the ole' statistics to figure this sample size out.

Lots of work and only two weeks left!

Your brother,

Monday, June 27, 2011

I didn't take any pictures at home, since nothing has changed on Kaua'i (also my camera is too big and heavy for just a two-week trip). My brother is married now. So congrats bro!

Weddings are a great way to see family all at once! It was very good to see everyone all together. And it wasn't awkward because it wasn't about me. My first boss once told me that weddings are always fun, especially when they aren't your own. I always knew he was a smart man.

Thanks to my friends who met up with me in San Francisco. Sorry it was a bit rushed. We'll hang again sooner than you think!

Your brother,

Monday, June 13, 2011

My brother's wedding is this week. I'm flying to Hawaii this afternoon to be there. I am also breaking a few MCC rules to do it, so I hope no one is seriously ticked about this.

Additionally, don't forget I'll be in San Francisco on June 22nd, trying to make my way back to Moz. I have twelve hours there and I'd like to hang out with you.

Your brother,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One of the great mysteries of living in Mozambique for me this year was why people love to listen to country music and in particular Don Williams. It is always a surreal combination for me to be driving through Sub-Saharan Africa with Don Williams blasting in the car speakers. I just figured that there is no accounting for taste and planned to forget about it completely, until I heard a show on NPR.

One of my guilty pleasures is downloading NPR shows like Car Talk and This American Life and listening to them on my computer. One of the shows I download is Radiolab, which is a show about science. A few years ago Radiolab interviewed Professor Aaron A. Fox from Columbia University who actually explained this.

According to Professor Fox, country music got its big start in the US back in the 1920s, which was the period in America where suddenly more people lived in cities than in the rural country. And if you listen to country music at all, you'll know many of the songs are about this longing for a simpler time and a life that is no longer available now that we all live in cities. Country music is migration music at its heart. It is the music of the lonely, the regretful, and the reticent.

The rest of the world went through a similar population switch, but much more recently - in about 2008. Suddenly in 2008 and for the first time ever, the majority of the world's population found themselves living in cities, including people from countries like Mozambique. In fact, Don Williams has gone to neighboring Zimbabwe and filled a soccer stadium with 40,000 people - twice. This phenomenon isn't limited to Southern Africa either, Aborigines in Western Australia, Russians, Chinese, Thai, Norwegians, and Native Americans all love country music. For some reason, singing about missing the Tennessee mountains translates to missing the simple life that we left behind in all these places.

The language gap seems to defy this explanation because how can Mozambican Don Williams fans connect the migration story when it's told in English? Professor Fox claims that this feeling is built into the music. The steel guitar is sometimes called the crying guitar, because it sounds like a human crying. And the signature vocal technique of country is this yodel sound, called the cry break. Even though the words don't convey, the feeling does.

In this globalizing world this idea is sort of a universal story that applies to us all. We are all on this path to modernization and it's difficult because we have to leave something behind to do so. And we experience this loss in Hawaii, in LA, or in Tete pretty much same way.

Neat, huh?

Your brother,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Trip to Gorongosa

Gorongosa National Park is beautiful. On our trip there this weekend we saw some elephants, lots of plains animals and some sweet birds I've never seen before. I'm a big fan of conservation in Mozambique.

Your brother,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My First Design

Here's a picture of the first dam I designed. It is located in the community of Nhamunhu and it's almost complete! Too bad I won't be around to see it fill with water and sand, but I'm pretty happy about it. We've got a lot more to do before I head home at the end of July, so wish us luck!

Your brother,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Sister

...has informed me that I suck at updating my blog. :(

I've been busy with work mostly and swimming in the mornings before work. I haven't gotten behind the camera so much so I don't have photos to share. One thing that happened to me today that I was kind of proud of was that I gave my first presentation in Portuguese. It was on how to use the Manning's Equation to estimate flow in a river.

Oh, that reminds me. I rode with my boss Tiago down to Beira a couple of days ago. As we were leaving town, he thought it was a good idea to fill the tires before heading out. The only air pump in the city has a broken pressure gauge on it, so the attendant kicked the tires to judge their pressure. Two hours into the trip, Tiago's back right tire exploded and shreds of it were flailing around because they were still stuck to the rotating hub. They scuffed the heck out of the right side of the car with rubber marks. Anyway we changed the tire and put on the spare. Tiago starts complaining to me that now he has to keep it below 100 kmh, which is odd because I was of the belief that you drive 30 mph on a spare tire (about 55 kmh). Now the posted speed is 100. He then proceeds to blast down the highway at 120 on the tiny spare for the remaining six-hour trip. I was not convinced we were going to make it, but I've always been a worry-wart.

I head to one of Mozambique's national parks tomorrow. The country's wildlife is still recovering from its civil war from the 80s, where soldiers used big game animals as target practice. So I guess I'm not really expecting to see the animals you would expect of game parks in Zim or South Africa, but who knows right? If anything, I'll be happy to see some birds that I've never seen before. Apparently, they have these African Fish Eagles there and they look a lot like Bald Eagles. Sweet. Hopefully pics to come.

Your brother,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Picture from the Field

I'm not sure I know what these are. There sure was a lot of em this year though.

I'm heading back to Beira this week. Our water and food security team has a meeting to plan the future work of CCM and MCC in Mozambique. After that, I head to Gorongosa National Park! I'm pretty stoked because I really haven't seen any of the crazy wildlife you think of when you think of Africa. Kinda sad, huh?

Your brother,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mozambique Email Update #6

Dear family and friends,

Thank you for taking the time to read these letters. I hope that this finds you all healthy and happy. I was reminded this month of a famous story from modern physics. The story goes Einstein was riding a bus to work one morning in Bern, Switzerland. The bus had driven by a clock tower when he began to think of time and speed and light. Specifically, he wondered how the clock would appear to him as the bus approached the speed of light. Einstein had later said “a storm broke in my mind” as the clock tower passed and in that moment he had the first inklings of the relativity of time. He theorized the next day that time changes depending on the speed at which you are moving. Time, it seems, is elastic.

I think I am experiencing such an elasticity of time. I don’t think it’s because my life is so fast here though, because I spend a lot of time in quiet reading. Life is really flying by though and a lot has changed since I last wrote you. In Tete the temperature now drops into the 70s at night and I may even start sleeping under my sheets, which is something I would have never guessed in back in September. On the motorcycle ride to work in the mornings the wind is actually cold. I have running showers in my house, but I went back to bucket showers because I can warm the water in the kettle that way.

Because we only have three construction managers, one flatbed truck, and enough form work for one dam CCM has been working on improving the efficiency of the process between dams. This is important because we want to honor the community’s time as well as stay on schedule. We’ve often discovered that there is a temptation to continue with work though earlier parts of the construction process haven’t been completed. This inevitably takes more time to go back and do right. Our project year ends with August and we are currently pouring our third of ten dams scheduled for completion. There is a lot of work to be done in the four months left.

On the community side, a leader from the village of Chigamanda waited for days at one of our dam sites to meet with CCM staff to request assistance with building a dam. That moment represents an important shift for us, because it means they will be our first community to initiate the project on their own. This act indicates that Chigamanda will likely have more motivation to construct the dam and maintain the dam into the future. We hope to have more communities such as this as news of our work spreads through the district.

In the book of Genesis, the universe that God created in the first six days was good, but on the seventh, the day itself was made holy. Time, not thing nor space, is first in the Bible to be consecrated holy by God. I think that the holiness of time demands that it be shared with others. Einstein’s description of time was maybe incomplete - it is elastic but it is also sacred. What makes my year in Mozambique special, more than the sights and the location, is that I get to share it with the people here. And the time you spend reading my letters and connecting to this country, too, is holy for me. It would be very lonely without you. Thank you again for sharing this experience with me.

Your brother,
Stephen Esaki

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm probably going to be out most of next week in Mandie taking measurements of all our completed dams from our sister project in the Guro District. This blog is long and might be kinda boring, which is unfortunate because I enjoyed writing it. Oh well. At least, I should be back with some pictures from Mandie soon.

Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 7c, strives to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation.” This goal is measured by the use of the following indicators:

• Proportion of population using an improved drinking-water source
• Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility

Simple enough, but I think both indicators require a bit more definition to make them really understandable. The words “improved” and “using” are probably the most important words for here. Luckily for us, really smart people have spent a lot of time defining them.

An “improved” drinking water is defined as one that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is protected from outside contamination, in particular from contamination with fecal matter (UN). The following as improved water sources:

• Piped water into dwelling
• Piped water to yard
• Public tap or standpipe
• Tubewell or borehole
• Protected dug well
• Protected spring
• Rainwater

Unimproved water sources include:

• Unprotected spring
• Unprotected dug well
• Cart with small tank/drum
• Tanker-truck
• Surface water
• Bottled water

An improved sanitation facility is defined as one that hygienically removes human excreta from human contact (UN). The following are considered improved sanitation facilities:

• Pour or flush toilets connected to public sewer or septic system
• Pour-flush latrine connected to public sewer or septic system
• Pit latrine
• Ventilated improved pit latrine
• Composting toilet

Unimproved sanitation facilities include:

• Public latrine
• Latrine shared by more than one family
• Pit latrine without slab
• Bucket
• Hanging toilet or hanging latrine
• No facilities or bush or field
• Latrines that directly discharge to water bodies

Notice that the word “accessisn’t used in the original indicators, which is surprising because it was commonly used for water and sanitation discussion in the past. The word “access” is typically broken down into two categories: reasonable access and sustainable access. Reasonable access is defined as the availability of at least 20 liters per person per day from a source within one kilometer of the user’s dwelling. Sustainable access has two components with respect to water: one stands for environmental sustainability, the other for functional sustainability.

Use" obviously implies "access," but it also means more than just access. A facility in “use” is one that is the used primarily at home in everyday life. So using a bathroom at an airport, though shared, does not mean you don’t “use” improved sanitation at home.

WHO, UNICEF. (2010). "WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation." < > (Apr. 29, 2011).

UN. (2010). "Goal 7 Ensure Environmental Sustainability." < > (Apr. 29, 2011).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Work

Here's a map showing the locations of CCM's dams in the Changara District. We're on our third year right now so the blue dots are mostly dams that are planned to be completed before August. The blue dots are also the ones that I'm currently helping with. CCM is planning an expansion of this project that will bring these dams to new provinces and districts throughout the country. Pretty exciting stuff.

Your brother,

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Easter

My Easter was great. Here's a picture of my host father confirming Teresa into the church. The family threw a party later that lasted for hours and to which I was invited. I hope your Easter Sunday was just as fulfilling.

Your brother,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Picture from Chimoio

Here's a picture from Chimoio that I took a few weeks ago.

My friend Chris sent me an email a while ago talking about the year he and his wife spent in Cameroon. He mentioned the color of the earth in Africa. More and more since then I've begun to appreciate it. When I first arrived here I compared it to the iron oxide red dirt you find in Hawai'i, which is close but not quite, sort of like a lot of my experiences here. You should see the sunsets though, there is nothing like them.

Your brother,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Quick Update

I miss bicycling. I took this picture because it reminded me of my friends in California. Anyone want to go bicycle touring the Oregon and Washington coasts when I get back? Physical fitness is not a requirement.

Btw, I just came back from a long day in the field. It's gonna be another busy week, so not much time to blog. Work is going well. We have dams popping up all over Tete Province right now. Pictures to come in a few weeks.

Your brother,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Second Picture from Boroma Mission

Some cute kids at Boroma Mission.

Here's some other news: I think I'm realizing that I like to write, like I really enjoy it. I don't think I ever knew that before. This year is kind of special in that I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading here and I write a ton of emails and blogs. So thanks Mozambique! And thanks to you for reading!

Your brother,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Picture of Boroma Mission

Boroma Mission is beautiful. It was finished in 1885 by Jesuit missionaries and it's located 30 minutes away from Tete upstream along the Zambezi River. We visited there this weekend and its service was full of worshipers. Within the mission, there is a nunnery, an orphanage, and a bike mechanic. The Portuguese priest conducted the service completely in Nhungue. The surrounding community is more fluent in Portuguese than most any other Mozambican community I've been in. Many of the kids even spoke enough English to ask how I am doing and what my name is. I think this mission is gotta be doing something right.

These kids were hamming it up for our cameras, so it was a little difficult getting a shot of the church without them in it. But they are beautiful as well, so no loss I suppose.

Your brother,

Friday, April 8, 2011


Here's a message from Auntie Liz:

Carey is finally at rest. He passed peacefully this evening with his family around him. Thank you for all your prayers and cranes. I strung them up and hung them in his room.. they were beautiful.
God Bless


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Soapbox #1

I don’t talk about water very much on this thing. I make passing references to it, and cite literary quotes on it (mostly from Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Norman Maclean), but I really haven’t gotten into any relevant topics on the matter. Part of it is because some of you are my Kennedy/Jenks coworkers or engineering buddies from college, who are far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. Also, I figured I get on my soapbox plenty enough without talking directly about the area of study and engineering to which I’ve so far devoted my adult life, including this year in Moz.

This is all to say, I’m gonna start writing about water and sanitation. I like learning stuff and I think writing about water will help force me to research more. I want to start broad, with the world and Mozambique first and eventually get down to more details. Hopefully, you can learn stuff along the way.

There are these things called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are eight objectives toward improving the world as agreed upon by the United Nations. The benefit of MDGs is that they provide clear objectives and a definite time line. They began in 2000 and will run until 2015, where their success will be evaluated. The goals are:

1. End Poverty and Hunger
2. Universal Education
3. Gender Equality
4. Child health
5. Maternal Health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS
7. Environmental Sustainability
8. Global Partnership

MDGs are a big deal. The goals are ambitious and include sub-goals such as: Goal 1.A: By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day or Goal 7.C: Halve, by 2015 the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. I'll get back to Goal 7.C more, but the goals also tell us about the world today. They tell us what we think the biggest problems facing the world's poor are and how we can change them. The goals also are interrelated, because education for women increases child health while promoting gender equality.

As we are approaching 2015, the world is actually on pace for a few of these goals. Of course, not all countries or continents are created equal and their success rates are unequal, too, but I’m gonna leave it at that for now.

Your brother,

Friday, April 1, 2011

Paper Cranes

Today is April Fools’ Day, but this is actually a serious blog post.

Every night before I go to sleep I pray for a bunch of my friends and family, nothing really in particular or formalized, more of a shout out I guess. One of those people is Uncle Carey. Though he isn’t biologically so, I say uncle because that's what we call everyone in Hawaii. I guess it's because of the pretty high odds we are actually related.

Anyway, he’s recovering from a lung transplant, which he underwent about year ago to treat the Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis that he’d been diagnosed with. He’s had a few complications with it over the past year because of his reduced immune system. He’s been sedated this week and we are all concerned.

His family thought a great way to express their love for him would be to fold 1,001 origami cranes. They’ve asked family and friends to send them in, so that he can see how much everyone cares about him and sort of help his recovery. The significance of 1,000 cranes originally comes from Sadako Sasaki, a young girl from Hiroshima, who suffered from radiation sickness as a result of the atomic bomb. She and her family folded the cranes to help her recovery. She died from the radiation, but the tradition stuck. The extra one is a Hawaiian Japanese twist on the tradition, because we figure we could use the extra luck.

One of the things I’m learning is that it’s in human nature to give and to help. We just don’t always let our guards down enough to ask for it from others, even when it’s needed. So I guess I’m asking you for some now. I know you’re busy, so no worries if you don’t have time, but if you do have the time to fold a paper crane, please mail it to his wife:

Liz Kunimoto
GOL Transplant House 2
724 Second St SW #140
Rochester, MN 55902.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Flight in June

My brother Ryan gets married in June, and we are all very excited. The problem was that my SALT term ends in late July and it's kind of against SALT policy to permit international travel farther than to an adjacent country. I don't want to give Eva anymore headaches about this, but we managed to work it out with my MCC Country Rep that I could fly back for a week. As a team, MCC Moz voted on it, and since it's a special event I got to buy my tickets home!

I had my flights booked for a couple of months now, but they were rerouted yesterday to include a day layover in San Francisco! So, if you live on the peninsula and are free to hang out on June 22 (Wednesday), email me. I'm so pumped! I have no idea what I want to do. Usually, this would call for a bike ride through Paradise Loop or to Muir Woods, but I'm not sure about being sweaty on a plane to Munich. I am accepting suggestions.

Your brother,

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Self Portrait

This is gonna be a busy week in the field. I took this picture outside the community of Salinhanga because there was a mud wall house and trace of a rainbow reflecting off my motorcycle helmet.

Your brother,

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Thank You Letter to FMCSF

Dear First Mennonite Church of San Francisco,

There is a lone cricket rattling against the inside of the paper lantern we use as a lamp shade on my dinner table. Apparently at some point this evening, he had jumped and landed a little disoriented suddenly surrounded in warm light. I’m sitting alone at the same table under the same light writing you. I am already grateful for your friendship but today I was humbled by it. Maybe this letter seems a little late or out of place so I’ll explain a few things first.

I don’t like making long lists of things I hate here in Moz because it’s ignorant and shallow, but I do have a top three of things I strongly dislike. In no particular order they are: racism, poverty, and the Mozambican post. The postal system offends my ideals of efficient business and unsettles me to my core. They’ve lost so many of my letters, I’ve lost count. Jennifer told me I had a package coming, so I checked the box every week since December. Each time, I asked the front desk if any package had come for me and they would usually feign to push around the piles of unsorted mail behind then look up and say there was none. They said the problem was in America or the address was wrong, because there is no package here.

Today after some explanation, the woman at the desk thought to look for the package in the back room. Much to her surprise, there it was. Based on the dust that had collected on top, it had probably been there since a week after if left California.

I’m not sure if someone specifically knew I love Peanut M&Ms better than any other candy but there they were. I shared them with my coworkers and they were gone immediately. I also don’t know who it was that bought the underwear to put in the box, but that person has unknowingly joined the elite list of people who have ever bought me underwear – my mom and my grandma. Don’t be embarrassed though, because I actually needed new undies and I don't know where to buy new ones. I especially liked the cards because everyone’s personality poured through them. I took a picture of them to capture this, even though I know it wouldn’t convey. To be honest, I feel undeserving of the thought that went into putting it together. It’s indeed disorienting to be surrounded by this much light.

Some of you curiously wrote that you weren’t sure I would remember you. How could I ever forget? I look forward to August and Sunday mornings with the strange little church that meets in the green synagogue in the Mission. I am humbled to know you all as friends. Thank you.

Your brother,
Stephen Esaki

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Weekend

Today is World Water Day, which began in 1992 after a United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro. World Water Day is meant to promote awareness of various issues including sanitation, water scarcity, and environmental quality. This year to celebrate, my plan is to go around our communities passing out bars of soap to help improve hand washing. I'm really stretching the meaning of the word 'plan' though, because what I really did was buy a bunch of soap.

Yesterday was the Dia de Cidade de Tete, or the City of Tete Day, which is a provincial holiday. Every year, there is a canoe race and a 50cc motorcycle race, which is like completing a mountain bike race on a tandem bicycle - you incur all the danger of the real thing, but you look silly doing it. Here's a picture of some racers on their cinquentinhas (little 50s) and then a photo of the route running through downtown.

Your brother,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Coworker Chauca

I hope Chauca doesn't mind me posting his picture here, but since I wrote about how he saved me from the police the other day, I reckon I should properly introduce him. He lives in Beira and is one of the Mozambican workers we have on the MCC team. His Skype profile photo is him and his truck, which is a sweet truck and an even better picture. He has bailed me out of many jams and has made bus tickets for me appear out of thin air like David Blaine. Thanks man.

Your brother,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My First Traffic Ticket

I was making my way out to the field today to work on some dams. There's this police hang out right by the intersection between the road going to Tete and the road going to Songo. One of the cops was standing in the middle of the road and pulled me over as I was going by on my motorcycle. I wasn't speeding or anything. He asked to see my registration and license. Apparently, my registration was only a temporary one, which ended back in December. The policeman said I had to leave the bike there. He said I'd have to pay a 5,200 met fine.

I called Chauca, our MCC coworker in Beira, for help. The policeman said he didn't want to talk to anyone and I would have to explain myself, which I just can't do eloquently. Eventually he gave in and spoke with Chauca. I don't know what Chauca said, but the policeman ended up writing a ticket for 200 mets, all the while saying that it's for 5,200. He told me to go right back to the city to pay it.

Then he asked me for a ride home.

Your brother,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Coworkers

Here are some of the awesome peeps who work for CCM across the nation.

In other news, I'm off in a few minutes to participate in a swim-run race. Jon and I are each teaming up with one of the Bister kids to race other (slower) parent-child teams from their school. I'm wearing my spandex and all (yes, I brought jammers to Africa - don't ask me why). Those kids are going down.

Your brother,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My View from Beira

I took this a couple of weeks ago while hanging out at the MCC office in Beira.

Also, I moved into a new house last week. The house is nice, but we've had plumbing issues so I woke up to a flooded hall the first night and lacked water to bathe properly on subsequent nights. Rough.

Your brother,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mozambique Email Update #5

Here's an email I wrote this week:

Dear family and friends,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and thriving. I am always happy to receive the many letters I get from you and I appreciate them all. Last month I got many encouraging letters from people I admire greatly. It's no secret that life is busy in the States, so thank you for your time. It is a joy to know you.

What a funny three-letter word that is. Joy. It's one of those words that are so important and yet often easy to forget. Maybe this month more than previous months I've let that slip. I’ve found myself more distracted than usual. Between breaking my computer, losing my cellphone, getting ready to move to a new house, and completing a two-day saddle-sore motorcycle trip from Beira to Tete, I’ve had a hard time settling down to focus. February this year it seems for me, was like the Battle Hymn, terrible and swift.

In Mozambique, I suspect that life is busy for everyone near the end of the rainy season. The corn and the millet tower overhead in the fields and for many Mozambicans the harvest is on. There is so much work that often subsistence farmers here to keep up choose to sleep in their fields. The cereal harvest is their most important campaign of the year and will determine greatly the hunger in this nation. Now is their time to gather and store and plan for the long dry season.

The Christian Council of Mozambique has been busy too. Many of my colleagues have just returned from a trip to Kenya where they exchanged information about dams with similar organizations from across Africa. CCM also just wrapped up their national conference in Beira, planning the next year of work in all ten provinces. Right now, CCM in Tete is in the middle of constructing three dams. The team is trying a lot of new ideas from their observations in Kenya. There are big plans on the way and the work seems a little daunting.

Melinda Gates spoke last year comparing the work of non-governmental organizations to that of Coca-Cola. She asked why it is that Coke is successful everywhere, even deep into rural Africa, in the very areas where NGOs struggle to provide clean water, cure AIDs, or reduce poverty. She said it was partly because Coke advertised joy and hope and celebration. Remember that song Waving Flag which was performed for the World Cup by a singer from Somalia? It's played everywhere here in Moz. Did you know it was produced by Coke? I love that song because it's full of hope.

There is something about joy that we tend to want to underrate it. We are often afraid that it'll come off as saccharine and insincere. If there is something to learn from Coke, maybe I should spend more time rejoicing, especially since it is true and right here. If there is a lot of work here, there is also much more to celebrate. The work that CCM does is life changing and life giving, yet I often forget this from day to day. It was a joy to see CCM's renewed attitude and
commitment to the ideas of community ownership and sustainable development. There are many things to be thankful for in this rainy season, not the least of which is the food to be harvested. And too, it is a privilege for me to be working here in Mozambique.

The book of Phillipians in Scripture, they say, is the book of joy. In it, Paul reminds us 'whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely...think on these things.' Herman Melville once wrote in Moby Dick that 'meditation and water are wedded forever.' So it is I think about these things. I couldn't be here without you. Thank you again.

Your brother,
Stephen Esaki

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My New Motorcycle

Relax mom, I don't actually look like this when I ride the new bike, but I wish I did.

Your brother,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My computer and cell phone

This has been a rough week for technology and me. I wasn´t feeling so great healthwise so when I was packing up my things to go home on tuesday, I didn´t zip my backpack completely. I picked up the straps and my computer fell from kneehigh. The comp hasn´t started since.

Then yesterday, after texting my MCC rep about my computer situation, I left my cellphone on the cafe table I was sitting at. I went back looking for the phone this morning, but it´s disappeared entirely. Oh well, such is life, eh?

In other news, yesterday I was out in the community of Caphaia working on the steel reinforcements for the dams. In our designs, we´ve figured that the biggest threat to dam stability is if the structure overturns (think of one big domino). We use rebar to anchor the dam to the rock foundation. We´re trying a new method of doing this that is supposed to give our dams better support, but takes much more labor to do it. Our new method is to chisel out one-inch diameter holes about nine inches deep in the rock, so that we can socket the rebar into the holes with some concrete mortar. I figured I should experience first hand how unreasonable this request is, so I sat there banging at a chisel for an hour in the sun. I made it about an inch down, but I still think it´s a good idea.

Your brother,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Week

This week was really busy. Our team has been writing proposals all week, so I haven't had much chance to get behind my camera, pick up a book, or even really go to sleep at a normal hour. I think my blogs have tended to highlight the parts of life here that are really different than life back home. However, there's a good chunk of it that is surprisingly normal. I spend a lot of time at my computer and I waste a lot of time deciding what I want to cook for dinner each night.

Man, that's good to get off my chest.

Your brother,

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Superbowl Monday

Here's a pic of some buddies who stayed up with me to watch the Superbowl. It started at 1:30AM and ended at 5:00AM Monday morning. I'm exhausted.

Your brother,

Question: How good are hotdogs if you cooked em at 1:00 in the morning, left em out and ate them for lunch the next day? I ate em anyway, so I guess we'll find out in about three hours.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Culture Clash

I read something once about culture clashes between Westerners and Africans. It said that when you lend money to many people in the African culture, the cultural tendency is to use that money for the most pressing need first. So for example, say I loaned a hundred bucks to a Mozambican friend to buy books. If on the way to buy books, his tire blows, the money is likely to go towards fixing that tire, regardless of the lender's ideals towards money management. In fact, the lender will have little say as to how that money should be used after it changes hands. It blows my mind, but that's just how it works here. And it works well for the most part.

I've never loaned a dime, it's against SALT policy in Moz. But I have given rides in the truck.

I spent the last couple days camping in one of our partner communities, Caphaia. You remember Caphaia. Whenever I go there, I'm definitely the only guy in town with a truck so I get asked for rides. A LOT. Sometimes I give them if I'm going in that direction anyway. If I am giving rides to anyone for any long distance, inevitably the rider will tell me to pull over for someone else. This will happen once or twice per trip, but after a while it adds up.

I'm a time oriented person and so are you. We're Westerners. It's been kinda frustrating to stop what I'm doing to wait for more people to pile on. In my head I get all surly, "I'm the one with the truck here. I'm here to work not to be a shuttle. Be grateful I even gave you a ride in the first place!" Every time.

But I think it's the same dynamic as the money lending. The power of the help lies in the person receiving the help. And I see them rolling their eyes, baffled that I would refuse to give an additional ride to their friend as I drive on by. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned somewhere in all this. But I'm not sure what it is and I gotta get to work.

Your brother,

Monday, January 31, 2011

My First Dam

Here's a picture of the site of a future dam in the community of Nhamunhu. The photo shows the dug trenches which will soon be filled with the stone masonry walls. I'm a bit fond of this site because I did the calcs for it. More pics to come as construction continues.

Your brother,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Coworker's House

My coworker's house in Caphaia.

FYI, no alarm clock in the world is better than a goat peeing on your tent at 5:00 in the morning.

Your brother,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Mozambique Email Update #4

I realize that I sent out this email with the subject "Update #3." I hate emailing out a mistake, but I also hate spamming my friends and family. It's not like I'm writing for the LA Times (OC Register, SF Chronicle, Fresno Bee, The Garden Island...) or anything, but sorry anyway.

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. I had some time to think about you and I felt a little homesick while in Beira, waiting for a bus ride to Tete. So be sure that there was someone in Mozambique wishing you well for the holiday season and the new year. The month of January, I’ve learned, is named after the Roman god Janus, who was said to have two faces – one in front and one in back. And as the symbolism suggests, this month we often reflect upon the past while at the same time looking ahead for what’s to come. When we do this, we are in a sense peering into two infinities, past and future, which come crashing together in this moment, right now.

To honor the tradition, during these past six months we’ve completed the design of four new dams. In fact, construction has already begun for two of those dams. Much of my time has been spent improving the accuracy of the underlying calculations, while trying to make them accessible and understandable to our Mozambican coworkers. I just came back from observing construction practices in the field and working to reconcile them with our designs on paper. The work has been very satisfying, and I am looking forward to seeing my first dam fully constructed.

For the next six months our plan is to complete ten dams in total. One thing that I would like to learn more about is how to improve community ownership of these water projects and how to promote overall community development. I’ve been slowly realizing that this type of work can only occur in relationship, which means I should start spending more time in the communities getting to know the people we work with. I think my Portuguese is finally good enough to hold conversations, though I still miss many simple sentences. Compounded to that, many of the communities we partner with may only have ten percent or so fluent Portuguese speakers, the rest knowing only Nhungue or other Bantu languages.

It’s a little hard to believe that I’ve spent that much time here in Mozambique and I’m halfway through my SALT term. I am learning to call this country home, even though I know that soon I will return to California. And as I said, I found myself homesick this month. I think part of it was because of the speed at which life happens at home without me. When I left, I knew that life would go on, but it’s nonetheless surprising how much life has gone on. I guess I could see a lot of my friends progressing in life and love, in career and relationships, and thriving. As happy as I am for them, I felt left behind, like I’m not quite advancing in the same big steps though life.

As Americans I think we tend to view the future as this vast, linear infinity that we build toward, save for, or fight against. Yet in Ecclesiastes there is this simple reminder that ‘all the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.’ For me it seems my future isn’t linear, and maybe it never was. I hate to admit it, but I’ve struggled with comparisons to classmates and even friends, because they all seem to ‘get it’ and I don’t. For me, like Ecclesiastes, the sun sets and the sun also rises and the earth abides. I am happy, though, that my path bends because it means that someday too our paths will cross and we will walk together again. Thank you for this opportunity.

Your Brother,
Stephen Esaki

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Sister's Birthday

The other night, I was invited to attend Joana’s 10th birthday party. I had never been to a Mozambican party before, so I was excited cause I wanted to see what they’re like. Turns out they aren’t too different from an American birthday party – the tune to happy birthday is the same (just a little slower, in Portuguese, and more clapping on the downbeat) and there are the gifts, dinner, cake, and party favors.

When I arrived, the ten or so little girls were already busy dancing in the living room, which had been decorated with balloons taped to the beams on the ceiling. I stayed outside talking to Joana’s brothers on the veranda until it was time for dinner. Mother and sister served dinner and there was a can of coke for each of the adults and one for the birthday girl.

When it was time for presents, the gifts that the guests brought were white envelopes carrying about 30 to 50 Mozambican meticais each (current exchange rate is 32 meticais per US dollars). For context, the median Mozambican earns about 40 USD per month, although that number is not representative of Tete. We all clapped when each envelope was open and Teresa announced the amounts. Then Joana opened a new shirt from her parents Lastly, she opened a gift from her siblings that turned out to be a new doll.

Haha, there was this noise that Joana made when she saw the doll. It was this “mmm” sound that climbed in pitch and trailed off in volume. In the course of the night, she would periodically go back and check on her new doll, making that same noise each time. It was the same old gift giving you see at every birthday party in the States, but not quite. I am not sure I’ve ever seen gift giving like that. In that moment, I felt years cultural consumerism sloughing off. It was so humble that it was clear it was genuine or maybe even pure. I just couldn’t help but be a little convicted, but mostly I just felt refreshed (is that the word I'm looking for?). It was nice to see.

I hope to remember this for a long time.

Your brother,

P.S. Speaking of birthdays, tomorrow is my brother Ryan's birthday in Hawaii. Happy birthday bro-sef.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My First Trip to the Field This Year

Boy it feels good to be back. If you've been wondering what the dams I've been working on look like, here's a composite picture of a dam over the course of a year. You can see the dam filling up with sand on the upstream side - don't worry, that's a good thing. When the community wants to get water, they just need to dig a shallow hole in the sand. This community is Thombo. Jon designed this one last year and put the picture together.

I just wanted to show you the work that gets done, even though I'm off a lot taking random pictures. Like this one:

Your brother,

Friday, January 14, 2011

My New Move

I'm still getting settled into my house across the river. I haven't been there much, since I was in South Africa all last month. Here's what the house looks like. The trees are greener than they usually are because of the rain, so don't be too misled. Still though, it's pretty great. The house is here in this complex run by the Church of Good News and we've been living in it rent free because we work for a church organization. All we gotta do is spruce it up a little bit and do some neighborhood projects. Not a bad deal at all.

Like most good things (and certainly most good, free things), it's gotta end. We found out that a new missionary family will be living at this house in March and we gotta go find another one. I'm a little concerned because Tete is a boom town. This year 11,000 more miners are expected to move into town. There's literally a gold rush here (in addition to the coal and other minerals). Housing is in such a crunch that the few hotels here are booked solid for the next two years by Brazilian mining companies looking to house their employees. Because of all this, housing prices here are similar to the Midwest (USA), which I think is steep for Moz.

I'm sure we'll find something eventually. And if not, we can always get a mud-wall palace built out in Capinga (like our coworker Rui) for a song. Unfortunately, internet will be a little harder to come by though.

Also since I've moved to my current house, I've hand washed all my clothes. Consequently, I have a much more profound respect and admiration for the average Mozambican woman.

Your brother,

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Trip Back to Tete...and still

Just got a call today that the bus won't be ready to leave for Tete like I thought it would. I'm gonna try to find a different company today. The motorcycle is coming from Maputo and will be here in Beira any day now, but I'm really not feeling up to the long drive alone with all my stuff and a jerrycan of the extra gas I'll need to make it there. As far as work goes, I've almost finished the design of a dam for the community of Cabvewe Centro since I've been stuck here, so I actually don't feel so bad.

Your brother,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Trip Back to Tete...yep, still

There are worse things in the world than being stuck in Beira. Here's a photo of my friends Miranda and Marcella playing at the beach.

Your brother,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Trip Back to Tete...still

My bus that I was supposed to take back this Friday broke down, so I'm still in Beira. Just hanging out. I can't really complain though because the house I'm staying at has internet access, so I've been able to get on at night to chat when my friends are online, too (probably at work, you slackers). I'm really anxious to get home.

In the meanwhile, here's an old picture of me that Jon took that hasn't been on my blog yet.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Picture of a Window

Here's a pic of the window to Mandela's prison cell on Robben Island. I'm such a tourist.

In unrelated news, maybe some of you have heard or are curious about a story involving Cape Town, me, and a knife. To be clear nothing really happened. I'm learning that this blog isn't the best place for all my thoughts so I don't want to post it. But I think it's funny so just email me if you want a copy and paste version of it.

Your brother,

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Trip Back to Tete

Happy New Year everyone! South Africa was pretty fun. Here's a picture I snapped of some fellow MCCers during our trip. Man, life is good when you can quote the tv show Arrested Development and there is someone around to laugh. Thanks Katie.

I'm making my way back to Tete, but for now I'm in Beira, just eight hours away. I get to go motorcycle shopping tomorrow with Senhor Chauca! I'm trying to decide if I should just ride the new bike back home to Tete and skip the whole bus system entirely. It sounds fun, but I'm guessing my mom wouldn't appreciate it. She knows I make phenomenal life decisions though, right mom?

Your brother,