Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Walking

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.

Animals
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.

Driving
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.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Front of our house with veranda. House is on the second story.


Making Christmas Cookies

Decorating the Christmas Palm
Happy New Year!
The tradition here is to eat a late supper (11:00). They put out a huge amount of food, sodas and many drink beer as well. They play their music loud and dance in the streets all night long. We stayed up only until 2:00. The tradition is to invite friends and neighbors to supper so we ate supper with the neighbors and than went outside at twelve o’clock where everyone was cheering, setting off fireworks everywhere and dancing in the streets. We walked over to Aleixo’s uncle’s home and ate another meal with their family. When we returned we went to bed. Augusta told us that in the years past the people suffered a lot from the war. First the Portuguese war and than the civil war that was worse than the first war. She said it didn’t enter the cities but there was no food because it was not safe to grow food. They did not leave the city because it was too dangerous, even ten miles outside the city. She said this is why the New Year is so important and Mozambiquens celebrate it because they are celebrating one more year with out war and suffering.

Christmas on the other hand was not quite as large a celebration and was kind of difficult for us being in a very hot country and far away from family and friends. We made cookies and gave them to a few people and also had a open house for friends and hosts at Steve and Cheryl’s home. We also decorated a palm branch for a Christmas tree.

Last Saturday we traveled to Gondola to look at houses. Gondola is on top of a hill overlooking the vast countryside of forest, savanna and rocky granite peaks that seem to jut out of nowhere throughout the hilly country. We have been there several times over the last month. The first time we went to meet the people of the Mennonite church in Gondola. They are very excited for us to come. The church is the second Mennonite church in Gondola (there was only one more) and is only 6 years old. They have planted three other churches in the countryside and are trying to reach more people. They helped us look for houses over the past few weeks. We succeeded in finding a house that suits our needs. It is close to the church and the bus stop to Chimoio, it was the least expensive, has a decent kitchen and bathroom and is decently comfortable. There are also verandas on either side of the apartment/house that overlook the beautiful countryside.

On the way back it rained and I looked out the window at some of the fields of corn. It looked as if the wind had blown some of the corn over, hopefully not to the point of damage. It reminded me of how often at home in Nebraska a storm would come through and blow corn over as much as 30% at times. I remember being worried about how it would affect the farm financially. The reality here is that if this happen here it is not a financial loss that people experience, it is loss of food and possibly the loss of life because most people don’t have the means to by food and will go hungry if the crop doesn’t succeed. Thus the rain this week is a welcome site.

It is the New Year and we are looking forward to one more month of language study and than moving to Gondola to where we will be for the next few years. We pray for wisdom and courage in the coming year and are thankful that there is no place that we will go where God is not!