Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hello is anyone still out there? I have not made a single post in all of 2008 but I just wanted to see if anyone still follows this blog. I have now discovered this Facebook thing and was rather convinced that it was the better of the two channels of online communication. but now i am not sure if i should return to the blog in 2009. anyway i'll try to figure it out...otherwise, if anyone is still out there and wanting to chat it would be good to hear from you.

Have a Merry twelve days of Christmas,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

100 posts along the road

When I started this blog back in the summer of 2005 it was intended to put a spotlight on my experiences in Mozambique and allow me to describe how this new land and new work environment were impacting me…both for the better and the worse!! Now that my time in Mozambique is over, and I find myself back in Canada working at the MEDA head office in Waterloo, I feel as if I am going through a bit of an identity crisis, both in terms of the direction my life is taking as well as how I want to use this online journal. I have enjoyed keeping this blog as it has provided me with an avenue for which I could describe my life in Mozambique for my friends and family scattered amongst the globe.

I admit that I have often been lazy in updating this blog, especially since my return to Canada three months ago. Perhaps I feel that my “less than exotic” life in Kitchner-Waterloo does not provide me with enough interesting material to keep an online journal that people would be inclined to read. Or maybe I feel that it is time that this blog naturally evolve into something else, some other forum for me to post my thoughts and interact with the global village in which we find ourselves. This has yet to be determined as my emotional and inspirational levels are in need of major stimulation these days.

I miss my life and our work in Mozambique. I have been in Canada for three months now but I still don’t feel fully “at home” here. It’s as if my spirit is still hovering somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, yearning for distant lands, while my body tries to carve out a new existence here in Canada. I find that my heart aches to be back in the field working directly with people as opposed to sitting behind my desk pounding away at a keyboard in an industrial office park. I have some exciting projects awaiting me on the horizon over the coming months but they seem so distant and my motivation is lacking in the meantime.

This will be my 103rd blog posting. When I returned to Canada to begin my work at the MEDA office, I drove my car from my parents house in Winnipeg east down the Trans-Canada Highway to Waterloo. This journey took me over the Great Lakes and through the towns of Kenora, Thunder Bay, Wawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Parry Sound. The scenery is breathtaking, especially during the winter months. Over Lake Superior I couldn’t help but notice the number of wooden posts that stood out on the highway side. They seemed to be about a hundred in number and I thought that those posts were like the ones on my Mozambican blog, each representing a significant experience that brought this Canadian boy from his childhood home in Manitoba to his present home in Southern Ontario. These posts each mark a path, both through the rocks and trees of the Canadian Shield as well as through the streets and shorelines of Mozambique.

So it is at this 103rd post that I feel “Jared’s Mozambican Adventure” will come to an appropriate end. The events from this past year and a half have had a tremendous effect on me and the memories will last with me forever. I will continue to explore the re-manifestation of my writing and will certainly keep you posted regarding these new directions.

Wishing you all peace, joy and compassion!!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Searching for Easter Eggs

I had a girl ask me this week why eggs are so important to Christians at Easter time. For as long as I can remember, colourful chocolate candied eggs have always been an integral part of my Easter Sunday. I would search like crazy over every nook and cranny of my house until I found each and every one of these sweat treasures that this supposed bunny had placed the night before.

I don’t know why the whole chocolate Easter candy has become so popular but I do know that that eggs have been a central component of the Easter these for centuries. There is an old Palestinian story of Mary and Martha, two of Jesus’ closest followers, where Martha is running down the road shouting for joy after she had heard that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had risen from the dead. In her excitement, she comes across her sister Mary returning to the house carrying a bowl of eggs on her head. Martha tries frantically to explain the miracle to her sister but Mary is stubborn and refuses to believe that such a thing could be possible. She declares, “if what you say is true then may all the eggs on my head change into all of the colours of the earth.” Sure enough, when she takes the basket down from her head she is amazed at the rainbow of colour that is before her.

Eggs have of course been a key part of pagan rituals around the spring equinox long before Christianity became a dominant religious force in the West. Representing fertility and re-birth, the end of death and the beginning of life, eggs easily became important spiritual symbols explaining the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The light could not be held back by the darkness, bringing life and new hope to all corners of the earth. The spiritual journey of Christianity involves searching for this light, allowing oneself to go both through the pain of the crucifixion and the joy of the resurrection. This is just like searching for Easter eggs in a way as we find the gifts of love, peace and wisdom that are “hidden” among us all the time.

I was raised within the Mennonite Christian tradition but have long found myself drawn by more personal forms of spirituality and theological pluralism. I strongly identify with the message of the Easter Story, not only because of the significance of the Passion Week but with the simple and enduring message of redemption and new life. This is the good news that I believe that we Christians share with many of the other lovers of light and followers of the higher power throughout the world. The world needs to hear this message and it is up to us believers to make it heard.

Spirituality is a journey and there are many eggs to be found along the way. May you enjoy many blessings in your search, share with others the things you have found and eagerly seek for all that is still to come.

Halleluiah – One Love – Raise your soul


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Final Weekends: Part III

After attending countless other going away party’s for friends that moved in and out of my life during the past year and half, it was finally time for me to celebrate my departure from Mozambique with one final Friday night blowout. My roommate Brenden and I cleared away a massive dance floor in our apartment and got a hold of an incredible stereo system, preparing for a long night of booty shaking like only Mozambicans know best. It was a massive turnout, with a good mix of my ex-pat and African friends showing up to wish me off while sharing one last Laurentina or Tipo Tinto. Unfortunately, news of a good party spread quickly and we soon found ourselves having to “forcibly escort” a few rowdy and intoxicated gate crashers out the door.

Despite a few bad apples in the bunch, I had a great time and got to see practically everyone in the city that meant the most to me. After we had danced ourselves out, drummed our last beat, sang our final song and drank every last drop in the house, I finally showed the last guest to the door as the morning sun was creeping up on the horizon. It was a great way for me to bring to a close the incredible social scene I was able to find here in Maputo.

I was quite tired as you can imagine on Saturday and ended up spending a quite night in with Nathalie drinking tea and watching the Last King of Scotland (Great movie by the way…Forest Whittaker performance is HUGE, quite literally!! Definitely deserved the Oscar). We then got up early on Sunday morning and joined my old roommate Cathy Rothrock for the worship service at the church of our former housekeeper Rebecca. Cathy’s sister and brother in law were in visiting from Edmonton and they all wanted to see what a Shangana church service was all about. Basically it is three solid hours in a sweaty reed hut, singing, praying and shouting for Jesus. The rest of the congregation was overjoyed that such a large contingent of “mulungos” had joined them in their part of town and they took great delight in showing off their church’s talents and helping us to follow along with the words in the shangana hymn book.

After the service, and after we had shaken about a thousand and one pairs of hands, we went back to Rebecca’s house for lunch. This was the first time that I had ever been inside Rebecca’s house and she took great pride in showing me all of her things, especially their large backyard with mango, lemon and cashew trees. Unfortunately, Rebecca’s husband Pedro was not able to join us because he was out working on a fishing boat with some friends. Pedro had received some excellent news previously in the week as he graduated from his driving school, opening up a whole new door of work opportunities for him. The family was incredibly thankful and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in each other’s company under the shade of the mango tree.

We then returned back to Maputo in time to play ultimate, a game that had recently become a Sunday late afternoon tradition for our group of friends. For those of you who don’t know what ultimate is check out this link here. It’s an amazing game and hands down the best co-ed sport around in my opinion. For most of my time here in Mozambique I bemoaned the fact that nobody in town played ultimate until I finally took matters into my own hands and started the first ultimate league in Maputo. Initially we had a pretty luke warm reception but once February rolled along we started to get a fairly regular turnout. What was also encouraging is that towards the end we started getting more Mozambican guys and girls showing up to try out this strange new sport.

Full of new found enthusiasm, we ultimate fans in Maputo began dreaming about putting together a Mozambican Ultimate National Team and taking on teams from Swaziland and South Africa. Who knows, maybe one day we will see a Mozambican entry to the world championships…or a campaign along the likes of “Ultimate contra HIV/SIDA.” The skies the limit in my view, and, while I hated to leave just as the momentum was building, I believe we’ve got some good folks that can continue the ultimate tradition.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Final Weekends: Part 2

One of the highlights of the road trip I took through the United States back in 2004 was spending time around the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Hiking down the escarpment, and spending some time in quiet meditation within the panoramic surroundings, brought me close to nature in a way that I had never quite experienced before. When I consider the vast period of history that has unfolded while this river has consistently flowed, diligently carving it’s path through the bedrock, it puts my own place in history and my time on this planet into serious perspective. For me, canyons, aside from the breathtaking vistas that they offer, provide a powerful testament to the perseverance and enduring spirit of nature.

When I arrived in Mozambique and realized that the world’s third largest canyon was on the Blyde River in the Kleine Drankensburg mountain range, only a half days drive from Maputo in the northeastern part of South Africa, I was determined to make a visit. However, my travel plans were often postponed for the sake of countless beach excursions in Mozambique (which I certainly do not regret!!). As the months passed by, with my departure date approaching quicker, the Blyde River Canyon continued to call out to me from the National Geographic map of Southern Africa hanging prominently on my wall. With one final weekend available for travel, and facing one more obligatory border run for my tourist visa, I finally put my plan into action.

Nathalie and I rented a car in Maputo and packed it up with all our camping gear and set off early on the Saturday morning, reaching the quant little town of Graskop at about 3 in the afternoon. This was after we had to endure the massive weekend line up at the South African-Mozambican border. I don’t know why some young Mozambican hasn’t caught on to the idea of selling cold drinks to the thirsty souls in line like they do throughout the rest of the country…they would make an absolute killing I am sure!! Anyway, the town of Graskop is this old South African pioneer town whose charm has long been exploited by the pricey tourist industry. Nathalie and I, however, were able to find a nice campsite overlooking the Graskop gorge and thoroughly enjoy the numerous waterfalls in the area without being inundated with a constant stream of other tourists.

As the afternoon shadows began to stretch out longer, Nathalie and I picked up some classic “sundowner” supplies and headed out to the edge of the escarpment locally known as God’s Window. The view over the “lowveld” was spectacular as you could see all the way across Kruger Park and into the Gaza province of Mozambique!! We also found our own trail through the rainforests at the top of the mountain and arrived at our own secluded clearing where we could enjoy the panoramic view and watch the different thunder storms roll over the hills. Despite the numerous threats from these dark menacing clouds, Nathalie and I remained completely dry.

The following morning we awoke early and set off for the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, which are situated at the opening of the canyon. These are fascinating rock formations that have formed over thousands of years from water swirling at the base of a series of waterfalls. Despite our preference for the unmarked trails, we signed up to take the Belvedere Trail down to the base of the canyon. It was a strenuous six hour hike and I quickly discovered that my physical condition paled in comparison to my fleet footed companion!! Nevertheless, we were both mesmerized by the scenery and overwhelmed by the sensation of standing within such a deep canyon. We were also able to treat ourselves to a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the Blyde River, allowing the strong current to carry us along the rocks and trees. We finished the day off with sundowners once again overlooking one of the most spectacular vistas I have ever experienced in my entire life. The Three Rondavels point gives you almost a 360 degree view of the canyon, allowing one’s senses to be flooded by the colours, the sounds and the spirit of God’s Country. It is at these moments where we can feel so incredibly humbled while at the same time feeling so immaculately exalted.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Final Weekends: Part 1

Staring down the barrel at a looming departure date obviously makes one want to spend their final weekends productively. Before I left Mozambique, there were definitely some places I wanted to visit in the area and travel time I wanted to spend with close friends. For over a year I had been trying to visit the island of Inhaca, which is about 50 Km away from Maputo, only to have every plan fall apart due to terrible weather. This time, however, I was determined to get over to this tantalizing island that beckons Maputoites on a clear sunny day to see whether the rumours I had heard about its idyllic beaches and splendid corals were indeed true.

I set off with Nathalie and our French Canadian friends Ian and Marie-Claude (aka, the Quebecois “happy couple”) on a private boat “Maritimos” which took us to the island in just over one hour. This is much better than the six hour trip on the local ferry but of course you pay about four times as much!! The other nice thing about taking a private boat is that we were able to stop over at the Portuguese Island, a tiny little spot just off the coast from Inhaca. Here we were able to relax for a couple of hours, take a bath in the ocean and marvel at all the colourful star fish that dotted the shoreline. I was in such a relaxed state at one point that I fell asleep on the beach (sans sunscreen!!) and woke up almost an hour later with a crazy sun burn. Stupid boy!!

We then got back on our boat and set off for the main island of Inhaca. The island is a funny one really because the main boat dock and the huge expensive Pestana Resort are located along an absolutely unappealing stretch of beach overrun with muddy sludge and seaweed. Certainly not a spot worthy of a postcard photo. The exorbitant prices for food and drinks quickly scared us away from that location so we ended up buying some supplies from the local market and hiring a local boat to take us to the Biological Research Station toward the southern tip of the Island. This is a place that is run entirely by Mozambicans through the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, offering nice affordable places to stay, opportunities to explore and study the Islands protected environment and a well stocked museum showcasing the Island’s marine life.

There were only two other students at the research center so we were essentially left alone to enjoy its isolated tranquility. We all had a serious appetite for some fresh fish and cold cervejas but there were no local fishermen to be found. We took a tip from one of the employees at the center and went hiking through the bush in search of the nearest village where we could find a fish market and an open baraka. After only getting lost a couple of times, and having to flag down some ladies returning from their farms to ask for directions, we arrived at the village and sat down with the baraka owners for some well needed cold drinks. In a strange connection to Canada, the rock stars Nickelback and Bryan Adams were written in large letters along the baraka walls!!

We then stopped off at the local fish seller to pick up some barracuda and lulas (squid) before returning back to the research center for a final swim and the perfect sundowners on the beach. Because we were on the west side of the island looking out over the Maputo Bay, it was my first and only time in Mozambique seeing the sun set over the ocean. That night we thoroughly enjoyed our seafood BBQ (except we SEVERELY overcooked the lulas!!) while each nursing our collective sunburns. The next day we took the long walk back along the beach to the boat dock, stopping off at the various coral reefs at low tide. I was amazed at the variety of corals and tropical fish we were able to see simply be snorkeling off the coast. We were also amazed at the number of women seated along the shore who were cracking open the sea urchins that they had caught in order to make a stew out of the gooey insides…a picture that I imagine has not changed in hundreds of years. Getting back in our boat, we said goodbye to Inhaca and welcomed back our Maputo home as its impressive skyline grew larger on the horizon.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Yellow Bus Was Calling Us

This week I am in the midst of planning what will be my despedida, or going away party for the non-portuguese speakers, tomorrow night. It is a strange experience for me, preparing to leave this city that has become so familiar over the past year and a half. However, in the preparation for Friday’s party, it occurred to me that I had inexcusably neglected to post up pictures about the infamous “Yellow Bus” incident that happened last December just before I went home to Canada for Christmas.

The event was originally meant to be the combined despedida for my good friends Dan, Geoff, Sofia, Tina and myself, back when I had thought that I would be leaving Mozambique by the end of December. We wanted to go out with a bang and so we decided to rent the Yellow MCEL Double Decker Party Bus and packed it with our closest friends for a joy ride around Maputo. We loaded up with booze, heavy stereo equipment, tacky hawaian shirts and tons of good spirit to ensure that the bus would bounce along for the duration of the afternoon.

Starting off at the Parque de Continuadores, we set off for a high profile cruise along Julius Neyere, the 24th of July, the Baixa, the Marginal all the way to Costa do Sol and finally ending up somewhere between Mao Tse Tung and a random German guy’s party. Maputo is well known for its wide boulevards with beautiful purple and red jacaranda and flamboyant trees. However, only when dancing around like fools on the top of a bus did we discover how dangerous these trees really were, as a few of the revelers came away from the bus tour with tree branch sized welts on their heads. Despite the risk of injury, we all had a riot playing street limbo while singing along to Mozambican popstars.

A huge crowd of Expats riding around on the top of a double decker party bus amongst Saturday afternoon traffic in Maputo certainly seemed to be a brazen display of affluent hedonism. This was particularly evident when the bus stopped at the beach at Costa do Sol and we were instantaneously surrounded by a huge crowd of gawking Mozambicans. We bought more drinks, we bought more trinkets, we took more pictures then we all got back on our bus and continued on down the road. Someone even put on Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique,” and as we bumbled our way through the catchy riffs and sunny lyrics we could not have thought of a more appropriate song for the moment.

As for my friends that have left us here in Maputo for other foreign lands, each one of you are missed in your own special way. Our paths have crossed and who knows when they will cross again. Seperado mas juntos, e verdade?