Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just added 3 new posts and pictures of the sand dam tour so keep scrolling down.

Daily Life

Many of our friends and family have asked about our daily life. We don’t have much a routine but I can tell you about what does happen in our life on a daily basis.

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Novencio, the 17-year old son of Pastor Fernando promptly arrives at 6:00 AM to carry our water. We have four 20-liter containers to carry water. In their former life they held vegetable oil, but now are being used to transport water. He walks about 3 minutes to a mill where there is a faucet and stands in line with others waiting for water. He generally takes about an 1 hour and 20 minutes from the time he leaves our porch to return with the filled containers.

We use this water to bathe, wash clothes, cook and drink. For all we drink, we boil first and so are continually boiling and cooling water. We have a large basin the bath room from which we use to wash our hands, flush the toilet and bathe. We take bucket baths and now that the temperatures are cooling down (especially in the mornings and evenings), we often boil water first so that it isn’t as cold for our “showers”. I look forward to vacations where we can shower with running water!

Noemia also uses this water to wash our clothes. On Mondays she washes towels and sheets and Fridays our clothes. As mentioned in an earlier posting, she frequently does the washing with her 16 month son on her back.

We go grocery shopping several times a week. There is a small outdoor market with numerous small shops about a kilometer from our house where we get most of our dried goods and non-perishables. Women sell bananas and other fruits (right now avocados, oranges and tangerines are in season) on the street all over so they are readily available. Our next door neighbor is a bakery where we buy fresh bread each morning for breakfast. We buy most of our vegetables at a larger market on the other side of town. Most weeks, Noemia and I venture out there at least once to find greens, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins and onions. We get dairy (yogurt, milk, margarine) from the South African grocery store in Chimoio as well as spices we can’t find in the market and jam.

The staple of most Mozambicans that we know is a corn flour mush with a consistency of playdough. It has numerous names—massa in Portuguese, tshima in the languages around Beira, sadza in the languages here in Gondola. It seems to be a common food across southern Africa and there is a version of it in the Extending the Table cookbook (p. 151). They also eat a lot of fish because of the proximity to the ocean. Here in Gondola most fish that is available is dried, though some fresh water fish is sold too. They eat a lot of beans—cook dried beans for 3 hours, add some garlic and tomatoes and serve with massa or rice. Vegetables are seasonal, though in our first five months here we’ve eaten quite a bit of leaf cabbage and manioc leaves. They make several different kinds of sauces with greens, peanuts, tomatoes and coconut or any mixture of them. Fruit is available year-round, though depending on the season. We have already experienced mango, pineapple, papaya, and leechia seasons.

It is now “autumn” though they don’t really have autumn and spring—just summer and winter. The air is cooler and fresher here in Gondola and the evenings are in the low 70’s. The sun is rising about 6:10 AM and setting around 5:45 PM. The rainy season is winding down. We expected the rainy season to be comparable to other rainy seasons we’ve heard about with daily hard rains. However, here the rainy season meant a hard rain for about a day once a week.

Women are beginning to wear numerous capulanas in the mornings—one as the skirt, one as a wrap and one as a head scarf. As the day progresses, they take off their wrap and put it as an additional skirt or use it as a head scarf. Most wear several capulanas at a time and this way have an immediate baby carrier, cloth to sit on the ground, or anything else they need it for. They all wear sandals. Men wear long pants, shorts, short sleeves, long sleeves, or any combination, depending on where they are going. For everyday, they wear sandals but for more important occasions—church, business meetings—they wear shoes. This isn’t the whole general public, but a description of the sector of society that we relate with the most here in Gondola.

We walk everywhere we need to go in Gondola. Noemia tells me that people ask her why “those white people don’t have a car?” We like walking both for the exercise and how it affords us to be able to see people and what is going on. And honestly for all our activities here in Gondola, things are close enough that to have a car isn’t worth it. Sometimes a bicycle would be helpful but so far we don’t have one. To get to Chimoio or Beira we use a “chopa” – bus. The fare from Gondola to Chimoio is 15 meticais each way (25 meticais = $1); from Chimoio to Beira is 125 meticais. When we do need a car, we share it with Sara, another MCCer who lives in Chimoio and keeps a MCC car at her place. We used it a few weeks ago to take the Gondola Mennonite Church to a daughter church out in the bush.

The common language across all of Mozambique is Portuguese. So we concentrated our language study in Beira on Portuguese. Now that we are settled into Gondola we are beginning to learn Shetewe, the local language which is a conglomeration of other major languages in Mozambique.

We have a land line phone in our house which we use to access our (very slow) internet. We also both have cell phones. We have learned how to send text messages and frequently use text messages to communicate with other MCCers or to let the other one know when we will be home. We don’t have a contract with MCel, the Mozambican cell company, but buy credit on an as needed basis. It is sold in increments of 50 and 100 minutes at a time for 50 meticais for 50 minutes.

Written by Jenny
April 8, 2007

The Funeral

About 6:45 AM on Monday, March 26, one of the men from our church knocked on our door. He asked if Joel could drive his daughter (she’s about our age) to the hospital. Several weeks earlier, the church had prayed for her both in the hospital and in her parents’ home. Joel agreed and together they drove to the man’s house. Joel said that she was in really bad shape—very thin, frail and needed another woman to carry her to the truck and hold her while he navigated the narrow, rutted road to the main road and onto the hospital. Several women accompanied her to the hospital and probably stayed with her all day.

She died that night. She left a husband; they didn’t have any children. Tuesday, Joel and Pastor Fernando visited the family. People had already begun to gather around the family—sitting in the shade around the various buildings of the family’s home. Her body was in one of the houses and family members stayed with her. People surrounded the family all day that first day and most of the day of the funeral.

Wednesday morning was the funeral. We arrived and sat—men with men, women with women. The mood was somber. Some sang quietly; others talked quietly; others just sat. We waited while they put the finishing touches on the coffin. Then they carried it into the house and placed her body in it. They carried her out and allowed people to view the body before loading her onto a truck to take her to the cemetery.

When the truck left, all of us stood and followed it on foot. There was a trail of people that stretched for probably half a kilometer. The throng of people slowed down traffic and passer-bys knew that it was a funeral procession. From where I walked in the back, it was quite amazing to see all the people. The men walked in the front and then women in the back. I am a good few inches taller than most women here and could see over most of their heads. The crowd was colorful—reds, blues, yellows of scarves tied around women’s heads, capulanas carrying babies on their backs and any assortment of colors coordinating their shirts and capulana skirts. Some people talked quietly and others sang (but not with the usual exuberance, clapping or dancing) and we all walked from the parents’ house, up to the main road, around the curve, passed the market and then into the woods.

The cemetery was in a woods. Each grave had either potted plants and a tile encasement or a was a flowerbed. Most were healthy maintained and dutifully swept free of debris from falling branches and leaves. One of the pastors of Gondola officiated. I didn’t understand what was said because he spoke in the local dialect but he seemed to offer hope. Midway through, he led them in a song—several lines of harmonies in a hushed tone. From where I stood, I heard them lower the coffin, the dirt clods hitting it and later people placing flowers all over the grave.

We walked back to the parents’ house and sat some more. They served us lunch—sadza (cornmeal mush) and fish. After lunch we left. We returned Thursday and Friday afternoon for prayers. Both times it was a smaller crowd that gathered. Each time, people seemed to be less sad. Yesterday they laughed and joked a lot.

People all over the world suffer and all of us die. We have different practices for burial and funerals and yet they have similarities. The thing that struck me most was after the funeral, everyone returned to the house of the parents’. I think God designed us to only be able to be morose for so long because people began to laugh, talk more animated and the singing was more up-beat and included clapping. It reminded me of how often the meal at a funeral in the States includes a lot of laughter—remembering good things about the person or just people so relieved to have it over, they are able to laugh together. I also really liked the idea of meeting together for three days because it allows time for the community to acknowledge the loss with the family and recognize the significance of the person. It seems very healing to me.

written by Jenny
March 31, 2007

The Cyclone

Over the weekend of February 23-25, Mozambique experienced a cyclone. The dictionary defines it as a “violent, low pressure hurricane of limited diameter”. Here in Gondola, we woke up in the early morning hours of Friday the 23 to hear violent wind and rain. We ran around our house, closing windows. We woke up to continued pouring rain and heavy winds and no electricity. We prayed that Novencio (who carries our water) and Noemia (who does our housekeeping) would not come to work that day (they didn’t).We spent the day inside, brave enough only to go out on our verandas to look at the weather, collect water and open/shut our gate. Saturday morning most of the storm had moved on, but it was still raining, windy and we didn’t have power. By the afternoon, it had cleared off enough for people to be out and about. We walked to the little market near our house and stocked up on some food—mainly stuff to make pancakes! Sunday was clear until about 5 PM when the heavens opened and it poured off and on through out the night.

One of our friends said that they heard on the radio that Gondola had 90 KM/hour winds (= 41mph) and the southern coast of Mozambique had 250 KM/hour winds (= 114 mph). Our house sustained few damages from the winds and rain. Part of the plastic roofing on our back veranda is just hanging by a few wires, one of the windows broke when I was trying to close it and a few of the windows leaked. Our Mozambican friends are not so fortunate. Everyone’s houses are okay; but their fields are leveled. Corn that was 7-8 feet tall is knocked over. It’s almost harvest time, so some anticipate allowing it to dry on the ground, but they won’t have as plentiful as a harvest as they were expecting. Their fields are their livelihoods and so a storm like this greatly affects them. We don’t know how much this will affect them, but they are pretty disappointed by the leveling of their fields. Other places in Mozambique apparently have been destroyed. We haven’t heard any news but if they had 114 mph winds and rain, some destruction occurred.

In the meantime, because of rains up-river, the Zambezi River is flooding. This weekend’s cyclone, I’m sure doesn’t help the flooded areas.

It’s hard to know how to pray and what to do. So we pray for guidance and wisdom and wait out power-outages.

(written by Jenny on Monday, February 26, 2007)
(Additional note: We apologize that it has taken over a month to put this post on line. Our internet connection is very slow so haven´t been able to post it. The picture is a "normal" sunset out one of our windows)