March 1, 2014

I won't lie...

 it's been a rough week.

On Tuesday, I attended the funeral of one of my colleagues in Messica.  Angelo taught physical education at the secondary school, and he died on Sunday after being sick for a few months.  As normal in Mozambique, I don't know what he was sick from..."he was just sick," everyone says. Could have been malaria, HIV, or something else completely random.  What I do know is that by the showing of teachers, students, community members, family, and friends, Angelo was very loved and well respected in Messica.

I didn't know Angelo well.  I honestly don't even know what he looks like.  I talked to him on the phone once, and everyone at the school says if I saw him I would recognize him.  Regardless, Sarah and I went to the funeral with the rest of the teachers and staff of the school.  We arrived at Angelo's house at 9 am on Tuesday to a huge crowd of teachers, students, and other community members.  I heard women wailing, and shortly after I arrived the woman next to me started breaking down and crying.

After standing for a few minutes outside the family's house, everyone started piling into open back trucks to be taken to the cemetary.  Sarah and I looked at each other for a minute having a silent conversation, "Are we really going to get into one of these super crowded truckbeds?"

And we knew the reality of the situation.  Yes, yes we were.  There was no other transport.  The walk to the cemetary was long, and we also had absolutely no idea where we were going.  It was either get in the back of the truck or go home.

So we found a truck with some colleagues in it, and they squeezed us in.  I was in the back of the group of people standing, and the lady that climbed in after me was sitting on the edge of the truck behind me.  When the truck started moving on the bumpy (and I mean BUMPY) dirt roads of Messica, I was close to falling countless times.  I only started feeling more secure when I grabbed a woman's shoulder, held on to Sarah for dear life, and when the woman behind me (who could obviously see that I was new to the truckbed-surfing ordeal) put her hand on my butt to steady me.  Instead of feeling violated with her hand on my butt for the 10 minutes that went on for days to get to the cemetary, I was so grateful for her hand steadying me and making me feel less like I was about to tumble to my death.

When the truck finally stopped I hopped out, happy to be in one piece.  We set in for our walk through the mato to get to the spot where Angelo would be buried.  After about a 20 minute walk, we waited for awhile with the crowd, and eventually headed to the burial site.

Angelo was buried next to his father on his family's property in a beautiful shady spot which was a perfect place to have a funeral.  I stood surrounded by students, colleagues, strangers, and friends and listened to beautiful words about the life of Angelo and God's decision that it was time to bring Angelo home.  Soon after, the casket was lowered into the ground and buried.  Then as is tradition in Manica province, rocks were put on top of the grave, and all of us teachers were called forward to lay flowers on top of the grave.

All of the teachers gathered around together and sang the anthem for all teachers here in Mozambique.  After another quiet moment, everyone started retreating to the trucks/cars to take them back into town.

I walked away with some colleagues and my school director, and upon reaching the already-full trucks, we decided it would be best to walk back to town.  I happily walked with them through the beautiful terrain of Messica and back to the main highway, the EN6.

After walking a few minutes and crossing the bridge over the Messica River, I was at the front of our group.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye, someone that I had been walking with was quickly running after a jam-packed flatbed truck.  "What is he doing?"  I asked myself.  "Does he want to jump onto that truck?  Is he crazy?  It's already way too full!"

Just then, the back of the truck came into view.  The man I was walking with was not running to the truck to get on it, he was running to the truck to stop it and rescue the two girls who were dangling from the back of it, only hooked on by their knees.  Apparently when the truck lurched forward these girls were not secure, and were pulled backwards by the weight of all of the other people in the truck.

When we realized what was happening, the rest of the group ran over to try to help. I was standing there not really knowing what to do when the girl on top grabbed me and started using me to support her weight.  The girl on the bottom was screaming, crying, and pleading for help.  Eventually, one person was able to get themselves loose enough to get out of the truck, and soon after other people were slowly able to move as well.  They were literally so jammed in there that it was impossible for any of them to move.  After a few minutes that seemed like years, the girls' legs were freed and they were able to stand again.  Though they were extremely sore afterwards, as far as I've heard both girls are still fine.

If not for the group of us walking along, one or both of those girls would have fallen to their deaths. I keep replaying the scenario over and over in my head, and I know for a fact that I will never again stand in an open-bed truck.  No thank you.  That was terrifying.

After the funeral, most people went home and there were little to no teachers to give their lessons that day.

On Wednesday morning after working out and getting ready to take a bath, I greeted my nextdoor neighbor who is also a colleague at the school.  He gave me some more bad news: another colleague had lost his baby daughter in Chimoio.  I didn't know the other colleague very well either, though I'm sure I'd recognize him.  Many teachers went to the funeral on Thursday, but Sarah and I hadn't been well informed of the goings on, so we just stayed in Messica and gave lessons on Thursday afternoon.

Then on Thursday afternoon at school I got the news that one of my students' nieces had died.

And on Friday morning, my best friend Otilia arrived at the clinic in Chimoio in so much pain that she was unable to talk or walk, and could only scream and cry in agony.  Otilia had tested positive for malaria a week and a half ago, and had already taken medicine for it.  Apparently the malaria that she has is too strong for the medicine she was given.  She tested positive with the most serious type of malaria that you can have.  She stayed in the clinic last night, and has now been released.  She will stay in Chimoio for the next week with her cousin and get treatments at the clinic daily.  Hopefully this time it will work, because I can honestly say I don't think I can go through seeing her in that much pain again.  It was awful.

So clearly, this week has been tough.  I feel like death is all around me.  Malaria is out in full force.  Last night, even with screens on my doors, I think I got 10 mosquito bites in 5 minutes.

Thanks to all those who have been praying for Otilia!  Please continue to pray for her and to pray for those suffering from malaria, HIV, and other illnesses both here in Mozambique and around the world.  Please pray for the families that are feeling the loss from the recent deaths in my community.  I am feeling the prayers and I am blessed by them!