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27 August 2013
Playa vibes in Tofo

golden hour in Tofo
golden hour in Tofo

It's that time of year when many of our comrades are packing up and heading into the dusty abyss that is Burning Man. We're not going this year (see below for links to our past adventures) but this is a good reminder to finally post the last bit of content from our 2012 trip to Africa.

After a rainy safari in South Africa and a strenous week building houses in Xai-Xai, Mark and I took some time to relax. We'd heard the diving was amazing in Mozambique, so we headed north to Tofo to hang out with the whale sharks.

Diversity Dive Shop
Diversity Dive Shop

Relaxing, not-so-much. The conditions were incredibly stressful, with vomit-inducing waves and strong frigid currents. But we did see some amazing stuff, including giant manta rays and a hammerhead shark. It was one of those "makes you wish you were dead/makes you glad to be alive" kinda things. 'Twas a bit early in the season for whale sharks, as it happened. I'm still glad we did it.


Mozambeat

OK, so what does this have to do with The Burn? Oddly enough, the place we stayed reminded me a lot of Burning Man. Mozambeat Motel had just opened a few months before and was still working out the kinks. But it was the perfect funky home-away-from-home to allow us to chillax and unwind from our Habitat work. Before we even got there, the person from the diveshop who gave us a ride up to Mozambeat warned us that we were heading into a huge party. Perfect! As we rolled up, colored lights flashed and the familiar loungey refrains of Thievery Corporation, our favorite DC band, wafted out from within.

As they say on the Playa, Welcome Home!

Brazilian acrobats

and musicians
Brazilian acrobats and musicians

That particular night was atypical for Mozambeat, as they'd planned a huge celebration for guests, staff, and the neighborhood. Brazilian acrobats performed, there was an open mic jam, and the normally chill vibe was kicked up several notches. We loved it.


Jimi oversees the beverage selection
Jimi oversees the beverage selection

The rest of our time at Mozambeat was a lot more mellow.

outdoor shower, sunset version
outdoor shower, daytime version
outdoor shower? yes please!

colorful cabins with musically-themed names
colorful cabins with musically-themed names? oh yeah!

what's not to love about a swim-up Esco Bar?
what's not to love about a swim-up Esco Bar?

We lounged by the pool, taking in the gorgeous landscaping and enjoying the funktastic decor. In between our harrowing dive adventures, we chatted with the friendly staff and guests from all over the world. It was delicious.


roadside friendship

roadside friendship
15-minute roadside friendship

To cap off the experience, on our last day we encountered a random stranger on a fairly deserted road into town. He was carrying a guitar and sporting a huge grin. In true "This One Time at Burning Man" fashion, he proceeded to play us a song, Mark tuned his guitar for him, and we conversed for a while. He wasn't trying to sell us anything, other than maybe coming back to his country sometime for another visit. We left our new 15-minute friend with our own huge smiles.


oktapodi loves to rock the boat
oktapodi LOVES to rock the boat


The Man Burns in 4 days! Wishing dusty bliss to all those at this year's burn. We look forward to hearing your stories when you return to the Default World.


RELATED LINKS:
* Browse all Mozambique posts

* Pics from Tofo
* Browse all Burning Man posts

* Pics from Burning Man 2010
* Pics from Burning Man 2008

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


08 March 2013
Photo Friday: Happy International Women's Day!

grrrrlpower
grrrrrrlpower!

Right now we're on a long layover in Heathrow Airport, waiting on a connecting flight to Jordan for a work trip. So I thought I'd commemorate International Women's Day with a pic of just a few of my favorite, fierce, international women. This photo always makes me smile; it was taken after we finished build week on our Habitat trip to Mozambique in October. The physical strength shown here is surpassed only by the strength of the relationships we build during that trip. In fact, we're going to visit Hanine, in the middle, in Beirut next week after my work in Jordan is done. Stay tuned for more pics & stories, and meanwhile take a moment today to celebrate the fierce women in your world!

RELATED LINKS:
* A love note to Team Pedro 
* browse all Moz posts
* browse all pics from Mozambique and South Africa

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


10 January 2013
Sistas are doin' it for themselves

It's time for part three! If you missed them, catch up on the WHO and WHAT. Now it's time for the WHY.

Why did we travel across the globe to spend a week slinging cinderblocks in the middle of Mozambique? Here's a hint: it wasn't really about building houses.

Nosta and family
Nosta and family: Juliao, Sheila, Celeste, Eclipson

Sure, Habitat for Humanity's mission is to provide affordable houses with those who lack adequate shelter. (Notice it says "with" and not "for.") But, let's face it, there are much more efficient ways to build a house than schlepping in a bunch of foreigners with little-to-no construction experience.

Nosta and Felixmina
Nosta and Felixmina

We were there to participate in the transformative experience of giving these two women and their families a second chance. And while it takes money to do that -- undying thanks to the many folks who sponsored us and made this journey possible -- it's so much more powerful to be there in person.

Working side by side with these women and their neighbors, each step of the way...
mixing masa

Getting to know their children...
troublemakers!

Hearing their amazing stories and songs of gratitude...
Nosta tells her story in song

And, of course, coming back and talking about it nonstop. :)

This is not the same as writing a check to some faraway organization, not by a long shot.


opening ceremony
opening ceremony

We were greeted by Nosta and Felixmina and their neighbors on Day 1 of the build, where they immediately started singing and dancing. Not knowing any better, and in fact not entirely sure who exactly it was that we were there to help, the team gamely joined in. We'd eventually get the hang of this, as singing & dancing (and not quite being sure what the heck was going on) would be recurring themes for the week.

Stef and a neighbor
Stef and one of the neighborhood ladies

Peg and Nosta
Peg and Nosta

With the help of Mama Ida's translations, the families and masons gave brief speeches thanking us for "leaving your beautiful homes and families" and coming out to the middle of nowhere to help. Truly lump-in-your-throat sentiments, and we hadn't even been there an hour! Another theme for the week: surprisingly intense emotions.

Pedro and team
Master Mason Pedro and his team


After working alongside Nosta and Felixmina and the ladies of Chipenhe village -- the village is composed of almost only women, as the men have mostly perished from civil war or AIDS or malaria, or have gone to work in the mines of South Africa -- we got to celebrate alongside them at the dedication ceremonies.

dedication celebration
dedication celebration

It was here, for the first time all week, that we heard some emotion come from these stoic, tough women. Felixmina's concern every time she saw rain clouds, because without a roof her son Alvaro's school books would get wet. Nosta's yearning to be reunited with her fifth child, who ran away to live with his aunt because the housing conditions were so bad. And through it all, incredible gratitude at the chance to start over, at the opportunity that comes from having a safe secure place to live, at the responsibility of homeownership.

Felixmina and Alvaro
Felixmina and Alvaro


It costs about $3K to build a house in rural Mozambique. But when fourteen strangers join a community to generate true empowerment, it's priceless.

blessing the house
blessing the house


It's taken a while to capture the words and pictures from this trip, much longer than I expected. It's both a blessing and a curse that I don't operate under any external deadlines on this blog. Your indulgence, dear reader, is appreciated. More pictures have recently been posted: the inspiring and truly fabulous ladies of Chipenhe village, the children, and some scenes from village life. Or check out all Xai-Xai pics in one big batch.

Believe it or not, there are still a few more African tales to tell, so stay tuned for the last few dispatches from our adventure. Happy New Year!


RELATED LINKS:
* A love note to Team Pedro
* Work is love made visible
* browse all Moz posts
* browse all pics from Mozambique and South Africa

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


21 December 2012
Photo Friday: the kids are all right

sistas are doin' it for themselves

For those of you keeping score, I'm still working on the final installment of my three-part series. (Check out the WHO and WHAT posts, if you've missed those, and WHY is coming, I promise!) But in light of last week's horrificness in Connecticut, it seemed a good time to showcase some of the beautiful children of Chipenhe Village.

troublemakers in training

These kids were our constant companions during our week on the Habitat build site, and part of our assignment was to interact with them. This was pretty much the easiest task we were given... they were friendly, adorable, entertaining, and just all-around fabulous kids.

Eclipson and friend


They helped out around the worksite...

shovelers

http://www.pulpology.com/?esid=pics&z=3686&KWID=148


Delighted in having their picture taken...

hey, that's me!

chikani!

hangin' out

Of course, loved them some oktapodi...

oktaposse

Alvaro and oktapodi

where hasn't oktpodi been?

oktapodi is always popular with the ladies

love deez guys


They greeted us every morning and said goodbye each evening, by running after the van and frantically cheering...

welcome committee

They played with whatever materials were on hand...

umbrella fun

ingenious use of soda cans

who needs a Wii when you have this?


Enjoyed some of the supplemental entertainment we brought with us...

bubblicious

Kristin practices the alphabet

Mark makes drawings

art show

And generally seemed to make the most of just being kids

Chipenhe dance party

Fat Albert gets his bath

cutie

Celeste joins the party

To say they touched our hearts is the understatement of the century.

another cutie


This is just the tip of the iceberg... of course there are tons more photos of these little guys. (Warning: somebody's been having a bit too much fun with some new Lightroom presets/filters!)


For more fabulous travel snaps, check out Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.


RELATED LINKS:
* Work is love made visible
* A love note to Team Pedro
* browse all Mozambique posts

* browse all photos from Mozambique and South Africa

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 2 comments
03 December 2012
Work is love made visible

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in union?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life.
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret...

Work is love made visible.

-- Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet


I've written a bit about the WHO, now it's time to dive into the WHAT.

Nuts & bolts: 14 people (plus a handful of Master Masons and the community of Chipenhe Village) built two houses in five days.

Just chew on that for a minute. It's a pretty amazing thing.

old house new house
old house, new house

Even more amazing, the way this project was managed meant we had slightly different tasks to do every day. The essential rhythm was the same: pile into the van after breakfast, head over to the work site and unload the water and snacks in a shady spot, do whatever Pedro directed us to do until lunchtime, sit around and discuss any number of topics (including Kahlil Gibran) while eating something delicious prepared by the village ladies, and power through the afternoon till the van came to pick us up. For the most part, we functioned as human cement mixers, combining sand and concrete and water into the versatile paste known as masa.

Despite the consistent rhythm, though, each day had a slightly different theme to it.


the starting point
the starting point

Day One: getting the hang of it, and putting up walls
The basic foundation was already there for us. After a brief, heartwarming welcome ceremony, we got to work mixing masa and laying cinderblocks. It was a little awkward for most us who were much more comfortable in front of a computer than actually working with our hands. But through the patience of Pedro (it's so eeeeeeasy, guys!), extra translations from Sara, and some fill-in-the-blanks knowledge from Sean (the only one of us with actual construction experience), we muddled our way through.

so many cinderblocks, so little time
so many cinderblocks, so little time

By midday we'd managed to get about five of the ten rows constructed, plus some of the interior walls. Every once in a while one of the masons would correct our work and we'd have to rip out a crooked block or fill in more masa. But we were starting to feel like we were getting the hang of it.

not bad for a day´s work
not bad for a day´s work

By the end of day one, it seemed as though we might actually end up with a house at the end of the week! Monday was completely exhausting, but it's not often you see such a tangible product of your efforts.


Day Two: da roof, da roof...
Maybe it was luck, maybe excellent planning, but in any case Tuesday turned out to be only a half day of work, plus a half day of beach R&R. This was super-handy, as most of us were completely drained from the previous day's exertions. I don't know that I could have made it through another full day of toiling in the hot sun. But we didn't have to!

Sean and Pedro set the roof beams
Sean and Pedro set the roof beams

Day Two was all about setting the roof beams. This involved wrapping up strands of rebar, pouring slightly saucier masa into a mold, and tying the whole operation up to let it dry.

rebar into roof beams
rebar into roof beams

It wasn't immediately clear to most of us how this operation was going to work. Happily, we did as told and everything came together. By the end of Tuesday, the house looked like this:

house, day two


Day Three: MacGyvering our way towards the finish line
Hump Day on the worksite was probably our best day. The morning consisted of setting the rest of the blocks on which the roof itself would sit. I had one of those "I love my life!" moments where I found myself on a scaffolding, in the middle of nowhere, in Africa, working with a bunch of people I'd come to know and love, building a house. Like ya do.

I'm lovin it
lovin' it

Mark saws cinderblocks for the roof
Mark saws cinderblocks for the roof

As if that weren't fun enough, that afternoon Lacye somehow got us into a series of wheelbarrow races, MacGyvering a ramp in the process, to prove a point to Pedro. I'm not entirely sure how it all started, but the result was an exercise in teamwork and hilarity that became my all-time favorite moment of the week.

wheelbarrow races
wheelbarrow races

Lacye and Hanine pour the floor
Lacye and Hanine pour the floor

too bad Team Pedro never has any fun
too bad Team Pedro never has any fun

By the end of the third day, the house was ready for the roof. And as an extra bonus, because it was Lisa's birthday, we had a little extra celebration that night.


Day Four: things fall apart, sometimes
Our best day was followed immediately by the toughest. Thursday was hot, with a dusty wind blowing grit and sandblasting our faces. (It reminded me a lot of sandstorms on
the Playa, but without the RV to hunker down in for shelter.) Several folks weren't feeling well throughout the day. The week -- and maybe the previous night's celebrations -- were catching up with us.

the team works

That day's tasks involved mastering the difficult arts of masa-flinging and wrestling with The Spackelizer.

Mark flings
Mark flings

Masa-flinging requires scooping just the right quantity and consistency of slurm onto your float. Too much and your arm soon tires. Too little and you have to break the rhythm to reload often. Similarly, the masa needs to be thin enough to allow the correct velocity of the fling, but thick enough to stick to the walls when flung. It's not as easy as Mark's making it look in the above photo. We were tasked with covering all interior walls with patches of flung masa, which then got sanded down into a smoother consistency. Hoo boy.

spackelizing the exterior
spackelizing the exterior

Meanwhile, the outside chore required coating the exterior in a kind of stucco-finish. This meant getting intimate with a nasty little device we called The Spackelizer.

pouring masa into The Spackelizer
pouring masa into The Spackelizer

spackelizing
higher altitude spackelization

A thinner, soupier version of masa gets poured into The Spackelizer, which you then crank like a salad shooter. Masa sprays out in irregular bursts, and you must ensure you're coating the surface with just enough but not too much, otherwise you get clumps and you incur the Wrath of Pedro. (OK, not wrath, he'd just come over and kinda shake his head sadly. But it was heartbreaking to let him down, even just a little.) This got particularly challenging toward the top of the house, which necessitated holding The Spackelizer at or above eye-level and cranking till your arm was about to fall off. Goodtimes.

smooooooooove
smooooooooove

Nevertheless, despite a challenging day, we ended up with a smooth house inside and out. And one more day to go!


Day Five: dedication
TGIF! There was still plenty to do on this last day, including decorating the house with pipecleaner flowers and construction paper chains. Festive, without overdoing it.

decorating Nosta's house
decorating Nosta´s house

We knew it was a special day when our lunch contained meat in addition to the usual vegetable/curry stew. Deluxe!

photo by Hanine
this beautiful photo was taken by Hanine

And around us, everyone was getting washed and dressed and ready for the party.

I'll spend a bit more time covering the dedication ceremony in my next post (about the WHY). It was a moving celebration of gratitude and possibility. A phenomenal way to endcap the week's hard work.

the community blesses the hous
the community blesses the house

At the end of the week, we left behind two houses meant to last 25 years or more. I've done plenty of volunteer projects in my lifetime, and most of them provided some form of do-goodery gratification. But this was satisfying in a completely different way. Stay tuned for further reflection on the women and their families, whose lives will be changed when they move into these houses.

Meanwhile, what do you plan to accomplish with YOUR next five days?

Habitat team, photo by Phil Lampron

 

RELATED LINKS:
* view the complete set of photos of our Habitat build
* Photo Friday: thankful for...
* browse
all Mozambique posts
* browse all photos from
Mozambique and South Africa

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
30 November 2012
Photo Friday: thankful for...

On the heels of last week's American Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share this photo from our Moz trip that encapsulates the concept of thanks.

Felixmina and Nosta celebrate
Felixmina and Nosta celebrate their new homes

I took this during the dedication ceremony for the two houses we'd built, which included lots of singing and dancing and words of thanks from Nosta and Felixmina. When was the last time you did something at work/home/anywhere that made someone this joyfully appreciative?

This helps remind me of all I'm thankful for, especially as we barrel through the hectic holiday season.

More-more-more Moz to come, I promise! I am making some progress in wading through the mountain of pics and will be sharing more in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, check out the fabulous travel snaps at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.


RELATED LINKS:
* A love note to Team Pedro
* browse all Mozambique posts
* browse all photos from Mozambique and South Africa

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
19 November 2012
A love note to Team Pedro

Before I get into the what (the actual work we did) and the why (the families of Chipenhe village) I wanted to spend a bit of time on the who.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a "group" person. The idea of getting tossed together with a bunch of random strangers, spending all-day-every-day with these people, engaging in group-think and group-speak... it chafes my nonconformist streak and tends to make me want to run screaming from the room. More than anything else about this trip -- what will we eat? will there be running water? what to pack? -- this group-thing was the biggest unknown factor weighing on my brain.

And then this happened.

Team Pedro works hard and plays hard
Team Pedro works hard and plays hard

na-na-ni-na-naoooo
na-na-ni-na-naoooo

grrrrrrlpower!
grrrrrrlpower!


our fearless team leader LisaTo say I was pleasantly surprised by our incredible team is the understatement of the year. To be fair, this group was mostly hand-picked by a superlative team leader Lisa, so I shouldn't have been so stunned at how well we all got along. And it takes a special group of people to volunteer their vacation time to fly halfway around the world and work on a project like this. But I've done a bit of casual research on the topic, and this level of bonding seems above-par even for Habitat trips. This was more than simple camaraderie-in-the-wilderness. By the end of the first day, we'd figured out each others' strengths & weaknesses, there was an almost palpable care and compassion for everyone's well-being, and we were joking and laughing together like lifelong friends. Corporate managers would KILL for a textbook high-performance team like this!

Master Mason PedroThe one unfortunate circumstance of our worksite configuration was that the two houses we built were kinda far apart. On the first day we randomly separated into two teams of seven; our group stayed with Master Mason Pedro, and the other group went with Master Mason Lucas. The idea was that maybe we'd shuffle around and mix things up as the week went on. But it became clear by the end of Day 1 that not only were we each invested in building "our house" for Nosta, we all wanted to cross the finish line together, as Team Pedro.

 

And so, without further ado... Team Pedro:

 

George

George never has any fun
classic Giorgio speak English, man

A big man with a big heart, and one of the most effortlessly funny people I have ever met. The village ladies loooooooooooooved them some Big Poppa. And he's a foodie blogger to boot! I lurve this man.


Hanine
Hanine snaps another brilliant photo
you could almost put her in your pocket welcome to the gun show

So much grace in such a small package! One of the few non-Americans on the team, she's a Lebanese fashion designer and entrepreneur, and a gifted artist. She got the most amazing people-pics of the beautiful people of Chipengue. And you can already hear the wheels turning about how we're going to work in a trip to Beirut to visit her as soon as we can.


Lacye

Lovely Lacye
Lacye with Nosta´s kids heyyyyyy!

I have to fess up to completely misjudging this girl as a high-maintenance diva. Nothing could be further from the truth! She's hardworking, smart, and compassionate, and hilariously sassy-funny. Girl's got grit. I can still hear her Southern "heyyyyyyy!" echoing in my ears.

   

The day Lacye MacGyver'd this ramp so we could wheelbarrow-race a ton of sand onto the floor of the house... a total classic, and one of my favorite worksite moments.


Sean & Inger 
twooo wuvvvv f'reals

Sean rocks the massa
Inger builds a sandcastle
Mark and Inger <3

Definitely our peeps. I was so touched by their openness and honesty. These are genuinely good-to-the-core folks. On our last van ride from the work site back to the lodge, Inger bust out with this amazing heartfelt speech about how working with us had made her a better person, and my eyes still instantly well up just thinking about it. Sean's construction experience (and subsequent bromance with Pedro) helped the rest of us make the transition from bumbling computer jockeys to slightly-less-bumbling worker bees.


Sara
Sara has the Best.Hair.Ever.

worksite chic

Our Habitat "handler" and translator, a bookkeeper in Maputo by day. I have never seen a bookkeeper with cooler hair, and probably never will. She worked harder than the rest of us combined, and pushed us to do our absolute best every day. Most importantly, she taught us all how to properly execute the Mozambican version of "oh no you di'int!" aka "na-na-ni-na-NAO!"

practicing our nao

Apologies to the rest of our awesomesauce team, I don't mean to shortshrift ya. George did a much more egalitarian job of describing everyone in his last post. Rounding out the magnificence, we have...

The inspiring mother-daughter duo Kristin & Stef
Kristin Stef

Ironwoman Peg
Peg

Nurse Maureen
Maureen

Redneck Dave
Dave

Princess Philippe
Philippe

And our Habitat wrangler, the indomitable Sylvia
Sylvia

I miss you all! When can we have a reunion??? I'll bring a case of real-sugar Coke!

PS. Of course Mark was a part of this team, too. Hopefully y'all know how I feel about him by now. :) There will be plenty more pics of him working and interacting with the kids, in future posts to come!


RELATED LINKS:
* view the rest of the pics of the team
* view all Africa pics (a work in progress)
* browse all Mozambique posts
* PhotoFriday: Kruger safari
* Africa Always Wins

 

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
09 November 2012
PhotoFriday: Kruger Safari

take the long way home
take the long way home

As I alluded to in my last post, our Africa trip was not all hard work and grappling with serious issues. There was serious fun, too! At the start of the trip we managed to fit in a one-day safari to Kruger National Park, in South Africa.

canoodling zebras
canoodling zebras

Despite the frigid cold and pelting rain (part of the charm of traveling in an open vehicle) we managed to see a lot of cool stuff, including four of The Big Five* and lots of other fascinating flora & fauna. .

trotting warthogs 
trotting warthogs!

Our guide Sibusiso was an absolute expert at spotting random stuff from incredible distances, and seemed to really enjoy sharing his knowledge even with just the two of us huddled under blankets in the back of the enormous jeep

spotting rare leopard spots
spotting rare leopard spots
(if you squint hard you'll either see a spaceship or one of its blue eyes peeking out of the foliage)

a pachyderm family affair
a pachyderm family affair


* The Big Five:
1. elephant
2. rhino
3. water buffalo
4. lion
5. leopard

We saw everything but lions, which apparently prefer not to come out in the pelting rain. Smart cats.

 one of several entrances

For more fabulous travel snaps, check out DeliciousBaby's Photo Friday. And there are plenty more safari pics where these came from.

RELATED LINKS:
* browse
all Mozambique posts
* browse all Kruger pics

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
05 November 2012
Africa Always Wins

me and my new Moz boyfriends
me and some of my new Moz boyfriends

More than a week has passed since we've returned from our Mozambique adventures, and I'm still trying to process the experience. One of our teammates did a great job encapsulating the week into a single post, but I think it's going to take me some more time and work to find the right language. Plus I have like a million photos to go through. :)

oh, the places oktapodi will go
oh, the places oktapodi will go

Months back, when we first started talking about this trip, two good friends who'd done time with the Peace Corps nodded sagely and said simultaneously, "AAW!" Big smile. "Africa Always Wins."

Sheila is excited about her new home

Yes, I can vouch for this. Africa does provide more than its share of forehead-slapping moments. Like when the only functioning ATM accepts Visa cards, not the MasterCard you'd counted on using. Or hearing the whine of a  mozzie, right next to your head, *inside* the carefully-draped gauzy netting around your bed.

But the real AAW comes from something deeper. Africa always wins because it gets inside your heart and soul, with its warm friendly people, its powerful landscapes, its sense of time standing still and rushing forward headlong simultaneously. Overlay that with a week spent working side-by-side with some of the most compassionate, funny, smart, strong people I've ever been randomly thrown together with, on a project that literally changed lives, and maybe you'll understand why every attempt to describe this trip quickly drowns in a sea of hyperbole.

Team Pedro works hard and plays hard
Team Pedro works hard and plays hard

Coming back to reality has been harder than I'd expected, too. Reverse culture shock after visiting the third world -- like standing dumbstruck in front of 17 different brands of toilet paper in the grocery store -- is something I'm used to and thought I was prepared for. But somehow this has been different, probably because we weren't just visiting a place and then strolling away to the next lovely spot on the map. We built something tangible, we connected with the people whose lives we were able to help change. Coming back to this past week of Frankenstorms and bowls full of Halloween candy and election politicking has been a real challenge. "Walking in two worlds," I'm told they call it in Habitat circles, and that sums it up nicely. Everything's the same, but different. Moreover, I'm different, but still the same.

Nosta and Felismina celebrate their new homes
Nosta and Felismina celebrate their new homes with a song/dance

We've been telling people this trip was a play in three acts: safari, Habitat build, scuba. I'm going to attempt to break it down a little further, into manageable themes, in my puny effort to make sense of it all. Don't worry, I promise to tell all about the fun parts too! Because we did have fun, we had an absolute blast... it was a grand adventure on an epic scale.


RELATED LINKS:
* browse
all Mozambique-related posts
*
Kanimambo Means Thank You
*
Oh, The Humanity, Part I: Just Passing Through

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 2 comments
06 October 2012
No rest for the wicked

The past few weeks and the next few weeks are blurring into a heady concoction of "Careful What You Wish For." Travel, travel, and more travel... a combination of business and leisure, domestic and international, swanky and not-so-much.

I'm quickly falling behind, as usual, on posting pics and recaps, and the blog will continue to get pushed to the background as we prepare to head out to Mozambique for our Habitat trip next week. But here are a few scenes from recent trips to tide you over...

CousinFest 2012: Dewey Beach

life's a beach
life's a beach!

we Zs love our beachy goodness
a plethora of cousins at golden hour


London for work & some play

Friday Night Freakshow at London Wonderground
Friday Night Freakshow at London Wonderground? yes, please!

digging the views from Southbank
digging the views from Southbank

the historic and amazeballs St Pancras
the historic and amazeballs St Pancras
(yes, we actually stayed here!)


We'll be mostly off-the-grid in Moz, so further updates will have to wait until the end of October. No doubt we'll have some great pics & stories from our Africa adventures, though!

Meanwhile, this snap from a pub in Camden Town pretty much says it all...

life is beautiful!

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
17 August 2012
PhotoFriday: bi-coastal beachy goodness

Recent work and family adventures have taken me to both coasts of the US. While there's not much similarity between the towns of Spring Lake, NJ, and Newport Beach, CA, one thing's for sure: you just can't get too much beachy goodness!

Laura chillaxes
Laura chillaxes (NJ)

sandtastic
sandtastic (NJ)

ready to watch the Monster Mile
ready to watch the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Monster Mile race (CA)

bird is the word
bird is the word (CA)

For more fabulous travel snaps, check out DeliciousBaby's Photo Friday.


And, one last shameless plug for our Mozambique trip! I hit my goal a while back, but Mark is still working on raising the funds (which go towards supplies and construction materials for the houses we'll be building). This is the last week to complete fundraising. If you can spare a few bucks, please consider contributing toward this cause! Every dollar counts, and as promised we'll be sending cool postcards to every supporter. You can be the only kid on the block with a postcard from Moz on your fridge!


RELATED LINKS:
* Jersey Shore + Dad's Retirement Party album on Google+
* Newport Beach album on Google+
* The Jersey Shore you'll never see on MTV
* Mark's Habitat fundraising page
* browse all Mozambique posts

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
17 June 2012
Father's Day, and appreciation for whatcha got

dads are even more fun as granddadsThis week we received our "family" assignments for our Mozambique trip. So, on this day when most of us are celebrating our fathers at BBQs and on golf courses, it seemed like a good time to share some info on some folks who aren't so lucky.

First, though, I wanted to take a moment to thank my incredible dad for being there any and every time we needed you. And for raising us in a way where we simultaneously wanted for nothing and appreciated the value of hard work. Moms have a tough job, but dads are usually the unsung heroes of the family. So, cheers to you, Dad, for helping make me the person I am today. I love you!

OK, on a more sobering note, here are the profiles for the folks we'll be helping in October:

Nosta Cuna & 4 Children – Celeste (12), Eclipson (8), Cheila (5), and Juliao (1)
Nosta Cuna & children
Nosta is a 32 years old, HIV positive widow. Her husband passed away almost two years ago and she was already pregnant with her youngest son Juliao who is also HIV positive. After the passing away of her husband, she was sent away by her in-laws, so she moved back to her mother’s plot where she and her son now reside. The house they live in is terribly small and in terrible condition.

Felixmina Matavel (42) and her 11 year old son Alvaro
Felixmina and Alvaro
Felixmina is a single mother - HIV positive and under treatment. Alvaro is currently in 6th grade. They live in a little shack which their neighbors helped build after their first home burned down. It is in really bad conditions with a dirt floor and it leaks.

Felixmina works on the fields in order to provide for her son. She sends him to school on a daily basis and does her best to help him with his school work but she only went as far as fourth grade herself.
“We have really been struggling, our house burnt down a while ago. Our neighbors were kind enough to help us rebuild it and also gave us zinc for the roof. But in January because of the cyclones the roof was almost blown away and it now leaks. We are forced to stand when it rains as the house is drenched. I feel so blessed that we have been selected; my dark days are now over. Thank you so much and may God bless you”.

You can help make a difference!
Due to the amazeballs support of my family and friends, I've already met my fundraising goal for this trip. However, there's nothing stopping you from donating a bit more! Just click the green DONATE button at the top right of this page. Mo' money = mo' houses for those in need. Or, if you're feeling particularly awesomesauce, you can always help one of my teammates reach their target. Their profiles are all linked from the team page. Pick one, and toss 'em a little cash. I'm sure your dad would approve.

Happy Father's Day!

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
17 May 2012
Mozambique in October

As some of you already know, my enabler friend Lisa King has convinced me to accompany her Habitat for Humanity team to Mozambique this October, to build houses for AIDS orphans. (She really had to twist my arm for all of about a millisecond.) When someone provides me with a fantastic opportunity like this, I simply must heed the call. I've never done a volunteer trip like this before, and I'm beyond-thrilled.

Lisa is mortar-fied
Lisa is mortar-fied

Our Global Village team will travel to the Xai-Xai district in mid-October, to work alongside villagers who need a decent, affordable place to live. Mozambique has been decimated by AIDS, and a staggering number of children in this region have lost one or both parents to the disease. It should be an intense and rewarding week.

Here's an amazing story published recently by HFH about the Manhica brothers, who live in the province we'll be working in:

And this beautiful slideshow is from Kelley Teague, who was on Lisa's team in Mozambique last year:


OK, here comes the request!
I'm in the middle of raising funds to cover the program fees. (Airfare I have to pay for separately, but I am currently accepting applications from sugar daddies/mamas.) My wonderful and generous family has already kicked in almost half the needed funds, and I must raise the rest by the end of August. Any and all contributions are welcome!

Please visit my fundraising page and consider chipping in a few bucks. Anyone who contributes at least $25 will get a postcard from Mozambique, perfect for hanging on your fridge and impressing your friends.

 I'm still working out the rest of the trip details, but they will likely include some diving (Mozambique supposedly has some of the world's best scuba spots), perhaps a bit of safariliciousness, and almost certainly a stop in South Africa to see my erstwhile coworker Karen. Stay tuned for updates and thanks for your support!


RELATED LINKS:
* Hope Regained | Habitat World May 2012
* Mozambique 2011 slideshow by Kelley Teague
* Sonia's fundraising page
* Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program
* Mozambique Chapter of HFH
* Lisa's 2011 Mozambique pics on Flickr


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments