Saturday, October 10, 2009

same book, new chapter...

for those of you who might be interested, i'll be continuing to write at a new blog site:

the title's a bit strange: the result of both a lack of creativity and an imagination gone wild -- kind of a contradiction, ehe.

thank you all for reading, listening, and sharing; you've been such an encouragement.


Sunday, October 4, 2009


so here i am in new york city.

it's been over two months (?!) since i've been back to the states. as always, i apologize for the late update.

but just to give you a quick overview of my life right now:

i moved to new york city. i'm currently pursuing graduate studies in public health/epidemiology. i live in washington heights, but living in this part of nyc, i think i'm actually closer to new jersey than The city. but i must say, though i'm a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of true city life, i have a great view of the hudson river and george washington bridge from my apartment.

as for the transition back to the states, it's been interesting, to say the least. this move presents yet another transition in my life, and though i've had my fair share of transitions, the first few weeks were a bit tough. but... so far, so good?

optimism is key :)

really, though,

how has this past year gone by so fast? what happened to all my hopes, fears, doubts, and frustrations about this past year's mission trip? what happened to all my expectations fulfilled and unfulfilled? what happened to me?

i don't know.

it's funny when i meet up with friends and family. the first thing they say is something along the lines of, "it feels you were gone just for the weekend."

what does that mean?

in many ways, i'm still digesting all that has happened this past year. i look back, and i can't say that i've done much or done little in terms of the world's expectations.

but i can't stop thinking about carlos. i can't stop thinking about the volunteers in mozambique. i can't stop thinking about all the work that has yet to be done. i can't stop thinking about the children who are too busy surviving life. i can't stop thinking about the patient who was left alone in the gondola hospital to die.

though this past year has been one season in my life, it's been one season that has dramatically changed all the forthcoming ones. i don't know if i've done much or done little, but i can say this much:

i've learned a lot.

i've learned that one does not necessarily need talent or professional skill to impact another. jesus called the fishermen to bring God's message to the world. he chose the humble. he never asked us to be perfect. he asked us to be obedient and willing. he asked us to listen, trust, and follow. i can't stop thinking about rubatano's volunteers -- people who give out of their own poverty; people who simply listen, trust, and follow. i fell in love with their hearts.

i've learned that one does not necessarily need to be articulate in speech to be a good communicator. sounds obvious, but one touch, one glance, or one's presence with another may be enough. i can't get that image out of my mind: a tiny, frail, haggard man, only skin and bones, wrapped up in a sheet drenched and stenching with his own stool left to die and die alone. who said death was the scariest part? more than illness, poverty, hunger, or death itself, desolation, isolation, and utter hopelessness scare me the most. it may be enough just to sit next to him during such a state and time.

i've learned that one does not necessarily need the world's goods to be satisfied. again, sounds obvious, but who truly believes that in such a society as ours at a time like this? everyone wants a new toy, everyone wants to get ahead, everyone wants to become somebody; it's human nature. but when i consider the families and children who do not own a single thing and yet express genuine joy, i wonder.

i've learned that one does not necessarily need to have all the solutions to experience the peace of God. in fact, one may well experience it in circumstances of the contrary. i was worried about my family, i was worried about my relationships with others, i was worried about this trip, i was worried about the people in mozambique, i was worried about the future; i was anxious about anything and everything, but i didn't lay it before Him. i still struggle, but i realize that only when i surrender these things to Him, He brings forth clarity and grants me peace.

the list goes on and on, and i can just sit here typing all the things that have truly pierced me. but one thing stands out among others: i've learned that God is love. so simple, but so true. nothing is possible without this truth. how many times did i struggle to love other people? how many times have i come to the conclusion that certain situations are hopeless? how many times have i struggled with even the idea of seeming injustices of the world? i can't love on my own; i can't rely on myself. the world needs only one thing. God is love.

i don't know with certainty that i'll be returning to africa. but africa has become such a big part of me; i have a feeling that i will.

though i'm reluctant to bring this chapter to a close, i know there's more in store for me; there's always more to learn. who knows what will happen next?

only God knows.

and that's enough.

simple (and somewhat choppy) slide show recounting my mission trip to africa (south africa, mozambique, zimbabwe), 2008-2009.

thank you all for your prayers and generous support. i couldn't have experienced what i have without you.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

coming home

it's official.

Depart: July 20, 2009
Johannesburg, SA

Arrive: July 21, 2009
New York, NY
transfer to Newark, NJ to final destination:
San Francisco, CA

see you soon?

: X

Saturday, June 27, 2009

when i don't love africa

june 24th blog entry -- scratch that.
it's a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

haha, jk.

but today, i just remembered why i'm sometimes extremely eager to get back home. one of the things i won't miss about africa: often slow, inefficient, and almost ridiculous quality of service. granted, it's a sweeping generalization relative to western standards (t.i.a., right?), and i'm probably just speaking out of frustration, i've learned a lot about patience this past year.

***caution: long entry!

(1) a couple of months ago, i needed to download something online, print something out, and fax something outside the country. internet was working, but at the time, printers weren't readily available around the place. so i made a plan: i'll just save the document on my flash drive, go to one of the internet cafes in town, print it out at the internet cafe, and fax it at the post office (the only place where international fax is available). simple. easy.

i drove into town (a 30-minute drive from where i live) in hopes of everything going according to plan. or rather, in unsuspect of things going way out of plan. i mean, it wasn't much of a plan in the first place. this was supposed to be a simple errand.

unfortunately, joko, the first internet cafe i visited, was under reconstruction. the second one, and the only other one that i knew of, was just highly... disfunctional. i went on one of the computers, opened the document, and asked the guy if he could print out the document. sure, he said. he set things up, etc. etc., but for some reason, the document wasn't printing. the few times the printer managed to print something, my document was being printed out one fourth the size of the paper. i asked if i could see the printer and just change some things with the settings. he said no. he turned the printer on and off several times. he turned the computer off and on several times. still, the printer either said "no signal" or spewed out mini-versions of my document. he called another guy to help him out. they both were trying to figure out why this wasn't working. by that time, 40 minutes had already passed -- i'm not exaggerating. i was getting a bit frustrated and just wanted to leave.

"is there another place i can go to print?"



i finally persuaded him to see the computer myself. sure enough, the settings were not on "full-page (or whatever the settings ought to have been on)," and after a couple of more "no signals" from the printer, i was finally able to get a normal-sized hardcopy of my document.

funnily enough, i ended up paying for more than the 1 page that i had gleaned. 16 pages, to be exact.

with my document, i drove off to the post office in town. i distinctly remember it was just about 11am when i arrived. it was the weekend, which meant, all of the shops and services in town closed at noon. (which isn't to say that all of the shops don't close at noon on weekdays; all the shops in town take a 2-hour break, from noon to 2pm, every single weekday. real siestas.)

anyway, i asked the guy at the desk if international fax is available. yes, he said. he took my document, and put it through the fax machine. not surprisingly, the fax machine wasn't working. it kept on saying, "memory full," and the signal kept on cutting off.

i don't know much about fax machines, but common sense -- the little that i have -- told me to at least suggest something about this message that kept on blinking on the machine.

"i think something's wrong with the fax machine. it keeps on saying 'memory full.'"

"no, it always works."

he continued to call the fax number without receiving any signal in response. after many failed attempts, he finally called a customer service number of the company. he gave them my fax number, and they called for me. still, no response, and "memory full." after a couple of times of doing this and having casually lengthy conversations with customer service, the page finally goes through the fax machine. in the middle of it (surprise), the machine read "error." i was pretty frustrated at this point. it was 15 minutes 'til noon.

"is there any other place i can go for international fax?"

"i don't know."

"can i take my document so i can look for other places that have international fax before they close at noon?"

"just wait a moment. i'm trying again."

he tried again. and again. and finally, at noon, he gives me back the document.

"we're closing now. and fax isn't working."


i'm at a loss for words. i just took my document and was about to leave until he called out,

"you need to pay. for the document."

"but it said error."

"but it went through."

i didn't even try to argue.

250 meticais. that's 10 dollars.

that day, i went home feeling.
a little.

(2) last week, a group of us met in town for pizza. while i'm a huge fan of pizza, i was in the mood for pasta. i ordered penne with tomato sauce, ground beef, and parmesan. after much waiting, my order finally came out.

right from the beginning, something was a bit off with my order. i didn't get penne pasta; it was spaghetti with tomato sauce, ground beef, and what looked like parmesan sprinkled and mixed in all over the spaghetti. but who cares, so i proceeded to eat. i took one bite. something tasted a little funny. i couldn't pinpoint what it was, but it just tasted funny. 'maybe they put in some kind of exotic herb.' i continued to eat it, but after a couple of bites, i had a feeling that something was actually wrong with the dish. nobody else ordered pasta or spaghetti; i couldn't compare. so i asked others to try it. sarah tried it. she also said it tasted a little funky, but couldn't tell me what it was. i passed on a bite of it to amy. she knew exactly what it was.

"oh gosh, it tastes like milk gone bad."

it was the cheese.

upon closer examination, the parmesan chunks that were mixed in all over the spaghetti and sauce had green spots all over. i was a little aghast, but still didn't know what to make of it. the following thought process, in hindsight, convinced me something about myself that i never readily admitted in the past: i have a skewed logic. a very skewed logic.

instead of calling the server right away, i thought,

'maybe it was intentional. old cheese is blue cheese. maybe it's just intentional blue cheese instead of bad parmesan.'

while i was seriously considering this nonsensical thought out loud, john intervened, "either way, it's blue cheese."

good point.

i finally called the server for the menu. the menu clearly indicated "parmesan." i called the server again and told her of my dish tasting funny. i tried to explain in my broken portuguese -- "the cheese isn't good." she looked at me squarely. i could tell what she was thinking. 'sure, that's a subjective point.' so i tried to explain -- "the cheese tastes like bad milk. it's old." after many other versions of this same explanation, the server finally went inside the kitchen and called her supervisor. the supervisor came out with a bucket of something. she opened the lid, and in it was a brand new package of parmesan cheese. she told us that this was the one they had used for my plate.

everyone at the table was a little more than skeptical. i just showed the supervisor my plate. "the cheese is green. the parmesan you're holding is not. it's not the same." the supervisor and server both denied this observation with -- "but this is the cheese we used." after much going back and forth, the supervisor and server went back into the kitchen. the server came back out, i had hoped with another plate of spaghetti (or penne) with the right cheese. but she ignored our table and continued to serve other tables.

by this time, the rest of the group had finished their pizza, and the same server came over to collect their empty plates. along with that, the server proceeded to collect my plate that was still full of green-cheese spaghetti. not knowing what was going on, i stopped her in her tracks.

"what are you doing?"

"you didn't want it."

"are you bringing another pasta dish?"

"no. but you don't have to pay for it."


you know, at least i didn't have to pay for it.

but i was hungry.

and apparently, customers are never right here.

(3) my final vent-out story after all of this long, whiny, and uninsightful rant. probably the most relevant to my life right now because this case could lead to a few serious consequences.

today, and for the past month, i've been trying to change my return flight back to the states. it's originally scheduled for the end of july: leave joburg on july 31, arrive in new york august 1, leave newark (new jersey) on the afternoon of august 1 and finally arrive in san francisco on the night of august 1. (i didn't notice this -- or rather, unconsciously ignored this factor -- that i would actually have to change airports to catch a flight from the east coast to the west. it probably has something to do with buying the cheapest ticket online with south africa airways. -_- )

anyway, i wanted to change my flight to the 22nd, arriving in the states on the 23rd. there's no function on the website to change my flight. i couldn't get hold of the south african representatives of south african airways, either (calling internationally was far too expensive, anyway). fortunately (or so i thought), there were mozambican contacts for south african airways. after calling several different mozambican numbers, i finally got hold of someone who seemed to be able to change my flight. i probably called her at least eight times throughout this past month. and conversations always go the same way. and after a month of redundant conversations and phone-tagging, i basically got nowhere.

some parts of the conversation just crack me up, though:

"what's your name?"

"hannah chung (then i spell it out -- h as in hat, etc.)"

"hannah choong??"

"yes, that's right. hannah choong."


"i gave you another number to call."

"nobody at that number was able to help me."

"no, that's not possible. they're supposed to help you."

"but they couldn't help me."


and the best one yet:

"what's your reservation number?"


"hm. where did you buy this ticket? in south africa?"

"no, i bought it in the united states. i bought it online."


"on the internet. online."


haha, anyway, the south african airways mozambican rep finally made some changes. i checked online to see if everything was confirmed. sure enough, i had a flight for the 22nd of july. but i also had a flight leaving from joburg for the 17th and the 31st as well. there were no flights arranged for my flight from newark to san francisco. i called back again, and as the rep checked, apparently, all flights flying from newark to san francisco are booked until december 2009. no room.

my point is, if i ever had one,

june 24th entry -- really scratch that.
cuz i might not be coming home.

or i might be coming back on the 23rd of july.
or the 18th.
or the 1 of august.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

a time for everything

as of today, i have exactly 3 weeks until my departure from mozambique.

it's cliché and also a bit futile to say that time has flown by. but it really has. where did these past months go??

i don't consider myself the blatantly expressive type. the emotional type. the sappy type.

my mentality has always been,

que será, será. life goes on.

but i can feel it. the sadness that comes along with the impending sense of inevitable good bye's.

i remember writing on my college application essay many years ago: "i hate saying good byes because they always feel like betrayal." maybe (and probably) i'm more emotional than i consider myself to be, or maybe, even then, i was tired of having to make transitions all the time. my life, as a simple sum, has been that of a gypsy. my family moved all the time. never settling. always moving. moving for better or for worse. but that was life. and good byes were a part of life.

and so here it is.

it is time to say good bye.

it's not time to reflect upon my stay in africa yet.

...but what am i talking about?!
i still have 3 more weeks to go!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

two aussies in my posse

haha. i promised myself to follow the upward trend and update at least once a week. failure.

in any case, there are lots of news to share since the last time i've written.

one bit of news:

i am currently living with two new housemates! surprise. haha. -_-

sal and robyn from hands hub in south africa have come to join me to stay in mozambique for at least 3 to 4 months. they're australian, but they've been living in south africa for 7 years now. they've been here in mozambique since the 8th of may, and it's been an interesting and fun few weeks so far. sal is helping out with starting the construction of the care centres in nhamatanda and amatongas. a lot of progress has already been made with the care centre in nhamatanda! robyn is helping out with more admin work here. but moreso, as one of the original leaders who found hands at work years ago, she's been working with carlos in casting the vision and directing the next steps in establishing the service centre and guiding other community-based organizations with their projects.

but besides their work with hands, sal and robyn have made many notable changes in this house, it's almost revolutionary. i couldn't believe what i saw when they first arrived. they drove up here from south africa with their car (a one-week journey visiting other places in mozambique), and as they unloaded their belongings from their car, all sorts of things rolled out: a tent, pots and pans, bedding, mattresses and sheets, boxes of food (that included a package of tofu), sal's tools and saws, etc. i mean, sal brought his own generator! "just in case electricity goes out," he said. (well, he uses it for construction when he goes out into the communities.)

they arrived on a friday, and i assumed that they would be resting up the following weekend from their one-week trip up here. but they were up and running saturday morning. sal was busy fixing up things in the house, oiling door and window hinges, inspecting the parameter of the house looking for cracks and crevices, etc.; robyn was busy cleaning the house, scrubbing the bathroom, rearranging everything in the kitchen, etc.

my lifestyle has also changed somewhat significantly.

  • i eat a lot more. and i eat a lot more of a variety of foods -- a lot of cheese (sal is originally from switzerland), a lot of vegetable dishes, a lot of sauces of different cultures.
  • i drink a lot more (no, not that kind of drinking.). i was never the tea-time abider in africa, but now i regularly find myself sipping on tea, coffee, or hot chocolate throughout the day, averaging about three cups a day.
  • i stay in my bedroom a lot more. i call it "my corner" -- my corner in regards to the location of my house on this farm and to the location of my bedroom in this house. most of the time, i just keep my door open and use my bedroom as my office and my bed as my workspace, whereas before, the dining area was my office and the dining table was my workspace.
  • i talk a lot more. obviously. now that i have people in the house to talk to. -_- i enjoy the lengthy and comprehensive conversations over dinner where we would talk about random things and not-so-random things -- the simplicity of life here, the decadence of life elsewhere... and the hippie life in australia, haha.
  • i find myself in strange and funny situations a lot more. mostly from interruptions in the "office" life that robyn and i have in the house: spending an entire afternoon cleaning out the kitchen cupboard that was full of weevils; finally fixing a printer, gloriously celebrating over it (cheap thrill, we say), and then realizing we were missing the usb cable connecting it to the computer; laughing over the peace offering nana brought over one day (robyn unintentionally mentioned to nana that her chickens woke her up one night. the next day, nana brought over a couple of her chickens' eggs as a "peace offering").

fun people + random stuff = funny life.

Monday, May 4, 2009

my guilty pleasure

one of the many wonders of the world which i can never appreciate enough. whoever came up with this simple but brilliant idea -- major kudos to you.

what i would kill for a fresh glass of milk.