Thursday, December 06, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
The rain also brought wonderful waterfalls all over the island.
Madeira has great hiking along the levadas, which are drainage canals that were built to direct water from the mountainous north down to the drier southlands. The levadas were built with paths alongside to help with maintenance, so they provide perfect walking trails through mountain areas impassable by road. I wish the weather and our fitness level would have allowed some of the more strenuous hikes, but it felt wonderful to do the hiking we were able to do.
There were beautiful flowers all over the island, alongside roads -- the bird-of-paradise is the flower of Madeira and it is all over the place. There were even wild hydrangeas along the road, as well as beautiful flowers in gardens and the market.
But still plenty of beautiful views to be appreciated.
There was the bustling city of Funchal in the South and the quaint village of Santana in the North.
We spent Thanksgiving day on the neighboring island of Porto Santo -- visiting the museum that is built by the traditional home of Christopher Columbus, who lived here for several years before his journey to find a new route to Asia. This island has a long stretch of beautiful, pristine beach.
Our last night in Madeira, we walked through downtown Funchal, admiring the beautiful Christmas lights, which had just been lit. We have great memories of the beauty of Madeira, and hope that we will be able to return someday.
If you're still interested, you can visit my web album and view even more of my Madeira pictures. Here's the link: http://picasaweb.google.com/w.carolee/MadeiraTripThanksgiving2007?authkey=qmFGvPY-G6A
This smiling girl's name is Precious -- and the name is very fitting for her. She's my favorite child to watch at church. She always has a huge smile, she stands to bear her testimony each month and she sings hymns at the top of her voice. She said the closing prayer after the children's sacrament meeting presentation and spoke an incredibly thoughtful and profound prayer. I haven't ever been able to connect her with her parents, because she usually chooses to sit in the front row of chairs in the chapel and she listens to the speakers with rapt attention.
The kids seem to really enjoy having their picture taken. Sorry, the video is too long to upload here -- maybe I can add it when I get back to a faster connection in the US.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The 96th good thing about Lagos: Returning home from a trip on the Sunday after Thanksgiving without running into holiday traffic
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The 94th good thing about Lagos: LDS helping hands: a continent-wide church effort to serve communities
I'm glad Africa has a lot of LDS helping hands!
Monday, November 12, 2007
I like the tip about repeating a scripture in your head while you wash your hands.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
"Asleep in our Lagos, Nigeria flat, I awoke in the early hours with the words of the Savior implanted perfectly in my mind: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." I recognized that I had read them before and assumed they were part of the Sermon of the Mount, but I had no recollection of ever focusing on their meaning. To recoin a phrase: out of the blue, the message was delivered and I knew I had to pursue its meaning.
When mission presidents and senior couples like us first arrive at the Lagos Airport they are immediately crammed into an overloaded environment that is not at all like home. Traffic is scary, electricity is sporadic, water is occasional, sewers are open, shopping is ... let's say it takes some getting used to. Lagos is a city of around 20 million people with an unemployment rate exceeding 80%. It is so very different from anything most North Americans have ever experienced. Frustration is inevitable and anger is close to automatic. A common response is to begin a cynical cataloging of everything that is wrong which, of course, runs counter to why we were sent here in the first place.
I have been led to understand that there is plenty of evil in the world. My calling is not to add to it, by bringing attention to all of the problems in this country. My purpose is to "seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33) and simply go about doing the good the mission president has assigned us to do.
While there is sufficient evil for each day, there is never enough good being done. Focus on the good."
This is a wise practice wherever we may be, but especially important for those living in Lagos. Focus on the good.
In Houston in May the movers packed up a sea shipment of our household goods to send here to Lagos. We were allowed 2 lift vans (which are about 7 ft long by 7 ft high -- don't remember how wide... ). It doesn't sound like a lot of space, but it really was plenty. Our shipment sat in Houston for a couple of months before they could get clearance from Nigeria to get it on the ship. Actual transit time to Lagos was only a few weeks, but then it's been sitting here waiting for the right papers, waiting for a dock workers strike to be over, waiting for someone from the company to put the pressure on customs people to release it -- the latest was that it was being held hostage in a past due bill payment dispute between Graebel movers and Panalpina. After a heated email from us about the absurdity of requiring us to put pressure on Graebel to pay their bills and some people from the company making threats about getting lawyers involved -- Panalpina decided they could release our shipment. It was delivered Saturday morning and we were so glad to finally receive it -- total time almost 6 months from packing to delivery. Boxes had been opened for inspection by customs. There may be some things missing -- we haven't got into every box yet and still need to check things off our detailed inventory. But every box on the packing list arrived and it actually seemed to be in pretty good shape. I've heard lots of horror stories about shipments sitting out in the rain and arriving green with mold. No problems here -- things were dry and in pretty good shape. It's such a pleasure to have my digital piano here! It doesn't compare with my baby grand at home, but it's so fun to be able to make some music! I really just want to sit and play the piano for hours. But there are boxes to unpack and things to organize and I need to find places for lots of things. The company doesn't allow any shipment of food (we're a bit jealous of other companies here that give their employees a big annual shipment of food and goods). But we shipped lots of toilet paper and paper towels (which are very lacking in quality here) and laundry detergent (which is very expensive -- a box that may cost $6 in the States is around $45 here). Of course, there's a renewed awareness of the enormity of things that we Americans feel we need to manage our lives. It's a big contrast to how most Nigerians live. In some respects, it's great to live simply and with a minimum of possessions. In other respects, I'm looking forward to using my salad spinner!
Monday, November 05, 2007
This weekend we went to a choral concert, the final performance of the Muson (Musical society of Nigeria) festival. It was the best attended of the performances we saw -- obviously people here enjoy choral music. The first half of the concert was Western music -- a performance of Mendelssohn's "Lobegesang," (Hymn of Praise). It was not a piece I was familiar with, but it was quite enjoyable, despite the struggling orchestra. The choral movements were a large part of the work and the choir did a good job and the soloists were excellent. There was a nice setting of the hymn "Now Thank We All Our God" in one of the movements. And my soprano friends may want to look up the music for movement 5, which is a beautiful soprano duet. The interesting program notes about the work said that this piece was written for a festival in Leipzig, Germany in 1840 (where Mendelssohn was then directing their orchestra) celebrating the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Most of the choral movements were set to texts from the Psalms -- so the major theme of the work is praising God for blessings (like the printing press). One interesting tidbit from the notes is that a movement from a work Mendelssohn wrote for another evening in this festival is well known to us today as "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." Who would have guessed that the printing press and this Christmas carol have a connection? It's a bit of trivia that will probably never be useful, but you never know when you can impress someone knowing something like that!
During the intermission, the choir members changed out of their tuxedos and shimmering chorus gowns into colorful African dress. The second half was African choral music, and it was a highlight of the evening. They sang mostly without scores and were accompanied with a piano, at times, and percussion. They swayed together during much of the singing. It was kind of interesting to see how the 2 white people in the chorus just don't do the swaying as comfortably as the Nigerians. I can relate -- I remember when the Houston Symphony Chorus joined with a couple of church gospel choirs for "Gospel Night at the Symphony." It was lots of fun, but it was clear that us whites just didn't have the same knack for the swaying as did those black gospel singers. It must be something in the genes. The video clip below doesn't really do justice to the performance, but you may get a hint of what it was like. We were told (by a Nigerian musician in the audience) that this music was African folk songs that had been arranged for choir, but probably most of it had not been published. Much of the music was fairly complicated rhythmically and harmonically. It was a real treat to hear this Nigerian choir!
(Sorry, it looks like this video turned out really dark here -- unfortunately, I don't know how to lighten it so you can see their colorful green African dress costumes.)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Right across the narrow street from the clinic, these neighbor children (and resident chicken) were interested in the bus with the oyibos (white people).
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Here's the entrance to the church.
The school building is attached.
This is the food serving area right outside the school's front door. Tomorrow the AWC is providing lunch here for the children. Today they are cooking big pots of stew with rice and with the member's donations of drink boxes, boiled eggs and crackers and rolls, they will serve a treat -- no trick -- Halloween meal (though I doubt these kids know anything about Halloween....).
When we came to their classroom door, these children stood and recited a little welcome rhyme for us. The children seemed very happy and neat. One of the senior missionary couples was telling me about their neighbor children and how this little girl came home from their local school with cuts from beatings on her hands from offenses like when her brother was late for school. They beat the kids even for things that are totally without their control. I doubt these children experience that kind of mistreatment. We brought some general school supply and assorted donations. The school representative said that what they really need is a bus. Many children live close enough to walk to school. But those that don't, the parents just find whatever transport they can manage. This past year one child fell off the transport (I don't know if it was a bus or an okada or truck) and was killed. The school would love to have a bus to minimize those risks by transporting the children. Unfortunately, the club can't help them with that.