Saturday, July 29, 2006


How little do I know of your shores
this fair country
this fair city
lost in a cloud of smoke and flame

How many more bombs will fall in this land?
How many more mountains will crumble into the sea?
How many more prices will be paid for destructive means?
How many more souls will be lost in these hours?

How far away are my hands
from your sand and your rubble?
How far are my eyes
from your sorrow and your shame?
How far is my mind
from a pride this is so bold and unnerving?
How far is my blood
from that which runs in both your veins
and in your streets?

Very far indeed
Very far indeed

My hands only hold these questions
rhetorical questions
sung and danced and cried
through the generations of the ages

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem
and to all those that love them
may they truly receive
the light of this world.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Rockin with a Message

This past Monday my colleague Narcisso and I got the opportunity to visit Male Yeru (pron. Maalee Yayroo), one of our closest partners here with MMF-MEDA, in the Southern Mozambican town of Bela Vista. The town was hosting a huge celebration in honour of the provincial district of Matatuine, appropriately named “Dia de Matatuine.” The celebrations were actually a three day affair, culminating with the huge party on Monday. Nearly every man, woman and child in the entire district made it out to Bela Vista for the festivities and we were certainly glad we made the hour and a half trip from Maputo.

The reason that we were invited specifically was because Male Yeru was organizing a huge presentation on their HIV/AIDS and Microfinance project and they wanted to give MMF-MEDA full credit for assisting them in this initiative. They were instrumental in organizing the large stage and sound system from which they told stories of their clients, allowed local HIV/AIDS activists to preach their fiery messages of prevention (check out the old lady above!!) and provided a back drop for local drama groups to perform their comical yet poignant skits about sexual responsibility and caring for people living with HIV/AIDS in the community. I was quite impressed with the positive response from the crowd and the amount of respect and praise showered upon Male Yeru by the people of Matatuine. This clearly is an organization that personifies the optimism and integrity of a community committed to social development and a better future for generations to come.

The climax of the afternoon was the boisterous and energetic rock concert featuring the music of the JZ Band from Maputo led by the flamboyant stylings and slick vocals of lead singer Jeremias Nguena. Jeremias is hugely popular here in Mozambique and the people of Matatuine were ecstatic that he came to play a concert in their remote Bela Vista. The show was extremely tight and featured some amazing choreography from the male dancers and back up singers, all dressed in funky army fatigues. I couldn’t help but snap numerous photos of the band before their manager approached me and yelled at me for taking unauthorized pictures. Despite me pleas of blissful ignorance at the time, I was forced to delete the majority of the pictures from my camera. I actually got the chance to sit down for a meal with the band afterwards and we ended up having a good laugh about the whole situation.

The afternoon was wonderful, meeting tons of locals, talking about our project with Male Yeru and soaking in the atmosphere of an African small town festival. It was an absolutely perfect way for Male Yeru to showcase their work with HIV/AIDS and I was honoured to be invited to share in the experience. I loved how the event got the whole community singing and dancing, once again from the fresh faced children barely able to walk to the shriveled, toothless old ladies in their colourful capulanas. As one Male Yeru client told me, such celebrating is essential in Mozambican culture as it reminds us to “stay happy and keep our souls alive.” Amen to that my friend!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Birthday Boys

This past Saturday, I had the extreme pleasure of ushering in my 26th year on this great green earth with a good mix of my friends here in Maputo. What was originally intended to be a low-key gathering of souls quickly turned into rockin good time with my tiny apartment nearly bursting at the seams to accommodate those that came to raise a glass with me on my birthday. Since it was also my Dutch friend Stephen’s birthday we decided to hold a joint party to enhance the merriment. Here’s a picture of the birthday boys before we became too weathered by the evening.

Looking around at the people at my party, I couldn’t help but be thankful for all the good people that I have been blessed to be surrounded with here in Mozambique. I also could not help but feel a touch a regret that my good Canadian friends from Maputo (Pete, Caitlin, Wes, Cathy, Courtney and Guillom) could not be with me for the celebrations. Each have moved on from this charismatic city but I certainly felt their spirits with me that night in the laughter and the revelry that filled my flat and spilled out into the Mozambican night. But this is the reality of making friends with other ex-pats in a city like Maputo, it is a constant process of hello and goodbye, forcing us to cherish each and every moment with each other before it is time for one of us to move on down the road.

My British friend John and I were also extremely excited to lead a big jam at my birthday party but the poor guy nearly cut off his hand last week when he was slicing some frozen beef burgers and is confined to a sling for the next three weeks. Despite the extreme pain, and the fact that he nearly lost two fingers, he is already counting down the days until he is given a green light to play guitar again. We both want to continue to experiment with the folk-rock afrobeats that we have been jamming out to with our African friends at various get togethers. Despite the absence of John’s mind blowing guitar solos, we managed to create some amazing music that night thanks to the scores of talented drummers that were leading the jam. What is it about African drumming that brings even the stiffest of people to their feet in rhythmic response? Perhaps that is what “spirited energy” is all about (ha ha!!)

I guess I could expound on how another year under my belt makes me feel older and wiser than before. I guess I could go on about how I feel the years slipping by me as I move into my late 20s (gasp!!). To be honest though, I love being 26. I love living in Mozambique and I love where I am in my life right now. No complaints, no regrets, no fear. 26…I’m ready for ya baby!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home for a Rest

Well I’ve returned back to Maputo after an amazing two weeks back in Canada. It was quite a whirlwind visit as I tried to pack in as many activities and visits with friends and family as possible. 10 months was the longest that I had ever been away from home and I was eagerly looking forward to the chance to soak in some Canadiana once again. July really is the best time to visit Winnipeg as the weather is optimal and the people are all out in full force trying to take advantage of the prairie summer glory.

In between family BBQs (those two wild ladies on my arm are my mother and my aunt), golf trips (shot an 85 at Niakwa, the best round of my life, and beat my dad for the first time…by 15 strokes!!!) and countless drinks on Corydon Ave. (the best place to take in Winnipeg’s patio culture), I was able to make it out to the scenic Bird’s Hill Provincial Park for the 31st Annual Winnipeg Folk Fest. Now of course I did everything I could to time my visit home so that it coincided with the Festival, a Winnipeg institution that my friends and I have been going to since we were 16 years old. In fact, my parents used to come to this festival together back before they were married making us one of the numerous Manitoban families whose generations have been united by this fantastic event.

This year my parents once again came out for the Saturday and Sunday concerts, complete with their rainbow coloured chairs that my mother picked up to add a splash of pizzazz to their festival experience. I was also overjoyed to have my good friends Peter and Caitlin, the Canadians I met in Maputo who are now working back at home, join me at the festival on Saturday. Since I had raved so much about the event to them in Mozambique they figured that they had to come out and see it for themselves. It was an amazing reunion with these wonderful friends of mine and I hope the festival got into their veins enough to come back for years to come.

One of the things that I like the most about the festival is the incredible musicians that you discover. Folk Fest doesn’t bring in many big name acts but the performers are unbelievably talented and I am always surprised by the richness and the diversity of the music. Musical highlights for me this year were: Crooked Still, Steve Earle, Bedouin Soundclash, Ruthie Foster and the Refugee Allstars of Sierra Leone (check these guys out...unbeleivable story!!). Of course the other highlight for me is the Folk Fest Campground which becomes this bohemian community of over 5000 people living together in blissful harmony for four days. The times that I have spent in this campground, and the music and friendships that have carried me through many Folk Fests, have provided me with some of my greatest Manitoba summer memories.

One of the questions that I was repeatedly asked when I was back home was whether I felt any reverse culture shock, coming back to Canada after almost a year in Africa. I think the things that hit me the most were once again being in such large crowds of white people, being surrounded by green trees and green grass lawns and of course the huge box stores that define our rampant North American consumer culture. Those were the biggest “shocks” I found.

Other than that I was shocked to discover that Manitoba had changed its provincial motto from “Friendly Manitoba” to “Manitoba: Spirited Energy.” This has been quite a controversial change, not least because of the confusion around what “spirited energy” actually entails but also due to the fact that our provincial government paid an American advertising firm upwards of 4 Million dollars to come up with our new provincial identity. I like the acknowledgement of the spiritual dimension to my home province but I don’t like how we had to contract ourselves out to the Americans to come up with our new motto. I am curious to hear what you all think about “Spirited Energy,” do you like it/think it’s lame, I’d love to get some of your thoughts.

Well I guess that is all I have to say about my trip back home. A huge thank you to everyone that I was able to spend time with…our time together, even the briefest of encounters, meant so very much to me. You are all such wonderfully good people and I love you all deeply. Sending you all good vibes from Mozambique!!

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