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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hunger, food, and food for thought

everyday, someone knocks on my door with three simple words,

"i am hungry."

every year, there's a hunger season, but this past year's hunger season was particularly bad; missionaries who live here have been saying that it hasn't been this bad since the 1980s.

much of the reason for this stems from the fires that occurred this past september, fires which ravaged homes and crops, leaving many homeless and hungry. then the rain came late this past year; people bought seeds to grow maize in their mashambas (gardens) and planted them expecting rain to come in october, but it didn't. the seeds died, and the people had to buy seeds again. again, they planted them in a couple of weeks expecting rain to come, but it didn't. rain didn't come until mid-december (just a day after i arrived! which is december 16...). because people lost a lot of seed and didn't have money to purchase more, many weren't able to grow their crops. for the people who were able to, the late rain caused the maize to grow, but people were forced to reap them prematurely before they were even ripe. between october and april, people literally had nothing to eat. reports of deaths in nhamatanda (a community that hands is beginning to reach into) reached us, reports that read, "age 6. died of hunger."

family in front of their destroyed home after fire in september
(photo courtesy of dara and laura)

during this time, hundreds of people from neighboring villages came to maforga everyday asking for food. roy, a missionary who oversees maforga, was able to give out small portions of maize meal to these people. it wasn't since the 1980s that roy and maforga decided to do mass food distributions everyday. shigeida, the missionary community across maforga, also started to give out small portions of maize meal to hundreds of people. tens of people would knock on my door everyday for something to eat.

hundreds of people waiting for food in front of the maforga church building
(photo courtesy of jean aimee)

it was especially tough for rubatano. rubatano lost two of its major donors at the end of 2008, but funds ran dry way before then. even the funds for volunteer incentives, which were promised to the volunteers until the end of the year, ran dry in october. volunteers also struggled to survive. it was heartbreaking to see rubatano's volunteers also waiting in line to receive small portions of mealie meal. we had nothing to give even to our own when the crisis was more real than ever.

witnessing this, dara wrote a letter to family/friends and churches back in the states, one of which included wellspring church. in response to that letter, wellspring fundraised for this crisis, and the response was incredible. in only a couple of months, thousands of dollars were raised for relief, and the donations were wired to hands hub in south africa. after a few challenges with transferring these funds from south africa to mozambique, the support finally arrived in march, right before we headed off to conference in south africa. we were able to give out small food parcels to everyone in rubatano's program -- children, patients, and volunteers -- about a total of 700 households in three communities. every household received one monthly package of maize meal, beans, and oil for two months (march and april).

thank you, wellspring!
thank you, God.

photos from april food distibution in nhembia.

when looking back, i have so much to say. there were and still are so many questions, most of which pertain to the how's and why's. "how is it that an entire country can be suffering so much at once?" "why, God?"

other questions, i found even more personally difficult to digest. people were constantly knocking on my door asking for food, money, clothes. many approached me in a way that did not invite much sympathy, and i found myself easily frustrated by the hunger, by the people.

"why is it so hard for me to love?" "why is it so hard for me to give?"

i still don't know the answer to many of these questions, and i have yet to grow and understand many things. but at the end, i can only say one thing.

God is good, all the time.

especially after seeing the response from the church, i realize more and more that even at times such as these, or rather, especially at times such as these, we are truly together. and we are in this together. when one part of the family is hurting, another part responds and helps, whether or not that family member is thousands of miles away. at a time and place where we thought we were in the desert and felt that God was far away, God was closer to us than ever. He gave us an opportunity to draw nearer to each other and draw nearer to Him. He provided for us abundantly, and He showed us once again that He is God, and He is God of mozambique.

some of the volunteers in nhembia.
starting from top left, clockwise: lazaro, adao, katarina, marcelino.

please remember us in your prayers.

please continue to pray for carlos.

please continue to pray for our volunteers. they are the hands and feet that visit the homes of the children and the sick. even during the hunger season, even when hands announced last year that there would be no more monthly monetary incentives, all of our volunteers wholeheartedly stayed. we are currently trying to implement new ways, new IGAs (income-generating activities), to care for our volunteers. please pray for wisdom, that we would trust and obey God's guidance.

please continue to pray for the children and the sick.

please continue to pray that God would stir up more hearts in the local and international Church, to care for its own body, to care for its own family.

please continue to pray for mozambique.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


this past tuesday night has got to be the freakiest and funniest night in mozambique as of yet.

i live by myself in a quaint and cozy two-bedroom house located in a farm community called maforga. though at times i wish i had company in the house, i've never really felt "by myself"; many visitors visit, and the farm accommodates missionary families and other young volunteers with whom i frequently fellowship. and with the exception of bug situations, i've never really felt scared staying in the house "by myself," either.

that is, until this past tuesday.

it was cloudy and had been raining on and off the entire day. power was also extremely unstable; lights in the house would flicker and suddenly go off every hour or so. i was in my room on my computer at around 8 o' clock at night when i start hearing strange noises outside of my bedroom window. not really audible, but occasional deep whispers. i choose to ignore it. winds were howling, leaves on the trees were rustling, owls were hooting. sounds of nature, sure. i was able to brush off the noise for a good hour or so until at one point, i actually hear an audible voice. not too loud -- a deep murmer in some other language -- but clearly human. then i hear footsteps on my porch just outside my window!

my mind starts to race and my heart starts to pound. it's 9pm at night; by this time, most africans are asleep. the voice sounds like that of a woman -- a deep and husky female voice. what was a woman doing outside on my front porch? if this person were male, i would've assumed him to be a security guard resting on my porch from the rain. it seemed too late to call my 80-year-old-next-door neighbor. my imagination runs wild and takes into account every possibility -- the real, the unreal, and mostly, the absurd. the first thing that actually came to mind was -- is it a witch doctor?? or a witch doctor's assistant?? i've heard stories of witch doctors stealing babies at night, using babies' body parts in their practice. what if this time, this witch doctor needs not a baby, but the body parts of a mazungu (white person)??

the power/electricity situation was making it worse. on and off. off and on. doors were creaking, and whenever the power went out, i was half-expecting somebody to jump out from the dark through my closed bedroom door. absurd and quite ridiculous, i know, now that i think about it. well, even while i was thinking it, i knew it was ridiculous.

but my fear was quite real. i tried to calm myself down from this idea, as the voice actually died down. 'maybe she left,' i thought. i continue to write e-mails on my computer, more intentionally and more furiously than ever, trying to avoid any sort of confrontation or encounter with this mysterious being lingering outside my bedroom window. but after another hour, i hear her voice and footsteps again! dilemma.

maybe it was out of unconscious courage that i spoke up. or maybe it was out of unconscious (or rather, uncontainable) fear that i spoke up. but i found my mouth suddenly blurting out, "who's out there!"


"who is it? hello??" still, no answer. "hello???" i don't even dare to get up from my bed to peak outside my window to see who it is. i try calling out in portuguese. nothing. nothing but silence and nature.

after a few moments, though, i finally hear a groaning/mumbling in some language that doesn't sound like portuguese or even shona. i hear her mumbling and walking closer to the opening of my window. even at this point, though, i'm too scared to draw the curtains to see who it is. she says something indistinct, deep, and slurred, and i can't understand her. through the closed curtains, i try asking her in portuguese what her name is and what she's doing outside my house at this hour. she just mumbles something. i finally draw the curtains. it's a woman all right. i don't recognize her, and she doesn't look at me in the eye when speaking. i ask her these questions again, but she continues to mumble something, and i have no idea what she's saying. she doesn't look harmful. in fact, she looks scared, helpless and confused. so i walk outside of my room, and open the house door. her belongings are outside -- a jacket, a blanket, a plate, and a cup. i wonder if she's from one of the neighboring villages needing a place to stay. she continues to mumble something, but she doesn't look at me in the eye. she's blind.

it finally registers. i've heard of a blind lady who lives in maforga. i've never seen her until now. i call carlos to ask for some help, and he just chuckles, "oh. it must be maria. just take her to the security guards, and they'll take her home."

there are lot of details in between, but to make a long story short, the security guards and i ended up going on an hour-and-a-half-long search for maria around maforga in the middle of the night because... i ended up losing maria on the way. -_- how i lost a blind lady while walking together down the road, i do not know.

anyway, it was pitch-black, misty, cold, and raining, and this adventure was, at some points pretty frustrating, but i think i actually had a lot of fun. the only time i really got startled was when a security guard popped out of the dark while another guard and i were walking down the road. i jumped up and screamed, but we all just ended up laughing, the guards with their ak-47s in their arms, and me, with a dinky flashlight in my hand.

we finally found maria, lying in a ditch on the side of the road that leads away from maforga. i later discovered that maria is also sick and mentally ill.

that explains a lot. -_-

after this little emprise, i came back home wet and stinky.

but most of all, thoroughly amused.

only in africa.

moon and purple sky on one of the brighter mozambican nights.

Friday, April 24, 2009

care package

a very late update yet again................

rubatano and hands at work in mozambique have been hosting many visitors this year, especially since february: a group of hands staff from south africa, potential supporters/donors from canada, jean aimee from the states, levy from south africa, and pastor davies from malawi, etc.

after conference at the end of march, though, i had the opportunity to host a group of visitors from home! ki won, my good friend from college, and alfredo, his friend from med school, spent their spring break on a missions trip with hands, visiting me and some of the projects that hands supports. not exactly from home/home, but like seeing lauren from wellspring at conference -- a sweet taste of home. live care packages!

it was surreal, though, in both instances; two worlds -- my african world and american world -- colliding.

paul (australia), pastor farai (zimbabwe), ki won and alfredo (states)

the two of them only stayed in africa for about 10 days, but we were able to cram in a lot of activities: community stay in masoyi, south africa (+kruger park); gondola hospital visit, baby clinic visit, and home-based care in mozambique; home-based care and worship service/playtime with orphans in zimbabwe. paul, a representative from hands australia, also joined us on our travels, and by God's grace, we didn't face any major challenges and enjoyed our time as we experienced a glimpse of God's heart for His people.

most of the photos above are those from honde valley, zimbabwe, where pastor farai hosted us for 2 days.

this was my second time visiting honde valley and the communities that pastor farai serves. one word immediately comes to mind whenever i think of this place: beautiful. the valley is beautiful. the people are beautiful. God, you are beautiful.

photos from my first visit to honde valley.

landscape of the valley.
can you see the two waterfalls on the left? one of them is supposed to be the tallest waterfall in africa.

Monday, April 13, 2009

africa and international conference

update overload! these updates are long overdue; please excuse and forgive :)

i'm back in mozambique, somewhat settled down from the visitor craze since february and conference craze since mid-march.

most of the following photos are from international conference. they're not that comprehensive in terms of chronicling key events. moreover, the last few photos may be slightly biased and narcissistic in that... most of them capture me with people.

but for memory's sake. :*)
and i figured, this is my blog >B]

[3.17.09] waiting for our 6am bus, which arrived an hour late! we drove 15 hours south to maputo, spent a night in maputo, crossed the border into south africa the next morning, and arrived in nelspruit 3 hours later!
africa conference [3.19.09 - 3.26.09]

haha, major jump from the previous photo to this one. towards the end of the africa conference, hands family and african delegates enjoyed an afternoon with sports, namely soccer and volleyball. to my surprise, a lot of us were interested in playing volleyball over soccer. above: pastor floyd, a dangerously apt volleyball player with a killer serve. rallies between both sides of the net would last forever. i played, but was too intimidated to play.

julia and her daughter, maria :)

they (with the rest of their family) visited mozambique in december. they had planned to stay for a month or so in mozambique, but their trip was quickly shortened to 2 weeks. they both got malaria. -_-

prudence :)

pascoa and her third daughter, jessie! jessie looks exactly like her mom,

and tabitha exactly like her dad :)

voila -- the family (minus nyasha)!

international conference [3.26.09 - 3.29.09]

location: hannah lodge, happily situated in a game park about 2-3 hours from white river/nelspruit.

mornings were a real treat. crisp air and beautiful sunrises.

lauren on the look-out for giraffes! apparently, giraffes would come up to the dining area on the balcony, especially in the early mornings.

and conference begins.

with worship.

with prayer.

and (as pastor farai so articulately puts it, haha) continues with session after session!

quick break from session: game drive!

look at us,

glowing with excitement!

sad to say, though, we didn't see much. or, errr, correction. our group didn't see much, relative to the group that went the day before. our group saw black rhinos, tons of kudu, warthogs (so cute! they could easily be my favorite animal of the year), ostriches, and... aloe vera trees. -_- i just wanted to see a cat. one cat. is that too much to ask for?

but hey, beautiful scenery/landscape was well worth the drive

in this monster of a vehicle!

outdoor worship/praise and dinner afterwards! haha. oh, papa dave.

lauren! dannyboy!

alisha, me, emily, and jessie -- the last intake of "footprinters." miss you guys!

jessie! my previous partner-in-crime. now she might be going to nigeria! :*(

lovely liez! lize-marie theron. haha
time to say our good byes! liez with the zambians.

with erick (from the congo), innocent (from zimbabwe), and stuart (from zimbabwe).
lacey's good bye dinner at papa's after the conference!

Friday, March 20, 2009

we are together

i'm back in south africa at hands hub, and it seriously feels like seeing close family and friends again.

so many things have changed during the three months i've been gone -- new faces, new office structure, new meetings -- but it's been good knowing that some things never change; we'll always be brothers and sisters.

"we are together" is this year's theme for conference. carlos says it all the time -- "estamos juntos." we've been ingraining this concept since the beginning of conference, but this morning was the first time i think i've really experienced it.

praise and worship.

for one second, i glanced back and looked at the people i was worshipping with.

representatives from nigeria. zambia. mozambique. swaziland. zimbabwe. south africa. the congo.

volunteers from canada. the states. the uk. australia. germany. holland.

it gives me chills whenever i think of this image or whenever i'm in large corporate worship settings, and i'm always reminded of one thing.

one day, the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Philippians 2:10

Monday, March 16, 2009

road trip

off to south africa for conference in about 6 hours!

carlos and family, jean aimee, pastor ferai from zimbabwe, levy, and i will be travelling down to maputo by bus. we'll be spending a night in maputo and complete our journey to nelspruit, south africa by another bus!

please pray for a safe journey!

(and an enjoyable one, too)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

out of the miry clay

after a week of being sick,

i'm better now!

almost 100%


malaria occurs so frequently here that it's spoken of almost casually.

"lisa has malaria," "manuel has malaria."

still, it doesn't make the experience any less unpleasant.

i came home from home-based care last friday with a sudden massive headache. i went to sleep immediately, at around 1:30pm-2:00pm, and woke up at 8pm. -_- by then, i felt i had somewhat of a fever and felt unusually tired/fatigued. no vomiting. no diarrhea. 'ok. so i might have the flu. couldn't be malaria.' i went back to sleep after having talked to my nurse housemate about the symptoms for a while.

i woke up saturday morning with the same piercing headache and my body burning up. i still felt extremely tired, even after having slept for that long. my housemate needed to go into town, so i stayed at home in bed sleeping. at some point, i felt i really needed to get up and move around -- 'maybe i feel tired because i've been sleeping so much.' i saw dirty dishes in the sink. 'hey, i'll wash the dishes.' i walked into the kitchen, turned on the water (we have running water now!), and started scrubbing dishes. after two dishes, i felt too tired and found myself panting and went back into the dining area to sit down. after a couple of more attempts to finish washing the dishes, i just went back to sleep. ^^;

carlos actually came later that night and tested me for malaria (or the most common strain of malaria around here). negative. but we speculated the results might come out negative; the doxycycline i had been taking for malarial preventative medication may mask the results. carlos and my housemate agreed that i should take the medication for malarial treatment: 4 tablets of malarone for 3 days (which i had luckily saved!). i was somewhat skeptical; i'm not big on taking any medication in general. i decided to wait another night and see if the symptoms would die down. bad move. sudden chills.

nana, my 80-year-old next door neighbor, came over next morning to see how i was doing. she's a retired nurse who's been practicing in maforga for a very long time. she touched my face and immediately said, "you have malaria. you need to be on treatment. " "couldn't it be a flu?" i asked. "flu in mozambique = malaria." good point.

she took out the malarone i had beside my bed and handed over the tablets to see me take them down. "after 12 hours, you'll feel better." and like clockwork, i did! i felt better enough to eat a banana, although.. i felt like throwing up the banana for the rest of the day -_-

come monday, i didn't feel as tired! come tuesday, i was sitting up/walking around!


i probably had one of the milder forms of malaria. i probably had one of the shortest spells of malaria.

still, i wouldn't want to go through it again.

i guess it just.

comes with the package.


sorry for all the worries i've caused.
and thanks for all of your prayers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

zimmmm! (days 1 and 2)

the first word that came out of my mouth as we crossed the border:
zimbabwe is a beautiful country. it almost reminds me of switzerland. well, what i imagine switzerland to be like. villages and towns are surrounded by vast mountain ranges overlooking valleys of green.
zimbabwe is also completely different from mozambique. most people know how to speak english and know how to speak it well. in the past, zimbabwe boasted of its high standards in education compared to those in other african countries. villages, houses, and roads are also very structured; rows of identical living compartments are ordered as "court 1," "court 2," etc. in the past, people in mozambique who had severe illnesses or injuries would cross the border into zimbabwe to receive medical help.
all that has changed. zimbabwe now faces economic and political disaster. inflation has done so much damage to the currency that zimbabwean dollars are worthless. the most recent bill printed out was marked "one trillion zimbabwean dollars." you can't even buy a mango with that. only south african rands and us dollars are accepted as valid form of currency. "forex" -- they call it. schools are closing down everywhere, and children are seen loitering in the streets or are stuck in an even sadder case -- they're in their uniforms walking from town to town in search of a school that would accept them. teachers are getting paid, but in zimbabwean dollars, so teachers are quitting. those who stay demand that parents pay hundreds of dollars for a term's tuition; might as well make it a million. hospitals are also closing down everywhere even though cholera is spreading. the government has also stopped giving out arv's for new cases of patients with hiv. people are crossing the border into mozambique because there is no food in zimbabwe. people are starving. people are dying.
it is so hard to imagine that such a beautiful place can have so many problems underneath.
i had a chance to briefly visit a few places in zim with a group of visitors from hands hub in south africa who came to see the projects in mozambique and those starting up in zim.
day 1 [2.15.09] : good bye, mozambique!


herman and marc, the troublemakers of our party.

kept on pulling pranks!

day 2 [2.16.09]: home-based care in mutare


julia greeted by school girls.

this vovo (granny). she is blind but takes care of 8-10 children in her home (some shown two photos down); most of them are children of neighbors who passed away. everyday, the kids go out to beg for food or money. while begging, one of them got bitten by a dog and has an infection that is being left untreated.


daughter and mother.

emily, one of the hands staff, showed us around her childhood home in zimbabwe.

home-based care volunteers in mutare.

billion zimbabwean dollar bills found in the trash.

money, money, money.

"we had to carry bags of billion dollar bills to buy one piece of bread!"

we all came back trillionaires!

overlooking our "catchment" area.

this guy. i thought he was a security guard, but as emily talked to him, we discovered he just came up to the hills to get some fresh air, to get away from all the troubles down there. as emily simply put it --"to get away from staring at the four corners of his wall."