Sisters Keeper

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Creating community where ever God places me is one of my passions. A highlight for me this month occurred earlier today when my sister in law and I spent time reconnecting with girls I have known for many years. Some I have known for a little over 10 years. We sat for hours as all 20 of us shared the highs and lows of 2016. Some of the challenges they shared were; having to choose between staying at home uneducated or courageously attending night school and facing the constant risk of being sexually assaulted. One girl talked about the hardship of living with hunger as a steadfast companion because the family can only afford one meal a day.She candidly spoke of how difficult it was to concentrate in class on an empty stomach but remained determined to have the highest marks in class, of which she did. All shared their deep frustrations of dealing with teachers willing to fail an entire class unless each one pays a small bribe. A few spoke of either praying on their own or with their friends, asking God to help them pass because they had no money to pay the bribe the teacher demanded. Prayers that were answered.

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For some challenges, we had ready answers. One was creating study groups amongst themselves in order to encourage one another to keep studying and also to help those that are struggling in certain subjects. I noticed several things as the girls shared, they all have a very strong desire to excel in school, most of their problems revolved around getting an education.And, all of them ended their sharing time with a hopeful outlook of the future, with dreams of being lawyers, teachers, nurse or doctors.

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The teenage years here are especially hard on girls, not only do they have boys their age relentlessly pursuing them for sex, grown men unashamedly do the same. In my opinion, if a girl reaches her teen years unable to see herself as valuable and worth respecting and no one helps her realise this truth, it doesn’t matter how intelligent she is, she will fall prey to boys and men who care nothing for her well being.
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With this particular group of girls, we have some who are done with college, some applying to enter university and many more in different stages of high school. My hope and prayer is for them to continue looking out for each other, life is hard but if you have a few friends who genuinely care for you, burdens become easier to carry and hope never stops rising.
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May Hope continue to rise for you too in this new year!

Family

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My brother and his wife dancing to one of their songs.

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Game time.

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When your little sister is a chef and she decides to grace us with her amazing skills! It’s only natural to take as many pictures as possible of her creativity and work.

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There is no place like home. I love my family.

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Parents, siblings, cousins and friends.Coming home for Christmas was the best gift my friend could have given me. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and may you have a great entry to the new year.

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!!”

Rise of the baby crabs

Fishermens boats by the  Maputo beach.

fishermen boats by the Maputo beach.

When the tide is out on the Maputo beach, hundreds of thousands of tiny crabs come out to play.

Coming out

Coming out

When I take friends to the beach for the first time they fear walking on the beach for fear of either getting pinched by the crabs or crushing them. None of this happens, in fact when you walk it doesn’t feel strange at all, you would have to be looking down to see that there is a carpet of crabs below your feet.

I know nothing about crabs minds 😀 but just before you take a step they quickly crawl into their little underground holes. It’s as if they can sense peoples foot step before they happen. I must have looked crazy lying on the ground for the longest time taking pictures but these little crabs fascinate me. You have to be still for a couple of minutes for them to come out. If they are not fighting with one another each one is continuously making little balls of sand that it rolls out from its barrow till the tide comes in again.

Crabs

Crabs

 

Mentoring 101

I dare you! So Celso showed the others that he could get very close to a live crab.

I dare you! So Celso showed the others that he could get very close to a live crab.

I enjoying mentoring, usually I stick to a group of 4-8 girls or teen girls but in November I decided to try something different, mentor 25 youth for 3 months. My plan is meeting them once a week to do different educational fun activities and invite some of my friends to come share with the group. The reason why I am doing this is because I thought it would be a great idea to give these young adults (aged 15-22) a set time for them to think over their year and to make plans for the following year. I like to tell them, “if you don’t make plans for your future, someone else will make plans for you.” All the youth come from very discouraging back grounds all the more reason to have these 3 months with them. Last week I took them to the beach.

As soon as we got to the beach, the boys went straight to playing football whilst the girls...

As soon as we got to the beach, the boys went straight to playing football whilst the girls…

... decided to tap into their diva side and pose ... You gotta love girls

… decided to tap into their inner diva side and pose … You gotta love girls

Eventually the girls got their act together and went,

Eventually the girls got their act together and joined…

the boys to play ball.

Delcon

Delcon

I have no formal training in mentoring young people, if there is any advise I would give anyone it would be, don’t expect over night change, it takes years to see change in the people you are helping and most importantly be prepared to get your heart broken once in a while as your “mentees,” make stupid decisions even after you have given them sound advise. At the end of the day, everyone has free will. Mentoring sure tests: “un conditional love.”

Merry Christmas!