We have been walking to the office in the mornings. It is a good way to get exercise because it takes us about 35-40 minutes to walk. We also get to observe Mozambican life by way that many Mozambicans experience it. I’m sure that some people wonder why we are walking along the side of the road instead of riding in a vehicle. However, we’ve enjoyed our morning walks. We have seen parts of life that even if we took a chapa (local bus) we wouldn’t see.
During one particularly rainy week, we saw small frogs jumping every where. Some were the size of quarters; others were the size of a dime. We’ve seen many lizards and an occasional snake. We see a variety of dogs—some looking for food others taking a nap. Frequently we see chickens and chicks scratching in the dirt or scrounging in the trash piles. I always thought chicks were yellowish but most that we see are brown and black striped.
Places we pass
We are becoming Mozambican and trying to figure out ways to walk where there is the most shade. We begin our walk from our front door and travel half a block on our street. Our street is lined with acacia trees with bright red flowers. We pass through a circle that is bordered by a university, a deaf school and a Portuguese school. We then continue down a street lined with very old trees. All the trunks are painted white and the trees are so old they have broken up the sidewalks with their roots. We pass an Anglican Church, Catholic Church and Baptist church. We also walk past many vendors selling crackers, fruit, candy and other assorted foods. In the mornings, many people are out sweeping their parts of the sidewalks—clearing leaves, fallen flowers and trash. They sweep the refuse into small piles and then put them in trash heaps or dumpsters. We pass a hotel that has a garden restaurant complete with paths, landscaping, and gazebos. We then begin our walk in the sun. Here we begin to walk with many people. Some carry babies, some carry objects to sell later. Sometimes there is a make-shift bike repair shop set up under the one tree on the block. We cross over a bridge where there are regularly several beggars and go around a traffic circle. Beira has numerous traffic circles and squares. On our walk, we pass through three. We continue walking and enter into a stretch where on one side of the road, people live and on the other it seems like there are quite a few auto repair places. We arrive at the Goto market. It is the largest market in the city and one can find almost anything in it. It’s the place to go for used clothing for cheap, household items, capulanas and other things. We only walk on the perimeter of a corner of it before crossing the street. We are almost to the office. Across the street is the Shoprite complex. It is the only western-style grocery store in the city and is usually accompanied by a bank, fast food restaurant, department store and furniture store. On the side we walk, there is a small shopping center of some stores owned by Chinese people and Arab people. Some sell household things, some sell shoes, some sell toiletries and others sell groceries. We arrive at the office. It’s on the fourth floor of a United Church of Christ Church. We greet the men who are the day guards and climb the three flights of stairs.
Other things we see
Some days, we see people sorting through trash piles, looking for something to eat. It’s hard to walk by them and not feel like we are the Pharisee in the story of the Good Samaritan. We are approached by beggars. It seems like they make a special effort to reach us to ask for money. We wonder why we are targeted—is it our white skin? Sometimes we give; other times we don’t. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Give to everyone who asks”?
One day we saw a lone chicken in an area where we normally don’t see chickens. Joel asked me if I wanted him to kill it. I replied, “Kick it”. The chicken promptly trotted across the street. We finally have the answer to the question, “why did the chicken cross the road?” To avoid being kicked!
Regardless of the day, people are carrying umbrellas. They use them as shade and to protect from the rain. Though, usually if it is raining, very few people are outside. There is a saying here that people are more afraid of the rain than cars. When it rains, it pours here.
Beira, though the second largest city in Mozambique, has relatively few cars according to our American standards. In the States we drive on the right side of the road and the steering wheel is on the left in a car. Here they drive on the left and steering wheel is on the right. I haven’t driven yet, but that will be an adjustment. Joel says that because the steering wheel is on the other side, it’s easier to think that way. I still have difficulty knowing what way to look when I cross the street. Drivers like to go fast and will honk at any pedestrians or bicyclists in their way. Generally there are always pedestrians on the sides of roads and a few bicyclists. A street may have several lanes but drivers drive wherever there are the fewest number of potholes.