All posts by K.B.

Development practitioner working out of Australia - creating growth in current projects and assisting with creativity in field work. I am a student of both language and culture, in the hopes of providing future development solutions while laughing about the many things I must learn. I don't take life or myself too seriously.

Turn Me on My Head | Will Change it All

Blue skies tremble across the clouds and trees are shaken by their puffy whiteness, stretching aimlessly. Where do they go? They sail to the next continent, over the seas, amidst the sands, salty air, and wind that changes and shifts with time. Clouds are never the same.

People too.  Change is inevitable. Despite the fact that so many expect that things will stay the same, they don’t. There’s not much that can be done except take the change. It is the familiar that so many wish for.

Nacala-à-Velha has not evolved greatly since the advent of my arrival and yet I wish it would. There has been some growth – a few new faces, a jet-powered boat for water sports, free weekends, whale sightings, and snorkeling. However work is coming to a slow pace of the always-meandering turtle.

Some fear change, whereas change allows so much to flourish. If there is little change, there is little growth. The challenge is to use the familiar to create the chance to move forward.

I don’t mind change. What I do mind are puzzles that cannot be solved right away.  Limited experience has taught that people are the greatest puzzles.

People come and go

Feels like you are so untied —

Lights on fire

Turn me on my head

Street lights; the city

Turn it up tonight.

Dancing with myself.

 

– The Knocks,  “Dancing with myself”

On the other hand, if a human puzzle can be solved so easily, why would a person even be curious about each day that we live? Since I was a young, precocious girl I always asked the same question:

Why?

If there is one thing that has never changed, it is this question and the lack of answers that often follows.

It never leaves my lexicon. Today the questions that plague my mind are the great human mysteries of the spirit. Why do people treat each other cruelly? Why is life so hard? Why do certain aspects of life stay stagnant no matter how hard we try?

I attended a wedding a few weeks ago for a gentleman who has worked with me for almost a year. I did not know his fiancé at all, but watching the two of them begin their lives together I was reminded of the growth that happens when you make such a decision.

Any day can be a life changing event. The day you meet a stray puppy and adopt. The day you choose a job you think will be like any other but uplifts you into new challenges. The day you meet someone who becomes a life-long friend. Often, though, we don’t know which days are just the ordinary ones and those that will alter the course of things. So today I am reminded of the future. It’s the unknowing “Whys” and the wondering if I am right about how I think I will be in 5 years, 20 years, or even 20 days.

It is when these questions are asked that I come back to the questions I can answer. Why am I loved so dearly? The answers that follow are that God has given me a beautiful family, friends who act as sisters and brothers…

The other questions can wait for tomorrow. As Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Protection flows around me from my partner-in-crime, D, to the sisters who reminded me I am one year older today. To the parents who remain in love with me no matter how many times I’ve let them down. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, my heart remains guarded from the answers. Yet today I feel loved and valued. Love is unconditional and I am grateful. For no matter what is flowing from my heart it is protected by those who give me the greatest armor. Unfailing loyalty and purity of heart is my breastplate and shield.

Today I am one year older. Perhaps I am getting wiser after all.

L’avenir dira si j’ai raison. Only time will tell if I am right.

 

Nacala wedding in the Mozambican summer.
Nacala wedding in the Mozambican summer.

 

Advertisements

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.

Mundane Monday

As  the sun begins its ascent on a new week in central Mozambique, I am not without my questions about what it means to exist and do. I am sure we all ask ourselves if what we are doing means anything…especially if you are stuck in a corporate position. The Man clamps down and holds you in his grasp, unwilling to allow you a speck of happiness.

Forget being happy. What about greatness? I am far from the glittering world of commerce and the institutions of higher order in New York, London and the like but it doesn’t change my desire for more.  I came to Africa to really do but the existential unhappiness of the doing still invades the development work. Even my work in development is a drop in one of the biggest lakes of human rights abuses throughout the world. It is enough to keep crying. Tears aren’t going to change the world though.

It is more than that. Insanity and reaching for greatness does not a great mind make.

Maybe it is because pushing yourself to achieve is not enough in life, and it doesn’t mean you are more intelligent than the next person. Calvin and Hobbes are always reminding us about friendship and the fall of humanity, albeit in humorous form. Brilliant! Calvin knows the difference between a boring everyday slave-to-school Monday and the FREEDOM of running around without clothes on. Finally~ Life can begin!

You may beg to differ that inventing Naked Mondays is hardly what a great mind would think. But who is to say?

Aristotle said that a great mind must exist with at least a touch of the insane. So if we question what we are doing because our mind feels as if it is bordering on madness should we question our mind? When we are reaching for something extraordinary … what does that mean? Could it be closer to having a great mind but still unsatisfied?

Who is anyone kidding? Insanity and dissatisfaction does not a great mind make.

Certainly I do not live a charmed life. My idea of a good day is when I haven’t found solvent paint on my face at 5:00pm or swallowed a bad piece of chicken (happens more than you can imagine). Yes I have R&R. I can visit home. I see beautiful places other people don’t dare to see. But daily life – glamorous it is not. Satisfying? Lately not even that. Greatness isn’t often charming either.

My only consolation is that if I am Calvin I have my friend Hobbes. What if Hobbes wasn’t there? I guess Calvin would have to rethink Naked Mondays for a start. What fun is that without a friend to appreciate the true inventiveness of Naked Mondays?

Do nothing. Then you are exactly that.
Do nothing. Then you are exactly that.

Perhaps the question is not about questioning the familiar, the mundane, and the boring. It is about using the dissatisfaction as fuel to change the things you can control even if it makes you go crazy. If I was Calvin, I would say Hobbes is my secret ingredient – madness, a little bit of being clever and a friend to cheer you on or tell you when you should rethink things. Criticism comes not only from our enemies, but also from the ones we love the most.

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

If we don’t constantly wish to be more, to change what is stagnant, we may never have to worry about the thoughts of others. But what if we do? Then we fall prey to the many bystanders, pits of vipers and those waiting for us to fail. I’ve had my share of criticism and it isn’t going away anytime soon. I’m reminded that I am surrounded by friendship that never questions my character, my passion, and who I am. An ambitious mind is one that is vulnerable, especially if your passion is on the line. Vulnerable to criticism, envy, and FAILURE.

Admittedly this can be a hard place to be. My mind is not far from misery right now. But one cannot fear what is not known – greatness is not something often achieved alone. Lately I am not so sure about my own strength.  But I do know who my friends are. If I know I am crazy, they know I’m crazy, but I still know who my friends are. So life isn’t so bad.

Maybe I could push myself over the edge to something great after all. They say that a man is only as good as the woman standing behind him. Well I may not be a man but perhaps that doesn’t matter. Maybe being female means all the women behind me make me stronger. I don’t have one; I have many! If one is measured by all those behind her, then I may have some greatness in me after all. Thank God.

I wish it was only my mind that was on the chopping block but if one’s passion is part of the motivation I’m in trouble. It is also my heart on the line.

Sometimes that is harder than it seems. Cheers to you ladies!

Here’s a balloon from Moz. Or two or three. Who said African living isn’t weird and weirder and maybe some kind of wonderful?

Nacala Juventude Drive

Time…the heart of Mozambique?

Mozambique is a hard teacher. The days are long and harsh; the sun is heated and the air cloys with sweat and sticky dust, peeling from your sunglasses. The last few weeks I have been literally sweating out my stress during these summer days, shedding the old cliché that I am a female, thus I cannot perspire. Far from the truth.

Two days ago, I opened a school I helped put together for months. We built it where there used to be a simple one-classroom hut into five, with administrative offices and desks for 250 children. It is really something.

It doesn’t change the bitter note I tasted when I was asked for special accessories like air conditioning (I’m sure Mac Air computers and tablets are not far behind) on the very day I presented the entire school with Christmas gifts and a brand new library. No one understands the money that is already behind this school.

Nacala kids

The rewarding piece is that the children are innocent and smiling, giggling while hiding behind trees when they ask me, “How are you?” despite my various attempts to speak in both Portuguese and the local language, Makhuwa. They want to catch my attention. I do what I do for the one child who might recognize the opportunities of going to a school with a real desk and a chalkboard. The 7 year old who might grow up to study law, lead her country, change corruption. The engineer who starts his own business in 10 – 15 years. The children can see. The men and women who lead Mozambique today…often they just can’t.

It doesn’t, however, change the fact that Mozambique is a hard teacher. Not just Mozambique – but Time. Time is as harsh as the ground my conflict boots are treading.

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable. …

… Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being…”

  • “Burnt Norton,” The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

 

It has been several months since the last epistle on this travel blog and in no small part because of the amount of work and the kinds of challenges I have faced in Nacala. Today is a chance to reconnect with my audience as the heart and soul of la vie in Mozambique has been wrapped so much around work that sometimes it is easy to be distracted from the amount of time that has passed by. A line caught my attention today from T.S. Eliot about the stillness in a moment – only in that moment, he said, can we find the dance. I thought it was a beautiful place to start considering where time has brought me today, and I found Eliot’s musings on the ticking bomb of movement a good place to be.

Rather more puzzling than illuminating, Eliot seems to be stating the enigmatic matter of time and coincidentally, literature. Time is strange certainly. Perhaps most of all it is strange because one can wake up and wonder if the events happened in just the few waking moments before sleep or if it truly was hundreds of days before.

I said Mozambique is a hard teacher, but really it is Time that gets to us. Time is constant, but it is also moving. The movement is the elusive bit. As Eliot states, “Desire itself is movement / Not in itself desirable / Love is itself unmoving / Only the cause and end of movement , / Timeless, and undesiring…:” When I think of the Moçambicanas I am surrounded by each day, I am reminded of my own love for what I do. If I really do have passion for human rights and for the people who are on the losing end of this battle, I cannot move. It is the same for the passion I feel for my kindred spirit here in Nacala, and for my family back home in the U.S.

But I still have bad days.

I guess the reason that love is so complex is that it always begins with desire. The desire to change something here in Africa. The desire to care for my family. The desire to be a good girlfriend. Really loving something though – to want to do something with my whole heart – means that I must not let the desire come and go; it is just desire. Love is that which does not waver, does not move, and is somehow still stuck in the movement of time. The complex nature of it is that love is the cause and end of movement – so it must be that which makes me want to keep going.

So the sun will set again tonight and the clock keeps on ticking. I simply cannot be between what is being and unbeing – the honeymoon is over Mozambique. You have been kicking me down, but I will not move. I am driven to love this country because it is a challenge. It has heart. And so have I, Nacala. So have I.

 

The author taking life seriously as always.
The author taking life seriously as always.