Monday, August 23, 2010

bringin' the flavor

Maputo is a taste I can't put my finger on. It's like a flavor that I've experienced before, but yet at the same time is totally different. It's as awkward on the tongue as my infant-like Portuguese. It's as delicious as the food we're eating as we stay in a home for traveling missionaries. It's as suddenly spicy as the instant my life flashes before my eyes as a chapa speeds around a corner and misses me by inches. It's as sweet as the smiles from my CCM coworkers as they welcome me to my "second home." It's as flavorful as the salty air that bounces in over the fish markets along the banks of the ocean. But yet it's an unfamiliar taste like one that can only get better with time.

Priscila, Stephen and I have just completed our third day bumping around Maputo in a daze of excitement, exhaustion and wonder. I still feel a bit numb from our whirlwind weekend of traveling and all that lead up to our arrival. We flew on two overnight flights in a row to get us from orientation in Akron, to a long layover in London, to a short goodbye to Elise in Johannesburg, and finally to Maputo. But we have made it (even with all of our luggage!), and are staing safe and well-fed under the provision of Casa Koinonia staff.

I still have trouble realizing that I'm actually here. All of my planning and preparation is done, all of my farewells have been said and all of my fundraising is taken care of. Maputo is now my home. And in many ways, I feel that this is a homecoming rather than a new beginning. The headaches that plauged my head before I came have been replaced with the quiet and ever-present nudging that this is exactly where I need to be. The red dirt, the blue water, the green palm trees, the orange trash on the street, the white walls and the brown eyes all remind me of the aching in my heart ever since I left Ghana. This is certainly the beginning of this chapter, but it is not the beginning of the story.

My Portuguese is improving every day (thanks to the lessons from Brazilian Priscila), my jet lag is weaning, I'm more used to traffic coming in the opposite direction and I'm indeed feeling more and more at home. I've discovered bits and pieces about my host family, such as the facts that they were solidified the day before I got here, they have two daughters and they live an hour and a half from Maputo. I'm not thrilled about the three hour daily commute to work, but it will give me a chance to explore the city more and become proficient in the transportation system of chapas, or minibuses.

This afternoon, we spent some time in orientation and reflection at the home of Joel and Jenny, two MCC workers who have taken us under their wings. Jenny challenged us to spend our year seeking the ways that God is moving in Mozambique, even if "kingdom-bringing" looks quite different than what we're used to at home. It reminded me of the passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus talks about Christians' presence in the world, among other things. Don Davis, an occasional guest pastor at Mars Hill, calls us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth in terms of "get your shine on, and bring the flavor." I don't feel very shiny yet in Maputo, but I'm definantly feeling the flavor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


This video was shown to us as part of our training and orientation. I wanted to pass it on as another perspective that I hope will help me wrap my mind around all that I will see, hear and experience throughout my SALT year. The video is a little lengthy, so get comfy and take the time to watch and listen.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Even thought I've only been in training for a few days, I already feel a small world away. This is mostly because a majority of the world has been brought to MCC this week. In my training, I'm joined with 60 other SALT-ers, as well as young adults from other countries--either serving abroad or in North America through two other MCC service-based programs. When all of us (about 80 total) are together in a room, it's as if a mini United Nations has been plopped into tiny Akron, PA. Along with valuable MCC-led workshops and orientation sessions, I've learned multiple handshakes from Zimbabwe, songs in Swahili, Chinese recipes and how to sing the colors of the Brazilian flag in Portuguese. I often feel socially overwhelmed from the expansive catalog of names, faces and placements that I've just jammed into my head, but it has been wonderful meeting the people here. We've laughed about melanin, teased about accents and marveled in variance. Never before in my experiences have the joys and challenges of diversity been so apparent in one situation.

This multiculturalism is represented in our living arrangements as well. We all live on or near the MCC headquarters campus, where there are five "houses" that represent different continents and regions. I'm living in the Africa house, but I really feel as though I'm living in a fair trade Ten Thousand Villages store ( From furniture to bedspreads, common African heritage and art forms are represented. These organic-feeling houses even have washers, calming the fears that I'll be hand-washing my clothes while in training!

A common theme of this orientation, besides multinationalism, is an acculturation to MCC and who we are within the organization. Being at the MCC headquarters is such a dream come true for me, and I feel so honored to be so graciously welcomed into the MCC family. We've matched the key MCC values of peace, development and relief with our own, and I'm deeply comforted in remembering that this is exactly when and where I'm supposed to be. I'm reminded of why I love MCC and it's work, as well as how perfectly my position is set to compliment and enhance my past experiences. I'm realizing just how colorful the world really is in all of its beauty and complexity, and I'm thrilled to be able to taste, smell, see, hear and feel the interconnectivity of all who are here and what this community represents.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ate logo!

I leave bright and early tomorrow morning for a week of training before heading off to my placement. There are a ton of things that I'm not sure about, but am oddly alright with. I don't know who I'll meet in training. I haven't heard yet where I'll be living in Maputo. Despite my current friends' concern and my future friends' displeasure, I don't know where (or when) I'll be able to wash my clothes. And most disconcerting of all, I feel that I don't know a lick of Portuguese going into this gig.

But, I do at least know ate logo, which is one way of saying goodbye in Portuguese. It literally means "until soon." I find this to be a very fitting way to say goodbye to all the dear and loving friends and family who I have delighted in spending time with and have hated to let go this week. You all have been so supportive of and encouraging to me throughout this whole preparation period, and your excitement for my trip has been contagious (I'll ignore my suspicion that you're really just excited to get me out of your hair for a year!) For a visual of some of the people who have helped celebrate this new journey, check out the album link below.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

a new chaper

The adventures of Ghana are long over. College is finished. And a year of service through AmeriCorps*VISTA is complete. Therefore, it is time to leave the country again! This time, I'll be taking off for almost a year. I leave in exactly one week and should return on July 25, 2011.

My newest journey will lead me to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. But while I'm returning to Africa, I'll be far away from familiar West African countries in order to explore the southeastern corner of the continent, which only books and documentaries have exposed me to thus far. My 11 month experience is through the SALT (Serving and Learning Together) program of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). If those acronyms weren't enough, I'll be stationed in Maputo in order to serve the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) in their environmental development and water purification systems called sand dams. In essence, team of local and international development workers dam up a river in order to provide communities with clean water through the natural purification of the river's sand. I'll be working as a member of this team, but I'll be focusing on project planning and reporting. I will run previously written reports through a Portuguese to English translating software, create new documentation, and share the findings with donors, partner organizations, and the development community at large. At least this is what they tell me I'll be doing. Only time will tell what my actual experiences will be.

When I leave on the 12th, I will head to Akron, PA for a week of training before arriving in Maputo on August 21. Hopefully I'll gain a better understanding of what all this service year entails. I have been so blessed by my family, friends and home church throughout this preparation period. Through their generosity, I have surpassed the amount of money I needed to raise for my trip. I greatly appreciate your support through financial gifts, continued prayer and even by reading these blog posts. And with all of this being said, I think I'm finally ready to turn the page and see what the newest chapter of my life has in store!