A Dose of Much-Needed Happiness

I think I’m over jet lag. Not entirely, but getting there. I slept a hard 9 hours last night, waking up this morning to a rushed agenda. We were late and the car was leaving. I threw on my lucky baseball cap, grabbed my camera, brushed my teeth and changed my t-shirt. Time to go.
The car left for Dondo – one of the few remaining spots in this area of Mozambique where the rainforest has survived. We were on a scouting mission; our work is expanding into a sixth village, hopefully extending our health services to another 250 families. We spent the first two hours of the day driving around like one giant African cliché – Americans in a white Land Rover driving slowly through a rural village, stopping to make small talk and take lots of photos. Thankfully, we realized the people here were doing well – too well to be incorporated into our work. That is the crazy thing about this country. The GDP is increasing at 6.5% annually, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Still, it ranks fifth poorest in the world. It is a terrifying mix of poverty and hope. Dondo is doing well. I accepted this silver lining with arms wide open.
To counter yesterday‚Äôs heartbreak, today we found happiness. We ate lunch at a great little caf√© on the beach, watching the fishermen pull in their nets. My friends sipped cold Manicas, the official beer of Mozambique. We quickly walked through the Central Hospital of Beira and saw that the facility was dramatically improved in the last two years. The windows have glass and screens, making keeping the malarial mosquitoes away from patients much easier. The last time I was here, holes in the screens made even the newborns subject to deathly bites. There was fresh paint. There was a new ambulance. There were patients being seen — fabulous on all accounts.
But today’s most incredible accomplishment was finding a friend’s childhood home. She grew up in Mozambique and asked me to try to photograph her old house. With the decaying roads and neighborhoods in mind I wasn’t hopeful, but I told her I would try. She printed off aerial maps of the area and gave me her old address – certainly I’d be able to locate this tiny spot 10,000 miles away between two small landmarks. Right?
After showing the maps to our driver and patiently driving and then walking in circles for about 30 minutes, not only did we find the house, we found the family who has been living in it for the last 31 years. The neighbors remembered her. They were surprised and very interested in hearing about the first people to ever come back and photograph the neighborhood. It was surreal. They looked at the Google maps and stared at their homes as seen from space. They couldn’t get over the technology, or that a woman now living in America was looking at them from so far away, wondering about the small cement house she once called home. I can’t wait to share the photos with her when I return.
And I bought fabric. Oh, the fabric. It is wax-dyed, bright, gorgeous and distinctly Mozambican. I cannot wait to photograph it and share it with others.
I also managed to call my folks in Texas using Skype. Have you heard of this program? It cost me exactly $.60 to make a 3-minute call. Plus, I’ve got Internet where I am staying. Tomorrow is another story. Today, however, was a very good day for me in the technology department.
I can’t thank you enough for your kind words during my travel. I feel like I have a hundred friends tucked in my backpack cheering on my every move and keeping me motivated to do good. Muito obrigada.

p.s. If you’ve seen my luggage (yep, coincidentally that photo of the day up there in the right-hand corner) feel free to send it my way. My socks are threatening to become part of my body.

p.p.s Tomorrow I’m off to the “bush.” We are going to a rural ranch and possibly a game reserve. Lots of things to see in this big, beautiful country.

Searching for Change

Today I met with our staff, had a brief meeting and then went with a field officer into the village of Mbatwe. This village sits near the Beira airport, a few hundred yards from the runway. Although only a small handful of planes land here each week, it is safe to say the people living near the tarmac haven’t ever traveled.
The village was clean – much cleaner than I remember last time. The homes are tidy and the sand outside is swept carefully. The trash is piled in neat pyres and burned in the evenings, leaving the morning air thick with a plastic odor. There were more latrines dug and being used and a few community wells that seemed rather well protected and maintained.
Walking through the village, you got a sense of well-being and pride. Children chased us everywhere we went, playing tag and begging to have their photos taken. Women and men of all ages waved at us as we walked by. They were picking rice in their paddies, mashing corn in large wood mortar and pestles, washing their laundry in buckets.
But when our field officer walked us a bit deeper into the village, the children who had been relentlessly following us suddenly fell away. Home after home we visited with people who were dying of HIV. Their bodies mere skeletons and their souls quickly fleeting. They told us that although they‚Äôd done what we‚Äôd asked ‚Äì been tested and enrolled in the free antiretroviral program ‚Äì the drugs had stopped. The hospital is temporarily out of stock, leaving thousands in these villages without the drugs they need to stay alive. With a two-week gap in coverage, God only knows how the virus mutates and then becomes impossible to treat. Simply, these people are dying and there is no one willing to care for them. Stigma surrounds their tiny huts. The system — widely touted — is failing them.
You grow a certain thickness of skin in this work. You have to. But today was just brutal. The last family we met with was a woman who had three girls aged 7, 3 and 1. The mother is HIV-positive and was told not to breastfeed. Her youngest is dying of malnutrition. Without her antiretrovirals, she is too lethargic to consider how to solve this problem on her own. Her neighbors are looking the other way. I sat, holding the three-year-old, and couldn‚Äôt believe how a child of just 15 pounds could have survived this long. We split a protein bar, the only food we had with us, among the four and watched as even the one-year-old carefully ate every morsel. I couldn‚Äôt hold back my tears. I won’t ever be able to describe the desperation I felt in this moment — or how this mother must feel watching her children die at her feet because she too is succubming.
I don’t know what to do for Mozambique, Mbatwe or even this family. I don’t know how to stop a disease that is wiping entire generations off the map. I don’t know how to draw attention to this problem or what to do with the attention if I had it. There are no simple solutions with HIV in Africa. But I know today, more than ever, I won’t stop fighting for the solutions.


Real World Mozambique

Running like an Amazing Race star between terminals gets you on your flight, but does not do the same for your luggage.
Running through a Johannesburg “Woolworths” to buy a few things to last you “just overnight until your bags arrive” is fun but makes you feel even more like a pampered foreigner. Finding out the next day that while you will continue on to Mozambique, your luggage won’t follow for several days at best, makes you feel heartbroken and lousy for those who helped provide so much joy to what you packed.
I’m trying to keep a positive outlook. Cross your fingers for us please.
In the meantime, tomorow I’m out working with our field officers in the rural villages. I’m certain to be overwhelmed by the poverty and disease, as I am every time I visit one of our project sites. When this becomes normal, something has gone awry. Tomorrow I want to wake up with a renewed energy to find solutions to these problems, and the humility to realize just how incredible it is to be in Africa.
When life misplaces your luggage, realizing you have more on your plate and in your heart that you can already manage brings out one of your greatest possessions. Last time I checked, the airline couldn’t misplace my smile. Although they seriously tried this week.


Later Gators


I’ve got new music on my iPod, Chacos on my feet and curiosity in my backpack. I’m out of here!

Happy faces
Rebecca plays with the baggies

Amanda and Rebecca helped me pack up the few remaining boxes this week. I was a bit relieved when they got choked up in the process. It reaffirmed that I’m not the only sap.

A final estimate of the Mozambique goody bag project: 500! Some 200 of them are packed between the three of us and ready to go. The others are in my studio closet and will be delivered to South American in the Fall. Thank you again!

Hopefully I’ll post mid-week from Beira, Mozambique. I will be out in the bush for most of my stay, so checking in will be hit or miss. Yet another time when I am convinced this man should be my boyfriend. Hello! With that tool belt I could upload photos from the moon. I could also watch the LOST finale. Gratefully I’ll give up both to go play with the wee ones at the orphanage and introduce two friends to a place I truly love: Africa.


Let’s Send the Parkers to France Early

Dear Dad,
Remember how you moved from Phoenix to San Antonio a couple years ago? Well, I’ve endured. It hasn’t been fun paying $400 every time I want to see my mom, but I’ve kept my complaints to a minimum. In all fairness, the last time I visited I kind of liked it. You know, the whole Texas thing. The big hair, big style, big Christian spirit. It was fun and God knows it was friendly.
Friendly Dad. You Texans are normally so sweet and kind. Everyone — and I mean everyone — stops to say good morning. People hold doors open. There is this state-wide phenomena of amazing manners. (Minus the one rule about not invading other countries, but that’s an entirely different post and last time I checked, there were plenty of Texans asking DC to keep the idiot.)
So, with all that friendliness in mind, what the hell is wrong with Robert Horry? The dude is just mean. If I see you even think of cheering for those darned Spurs, Cody and I are going to throw a fit making even your resident desperate housewife take note for the dramatics.
Now, let’s all say it together: GO SUNS!
We Arizonans have a history of amazing comebacks, after all.


Extra! Extra! (Without Sugar Ray)

Frenchie Bag - Newspaper theme

Remember when I said one CAOK participant would be randomly drawn for a bag of his/her liking? Well Em was the grand prize winner — as much as I wanted to create a manbag/murse, it wasn’t meant to be this time around; she wanted something simple and in neutrals. Voila, the latest Amy Butler Frenchie bag out of the last of my Ikea fabric. The trim is in black fabric with tiny red cherries. I’m calling this one my newspaper bag…

Wait for it.

Frenchie handbag

That’s right — because it’s black, white and red all over. (Yep, my humor is still stuck in the second grade.)


Sun Salutation


Taken in Oro Valley, Arizona. Whenever I see saguaros, I think of yoga — with their lengthy limbs bending every which way so gracefully.

My running buddies have been sick lately, so I’ve been tackling my dusty canal route with the company of my iPod. This morning, after a five-miler and some intervals, I stretched my hands above my head and greeted the day with arms outstretched, feeling the muscles in my torso and legs slowly loosen.
I love to run with others; the conversation usually keeps me going farther and faster than I would run by myself. Plus, the thought of someone waiting for me gets me up and out of bed at 4:30 am. However this week I’ve enjoyed running solo, thinking about my day ahead and going through my morning prayers. I’m guessing those who pass me on the canal walking their dogs think of me as the crazy mumbling girl.
My triathlon is in October and between now and then I’ve got 5 weeks of international travel scheduled. I’m getting stronger and loving watching my routine change as this race becomes more of a reality. My diet is getting better. I’m stacking workouts fairly regularly and am actually joining a tri team when I get home from Africa. But when I am actually in Africa (and Bolivia) I have to remember to get out and run. My routine usually gets confiscated at customs and I come home feeling gross and upset with myself that I haven’t made an hour of time for myself a priority. This trip, I have a great feeling, will be different. There is no reason not to run on the beaches in Moz or use the treadmill in Cape Town. I’ve got no excuse to be lazy.
I can’t wait to raise my arms above my head as I cross that finish line. In the meantime, back to the dusty canal. Oh — and the praying.


So Many Distractions

I’m reading the May issue of Smithsonian Magazine — because they have a pretty incredible feature on Mozambique — when I spot an article on a museum exhibit in New York City. “Design for the Other 90%.” It’s a show of items created to address the needs of the 90% of the world’s population who barely get by. The article show three pretty incredible inventions that are included: a water pump for farmers that you fuel by stepping up and down on pedals (just imagine if you could produce water with all the energy you exert on the Stairmaster!), a double pot cooler for vegetables that doesn’t require refrigeration to keep food cool and safe, and a laptop that costs less than $100. Sweet. I so wish I could see this! The show lasts until September 23. Maybe I’ll get to NYC between now and then.

In the meantime, I’m reading A People’s History of the United States. This was a super sweet CAOK gift that I really wanted to read. I’m 200 pages in and it’s taken me 2 months. I’m thinking this one is going to be retired this weekend. I just cannot get into the groove of the history lesson. Anyone else battle with this read? I hate it when I feel defeated by books.

I’m listening to Rusted Root and OAR — my two new favorite jam bands. And wow, am I late to this party. Loving these new tunes as I cook this week (eggplant pitas) and cycle (40 miles so far, with two rides to go.)

I’m hoping to see The Namesake this weekend. Anyone seen it? I read the book and it was one of my favorites. My buddy Khaled has a new book out too. Anyone read the follow up to Kite Runner yet?

Oh my! How I’ll find ways to avoid packing.


I got my own seal. WOO HOO

I’m a copycat, yet again. My buddy Martie featured awesome stamped seals on her homemade jams in the December issue of MSL. I thought, “If Martie can have a seal, why can’t I?” I shot a few ideas to a crafty lady with design prowess and soon enough — I had an image I thought was just right. {Colleen must have had the same idea. She’s rocking the seal too!}
Speaking of Martie, tell me you saw this clip of her giving it to Lindsay Lohan on Friday’s show. Hilarious! It isn’t every day you see a former convict lecturing a 20-something about how to behave. Good thing they were in the kitchen because Pot and Kettle collided.
That said, LiLo — shape up. Rehab one month, a 21st birthday in Vegas the next. You are just too darned cute to act this way.


Amy Butler Knows What She’s Talking About

In Stitches May, ready to be wrapped

Dear Finny,
Have you sewn the May assignment yet? Once you have, I have a feeling you’ll want to make a dozen of these sweet aprons. As if we weren’t already in love with Ms. Butler and threatening to ship ourselves to her studio to learn more, this pattern is my favorite yet. I just love it! This apron is by far the nicest thing I’ve ever made. (So great, in fact, I actually immediately made another.) I can’t wait to make more of these pleated aprons for my favorite cooks.

Working the birthday apron

You requested an action shot for this month’s theme. My British Grannie turned 73 this week and rocked her new pleated birthday apron. Tell me she isn’t adorable? Oooh, how I love that woman!

May In stitches, action

And one last silly action shot when I tried to recreate the photo from the book.
Hope you are having a great weekend Fin!