Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. It will be a “normal” day for us here in Mozambique. As I reflect about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I find myself acutely aware of the chasm between those who have and those who do not have. This year, I am thankful that I have people around me who care for me – my husband who is a constant support and willingly listens to me as I process, family and friends in the States who are praying for us, our host family who have graciously opened their home to us and are patient with us as we learn Portuguese, our MCC country representatives who offer themselves and their home as an oasis in the midst of adjusting to culture, and our language partners who share their afternoons with us to familiarize us with the language and the city. I am also thankful for “things” – a house that keeps us dry when it rains, a mosquito net that keeps away mosquitos that could carry malaria (and that neither of us have come down with it yet), enough clothes to be able to change them daily, a fan that blows on us each night to cool us and drown out the outside noises, a reliable alarm clock, though between our neighbors or roosters crowing, we wouldn’t need to one, the MCC office that is on the fourth floor and has a constant breeze, the cooling breeze from the ocean and much more.

We are adjusting life here. I have yet to hear any silence. There is constant noise – banging (we can’t figure out if they are building or tearing something down), a lumber mill (located below the MCC office), roosters, dogs, neighbors yelling (seems to be early mornings, like 5:45 AM, or late at night), traffic, people walking on the street, sweeping sidewalks and walkways, and people walking down the street selling things like caranguejo (crab). Beira is very colorful between brightly painted buildings, flowering trees (it’s springtime), and women’s capulanas (fabric used as wrap around skirts, head dresses, baby carriers, and coverings for other things like food).

We are establishing a routine. We wake up “late” at 6:15 (most of our neighbors seem to wake up at least an hour before us and the house help arrives at our house at 6:00). We take bucket showers and then eat breakfast, consisting of a fried egg or omelet with rolls, Tang, and coffee for Joel and milk for me. At 8:00, Steve and Cheryl pick us up and we go to the MCC office. We have language class along with Anthony from 8:30 to usually around 11:00. We go home for lunch and come back to the office in the afternoon to study and to meet our language partners. We meet with our language partners every day for two hours to practice Portuguese. In the evenings, we have been bonding with our family watching the Brazilian novella, “Alma Gemea”. We eat supper with them around 8:00 PM and then go to bed around 9:00, very exhausted from the effort it takes learning a language and operating in a different country.

Our host likes to go fishing. We eat fish every day, usually for both lunch and supper. Our hostess cooks it with lemon, garlic and vinegar and then fries it. We usually have rice or tchima (like cornmeal mush) with a sauce consisting of peppers, tomatoes, onions and lots of oil. We have also eaten beans, shrimp, crab, goat, beef and chicken. I think I have eaten more fish in these past three weeks than I have in my entire life!

We anticipate visiting Gondola next week to meet with people with whom we will be working, people from the Mennonite church where we will worship and to look for housing. We will be in Beira until the end of January/early February concentrating on language so that when we arrive in Gondola, we can function in Portuguese. It will take years to speak it well, but we’ll at least have a solid base. Your prayers as we learn language are appreciated.

Jenny

Our hosts in Beira in their home.

Jenny studying Portuguese with our Hostess.

Our room.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We Made It
We arrived here Sunday at about 3:30 by plane from Johannesburg. As we flew out it looked like we were flying across the western plains with huge farmlands except that the dirt was red. South Africa felt like the US or Europe at least the areas we saw from our short time there. It was a little bit of a shock to us because we didn’t realize how modern South Africa is compared to the rest of Africa. Our guest house was great as you can see from the pictures and it was a very restful stop on our way to Mozambique. As we flew I was reminded that you can’t make any generalizations about African countries based on visiting just one especially South Africa. As we traveled we disappeared over the clouds and when they receded again the roads were gone and there was nothing but open country for miles minus a few roads here and there. We flew into the Biera Airport over dry rice fields, grass fires and savanna interspersed with palm trees. It reminded me a lot of flying into Managua in Nicaragua. It is the end of the dry season and much is brown and dry. Steve picked us up at the airport and told us that when they first got there the weather felt perfect for the first few months. However, yesterday was hot and humid. The temperature was supposed to be 95 degrees and we sweated the rest of the evening. We ended up taking a shower before and after sleeping last night.

The contrast between Johannesburg and Beira is very evident. It is a dusty city of about 500,000 but many of its buildings and streets are in disrepair or haven’t been repaired yet since reconstruction after the war. There are many colorful people but living in much poorer conditions than South Africa. We drove to Steve and Cheryl’s house which is two blocks from the beach in a neighborhood which seems to be decent compared to the others. It is a fairly large house for here yet is very modest by our standards. We ate a supper of pasta with a sort of tomato vegetable sauce and dried fish which is the most common eaten food here. Most of the people along the coast eat a lot of fish and seafood in their diet. That evening we briefly met with a young woman named Joaqina ( I don’t know if my names will be spelled right). She is to be Jenny’s language tutor and is going to take us around Tuesday to start getting to know the place and learn the language. We also met one of the night watchmen that come at night to watch over the house. I guess this is a very common thing in Mozambique and actually in all of Africa.

Yesterday morning the rains came and we are told it was the first big rain of the rainy season so we must have brought it with us. That was what William told us. (We met William this morning. He does maintenance around the house, office and on the cars. He is Zimbabwean and speaks English.) It rained most of the day and really hard and the temperatures were much more comfortable. William said that it wasn’t even a big rain. He said that in January it will rain everyday and it will take two hours after it is done for the water to clear in the streets to drive. He said that he had rain in his house last night and so is trying to figure out how to fix the problem. He also said that there are many people living in unplanned areas around the city. These areas are often low lying groundand so they have to move out of their houses when it rains because they flood. He said when it subsides they move back because they have not where eleo to go. We also met the house help today. Here name is Asiza and she does the cleaning, washing clothes and also cooks the noon meals during the week. Steve and Cheryl said that it was hard to get used to having people work for you in the house but that the culture here is such that if you have a house and don’t provide a job for someone you are viewed as being very ungenerous and tight with your money.

It is sunnier again this morning but the temperature is quite comfortable. We will see what it is like this afternoon. The rains cooled it down a little but they say it increases the humidity and so it will get hot again. The people here also say that the hotter and humid the day is the harder it will rain. The rain is a good thing because it means the rainy season has come on time. The last few years it has been a month to two months late and many people went hungry in the drought.

Last night I went with Steve to visit our host family and the host family of our co-worker Anthony Beers. Our host family is only a few blocks away from Steve and Cheryl. Anthony’s host family didn’t have electricity last night when we arrived so we had to visit by candlelight. I could understand some of the Portuguese because of my Spanish but I am realizing that the speaking is going to be the harder part.

Pray for us as we are still trying to get over jet lag.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Made it to Johannesburg!
Eating Breakfast in front of our suite

Anthony and I working outside our suite
Pool and courtyard at Guest House

November 4
We have officially landed in Johannesburg. We are staying in a neat little guesthouse that is beautifully landscaped and has very friendly hosts. I am currently sitting next to the pool enjoying the beautiful weather in the evening. Johannesburg has lush green rolling hills and is very modern. It is such a beautiful area. Tomorrow we head on a short plane ride to Beira and will start our language study phase.