Thanksgiving with Mars

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Today I sat at a table with Americans, Russians, Canadians, First Nation Canadians and had supper. The conversation covered Russian history, languages,politics, hunting, children, culture. My heart was thankful, I enjoy being in a setting where different cultures sit around a meal and connect. As I watched my friends children play with Mars around us and under the table, I couldn’t help but give thanks to God for giving me a heart for children. Its the main reason I moved to Canada. There are people out there who will spend a lifetime trying to figure out what their purpose in life is. For me, loving kids whatever race or creed has been my heart’s desire from the age of 13. What an adventure it has been with God as he has led me from country to country. Each place with its own set of trials and joys but the connecting thread the same, children.

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Jesus shared a parable of a man who gave three servants money to do something with whilst he was gone. Two did something with the little they had but one just let the money sit, thinking that there was nothing he could do with so little. Needless to say, this servant’s attitude was a great disappointment to the master when he returned. I want to be like the others who did something with the little they had. I don’t want to tire of getting better at working with children. I want to always strive for excellence. I want to say when I see Jesus,” here, you planted a desire to go and love and I did the best I could.”

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When I think of where I have come from and the opportunities God has given me to travel to different parts of the world because of His name, I am filled with amazement and thankfulness.What are the God-given desires, plans, ideas that have been planted in your heart? Don’t give up on them, the road may be lonely, you may not have enough people encouraging you but it’s better to live trying than never attempting at all.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.

 

 

This and that

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Last Sunday I helped decorate for a local wedding. I took pictures of it too.

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Kindergarten was having a family thing going on ( I forget what they called it) My friend asked if I could come with her and her daughter as part of their family.

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My friends took this pic of me and I didn’t know it was on my camera till later. I like it.

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A big part of what I do is visiting families. An average visit will last at least 2 hours. There is no agenda, I am getting to know people at an easy pace. When I am asked how I go about getting invited into peoples homes, my response is: ” Of all the families I regularly visit now, I did not wait for an invitation( I still don’t), I just rocked up and didn’t stop randomly visiting them, now they ask when I will be coming by.” I guess if I think about it, it takes some courage to do this … I  never did think much about it, when I started, I thought it was the most logical way to make friends.

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The view from my trailer.

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An aunt with her nephews.This family is full of laughs.

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The lake has become a busy highway these days. Did you know this area has the longest ice road in North America? The kids are busy clearing snow to make an ice rink. I live in the trailer that is close to that orange building. Its obscured by the trees.

Nostalgia

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I have been itching to write for a couple weeks now, the urge always comes at the most inopportune time, lying on my bed about to fall asleep, sitting in a meeting that begs my full attention, walking on the ice road, teaching a class or reading a book that has got me hook line and sinker. It’s not like I can keep the desire until a favourable moment to write comes along, this itch comes and goes as it pleases but since you are reading this friend, my desire must have finally aligned with a favourable time to sit in front of my screen and share my thoughts.

Winter is in full swing and I am so relieved to tell you that I am loving it, everything is draped in beautiful white giving my heart hope for this land every time I step out. Even with this peaceful contentment for the northern winter of which I am sure by April I will be begging for it to go away, nostalgia for home has been doggedly pursuing me of late. I don’t shy away from it, in my opinion it is good to miss the familiar from time to time for there are some that cannot stand the idea of going home. I am glad I have a community and family to remember fondly.

The azure sky with large ever green mango trees occasionally obscuring its view of us is always the first memory that comes to mind when nostalgia comes calling. The curtain call is on as the sun slowly moves to make its opening act on the other side of the globe. The crickets call gets louder as the day darkens, the chickens occasionally scratch the ground as they reluctantly make their way home, their chatter part of the evening cacophony. Children scamper around the neighboured some on errands to buy garlic or lettuce others simply hanging out with friends. The rush of the traffic gives the tempo to the evening beat. It is fast and moves with purpose, many rush home after a long day’s work. Here and there a dog barks a greeting, a heartfelt response reminds it, its not alone. Two houses down, a father switches on his radio, music is blaring out of speakers that have seen better days, it’s Friday evening, and he must celebrate. The familiar tune of an Angolan Kizomba – Passada song adds on to the evenings happenings. A group of teen girls are on their way to attend evening classes but temptation in the form of a gregarious young man and his Toyota Vitz parked on the road showing off an impressive sound system plays music that beckons the girls to forget their good intentions and join him. His woofers are big and his music makes every window on the street vibrate, its Friday evening let the beers roll and the dancing begin. The pesky mosquito that faithfully disappears to God only knows where when the sun is out returns with a vengeance, reminding everyone seated under the orange tree, I will never leave you. Grandparents chat and smack themselves as they absently kill the annoyance without a second thought. The sound of garlic and onions being fried in a generous amount of oil assails everyone’s senses, making some women ponder on whether to start cooking or watch the next episode of their favourite Brazilian soapie. Of course as darkness descends, the hot topic is the weather, everyone loves to hate the heat, it’s one of those nights when even with the sun gone its presence can still be felt strongly. Unbridled cheer burst out of a bottle of Coca-Cola as a group of boys share it amongst each other, the gush of water from the shower as someone else gives it a go at cooling their body encourages a girl to pull out a bucket, fill it with water and let her baby brother happily splash it out, his delight filling her heart with contagious giggles.

If you have grown up in a culture where a quiet neighbourhood is an ideal one, it is very difficult to get accustomed to what I call the music of an African neighbourhood. I remember when I was home last July hearing all that I have described and more, my heart and mind settled and I slept right through the night as if all of life’s happenings was a symphonic masterpiece put together to help me sleep in perfect peace.
I miss home.

 

I am because you are.*

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Well, I have been in Canada for a week now. Leaving was not easy, after all home is home right? There is much I took from my short visit but I think the best lesson for me was this:

It doesn’t matter what cultural back ground you come from, whether you classify yourself as coming from a warm climate where community is everything and almost all your life’s decisions are made around the thought, “how will this affect those around me.” Or you come from a cold climate where peoples natural tendencies are to look out for the individual; no one is an island, to grow in maturity, to know your strengths and weaknesses, you need other people around you. One is never too old to learn something new and one is never too young to impart wisdom to those around them. My personal growth, the maturity that I have acquired so far is not on me alone, it comes from those who have allowed me to be part of their lives, to share in their struggles, joy and suffering.

There is ubuntu* in all of us.

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel and mocha.

Deborah is 10 years old and from a young age she has been told over and over again that her dark skin is not desirable. At first she would cry every time she was told this but now she has grown a thick skin and merely tells whomever has tried to insult her, “so what if I am dark, I am still beautiful.” Deborah has sass, intelligence and confidence, I cant get enough of the sparkle in her eyes.

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Somewhere along human history the standard was set and it was: the lighter skinned you are, the more desirable you will be. One of the meanest way to attack an African black girl is to speak about her skin tone. I know what I am talking about, I am dark skinned, I have had my share of prejudice because of this. You just learn to live with it. One hears comments such as, ” She is beautiful, if only she was not so dark.” In Mozambique there are certain jobs that lighter skinned people will have a better chance of acquiring than a dark skinned person. For some women, the pressure from males and some of their girl friends to change their appearances is so strong, it causes them to use dangerous skin lightening creams that if used continuously irreversibly destroys their skin.

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So where did this idea come from that Caucasian skin is better than Negroid skin? I don’t think there is one single reason. Here are some of my reasons; even though colonization is a thing of the past in Africa, its legacy is still alive and well on this continent. For example the idea that Caucasian people are superior in every way to us and therefore steps must be taken to be like them is still very prevalent. Even in today s politics there is often this strong under tone that for Africa to succeed it has to copy the West. Another is the movies that we watch, the beauty magazines that we read, the authors that we enjoy,darker skinned people are rarely in the spot light. Even the dolls that are sold in supermarkets are white, it is close to impossible, scratch that, it IS impossible to find a black doll in Mozambiqan supermarkets. Put all these and other reasons together and a culture is created that states lighter skin, is always, will always be better.

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Even in Pikangikum I found the same attitude amongst First Nations there. The fact that many people do whatever it takes not to tan because “dark skin is ugly.” I think some folk have said this to me completely overlooking the colour of my skin. The bullying that children pour on others who are darker than them is phenomenal.

For various reasons I don’t have a complex when it comes to my skin colour although there are days when I really get bothered by the comments I hear. I pray and hope Deborah will grow up with the confidence I see in her now, that she will refuse the push to try out skin lightening creams and love herself for whom God created her to be cause, ” dang girl, you are beautiful!!”

Sad day.

My camera is not working … I don’t know whats wrong but it won’t read my card no matter what I do … makes me very sad …

I haven’t posted in awhile, my heart and head have been doing a lot of thinking but each time I sit to write some of my thoughts, I have nothing. How does one share intimately without over sharing? That’s the part about blogging/writing that stresses me the most … I lie, editing photos comes pretty close to driving me crazy sometimes and I am a minimalist! If you check my Instagram feed (most photos taken with my iphone) I have lots of pictures of some of things I have been up to. I have decided to make time to do lots of reading so right now I am reading: one fantasy, a biography and a book on what it takes to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I want to be as diverse in my reading as possible so that I can expand my English vocabulary.( I have also been listening to a podcast on A tale of two cities) I have even taken to walking about with a little notebook that I can add interesting words to it. I hope all this English wont make my other languages suffer … maybe I should make time to read in other languages too… I have also had a big itch to take my writing more seriously so I have two projects going on. One for my friend Chariss’ children (my second book for them) and the other, well when I get to finishing it you will know. I am having so much fun writing, I could sit for hours scribbling away. Hence the four note books I use to write down ideas of plots, bible verses, interesting proverbs and such.

Even with all the busynness I have with work, I still have lots of time to myself. I think one of the hardest part about moving to Canada so far has been the adapting to two very different cultures (First Nation and Canadian Caucasian) without a friend with at least a basic understanding of Africa living close by helping me along the way. I even marvel at myself that in a months time I will have made it a year here. I guess I am made of tougher things!

I am really really sad about my camera, I hope it fixes itself … if you have been following me for awhile, you know how much its a part of my life …

Adapting, like a daisy.

A lot of my thoughts since arriving here have revolved around “acclimatizing.” If you never knew, let me tell you now, thinking can exhaust you. As I am the only African living on the Reserve here are few differences that I am encountering and no one on the Reserve can relate to.

(Please remember that when I say “African” its a general statement, I know I cannot speak on behalf of the continent :D)

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Africans use a lot of hand gestures and physical touch when talking together. It can be a gentle push, interlinking of hands as we walk and talk or just a light tap on someones arm to emphasis a point. In Mozambique, we greet with a kiss on both cheeks, hand shake or occasionally a hug. For us physical touch shows you are engaged in the conversation. Here on the Reserve, that rarely ever happens. I have a constant voice in my head when I am hanging out (whether it’s with the white folk or First Nations) “don’t touch, don’t touch, they don’t do touch. DON’T TOUCH!!” The more comfortable I become with new friends the more I want to revert back to my African ways.

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My stomach is picky, there is food it just won’t approve of, most of the time its the ready made or pre mix eatables. I never grew up on this kind of food and no matter how nice it taste it doesn’t take long for my stomach to revolt against whatever it is that I have eaten. I am slowly figuring out which foods my stomach doesn’t care for and take them in small quantities. I cannot afford to have a picky stomach, our one and only grocery store does not have much variety… in time, surely it will adapt?

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By far what has been most challenging to adapt to is understanding what poverty is in North America. Before coming here, some people I knew who had been to some Reserves in North America told me of the terrible poverty that I would encounter. When I got here, I quickly realised that my understanding of “poverty,” is through African “lenses” and I need to take those off and put on North American “lenses” to see what they mean when they say; there is poverty on the Reserves. If I were to document the life of one person here and then show it to one average Mozambiqan family, I can assure you, they would not think people are poor on this Reserve. BUT compared to how the rest of Canada lives, at least in this Reserve, there is poverty and I am slowly beginning to understand that, it just doesn’t come naturally.

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Daisies are lovely flowers, it doesn’t matter whether they are growing by a lake, beside a dusty road or in a well manicured garden these flowers thrive and no matter where you find them, there is no mistaking that what you are looking at is a daisy! I want to be like a daisy, to be able to adapt to different situations but still not lose what makes me Shula. I don’t think there is any formula on what it takes to adapt to a different culture perfectly. There are days when the idea of going out and meeting up with people is too much, sometimes I give in and just stay at home, after all when I am by myself I don’t have to explain why I act or speak differently from everyone else. I know I have made mistakes and will make more, my only hope is that  in all this adapting, I never, ever lose the key ingredients of what makes me, me!