Tool Chest

July 1st

Today I played Ultimate frisbee with one group of orphans, and taught a different group how to do basic sewing. These experiences perfectly summarize my feelings about my career in Mozambique. I have been educated to do so much, but I feel helpless. Instead, I’ve fallen back on what comes naturally — being goofy, running around, and being domestic.
I remember once watching Jamie Foxx on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” He was telling James Lipton how his grandmother had always made him go to church to sing, take piano lessons and play on the football team. Each of these skills came to be vitally important in the development of his acting career. He didn’t understand his grandmother’s insistence then, but when she died just a few days before he received the Oscar for “Ray,” it dawned on him: sometimes we have tools sharpened for when the opportunity arises. They don’t make sense until the project comes along and we have what it takes to get the job done.
I never thought playing a year of Ultimate frisbee in Tempe would come in handy in Manga, Mozambique — but boy did it. The orphanage is run by a middle-aged American man (saint, really) who cares for 35 orphaned boys. The boys are not only expected to do well in school, but they are also taught how to do construction, plumbing and other vocational skills that will make them highly employable once they are done with high school. When we arrived, a group of boys were working on a concrete fence. They were all too pleased to pull out their frisbees and challenge us to a match. I was the only girl to take the bait and by the end of an hour, I was wheezing but thankful that I run. I think they were a little surprised to see a girl hang with them and to be honest, I was a little surprised myself. PE used to be fun; now running around for an hour leaves me sweaty and pooped.
The sewing has been a delight too. We are working with a separate group of girls, teaching them basic sewing with the idea that they’ll be able to secure work when they are done with schooling too. Between entertaining the little kids outside of the machesa (a grass structure we use for community education) with a game of Raton! Raton! Gato! (like duck, duck, goose — but with animals they know), we taught a bunch of girls how to sew basic puppets. They learned to sew buttons for eyes and how to sew right sides together. It was fun and I couldn’t help but laugh that the last two tools I thought I’d be using in Mozambique would be frisbee and sewing.
Go figure. And yes, it makes that last little bit of school debt that much more annoying.
I will be home this time next week and I am excited and sad. I miss my bed, eating healthy food, my gym friends, the bagel boys, and of course my family and the Ya Yas. I don’t miss the heat, the commute, being way too attached to my Blackberry and NPR, and feeling like a cultural abnormality in a sea of MTV girls living in Tempe. It should be an interesting transition to American life. In the meantime, I’m savoring these last few days of African life.


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Public Health, Uncategorized
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15 Responses

  1. Safe travels home.

    You know, many of those skills they don’t teach at school also come in handy in business too. 😉

  2. Raton Raton Gato sounds like ridiculous fun…and far more appropriate in Arizona than duck duck goose anyway.

  3. How fun! I am sure they enjoyed and appreciated the frisbee game and sewing.

  4. Laura July 1, 2008

    Thanks so much for taking time to share your experiences in Africa. Your reflections about gaining skills such as sewing, music, are appreciated as I encourage my own children to keep at their music practice over the summer. They don’t always see the long-range benefits!
    Have a good last week.

  5. I really enjoy reading about your travels and hard work!

  6. Yep – don’t need college to get the basics done here! (Though it does help with the respect factor . . .)

    Glad you’re having fun!

  7. Your recent posts have been so heart-breaking that I’ve had to make sure I’ve been in the right frame of mind to read your blog. This one was a good surprise! It’s great to read about you enjoying your time there. I appreciate the other, harder to read posts too, don’t get me wrong- you’ve opened my eyes and taken me to an environment I’d never voluntarily visit. But I enjoyed this post!

  8. Here’s an idea to ease your transition… move to LA! Oh sure we have plenty of MTV girls, in fact the real ones from the “Hills.” But, I have also found that there is a place for everyone in LA. We have an awesome fabric district and it’s never that dang hot!! Just a thought. Good bagels on the other hand are kinda hard to find.

  9. I always found the culture shock much more difficult on the inbound. Here’s to frisbee, sewing, bagels and a comfy bed.

    And we played Drip Drip Splash last week at GS Day camp – DDG but with a big wet sponge. That makes PE fun in hot ole Tempe.

    Safe journey back, Kel! Peace & love! L

  10. Like Lori, I always found assimilating back into Australian/Canadian/US culture much more difficult. Remember you are making an awesome contribution to the lives of many, many people.

  11. Thanks for your updates Kelli. Have a safe trip home.

  12. You have been busy doing such wonderful things on your travels 🙂 You are making a difference to the lives of those you meet 🙂 Tavel safely 🙂

  13. Oh it sounds wonderful! And I love that you were able to hang with the boys. Way to go! Boys need to see that girls are just as tough as they are. 😉

    Have a safe trip back home, and I am sure that I am not the only one who looks forward to seeing photos and for you to have more internet access again.

  14. I spent 7 years in Central and West Africa. That was over 10 years ago now. I have a very different life in Colorado and am happy. I have really enjoyed reading your blog and remembering my years in Zaire and Cote d’Ivoire. You write well and things you say bring back lots of mostly good memories. I like the story of playing frisbee with the guys. I will keep your blog on my favorites list.

  15. Your account of your time in Africa has been an awesome journey for me to read. Your Africa is becoming special to me as well through your writings. You need to write a book Kelli.

    All is groovy in my corner of the world.