Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some thoughts…

In the movie, My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle has to repeat over and over, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains”. Here in Mozambique the following is true for this year: “The rain in Moz pours on most days”. It’s raining again. We had almost 48 hours of clear skies. Friday, Saturday and Sunday it poured for long periods of time. Very few people came to church because of the heavy rains. Someone mentioned it is like the rains of 2000 when there were big floods. Gondola will not flood because it is very hilly; but other parts of the country can, including the Zambezi River for the second year in a row.

Things I appreciate
There are things that I didn’t know I appreciated but am learning that they merit being appreciated since being here in Mozambique:
- Sewage systems/storm drains/culverts
- Matching outfits on other people
- Sidewalks
- One person to a seat on public transportation
- Green lawns
- Trash cans in public areas (they are everywhere in the States)
- Free public restrooms (at least they have some public restrooms here, just gotta pay and if you want toilet paper, sometimes that’s extra)

Things I appreciate about Mozambique
- Availability of fresh fruit year round
- Children making sand castles in the sandy dirt by the side of the road
- Fresh baked bread
- Shoulders on the sides of road for pedestrians and bicyclists
- Our neighbors who live beside us and below us
- The land is absolutely beautiful. When I am on a chapa, I try to sit next to a window so that I can watch it as we go past. Right now it’s really lush and green.
- Palm trees
- Little traffic
- Big umbrellas for shade and rain protection (also known as “sombrinas” – little shade)
- The country is really developing quickly. We talked with a missionary the other day who said when she arrived here 5 years ago, there wasn’t toilet paper. Now you can get several different brands and yesterday I saw a Mozambican talking with an employee at Shoprite about why his favorite brand wasn’t on the shelf.
- The little lizards that crawl on the walls and eat the bugs
- How frequently people smile and laugh – a lot!

Road rules
There seem to be very few rules of the road here. Who ever you are and whatever your transportation is, is the most important being on the road. So, if you are pedestrian, bicyclist, driver of a car, mac truck driver, chapa, you can go wherever you want (though they do generally drive on the left side of the road). If someone is there, beep your horn or cling your bell to get them to move. There’s no such thing as giving pedestrians the right of way or slowing down much through a village where there are people, goats, bicycles, chickens, or children on the sides of the road. Drivers just beep for people to get over. Conversely, there seems to be little awareness about the dangers of the road with pedestrians. People leisurely walk across the road in front of on-coming cars (though here in Gondola and other towns with more through traffic, I do see people looking both ways, but not all the time). The other day, I saw three little boys (like 3 years old) walking beside the busy road in Chimoio. One of them darted across the road without looking, urging the other two to follow. Fortunately an adult nearby took both remaining boys by the hand and cross the street when it was safe. I was too paralyzed by what I saw to take any action and am very thankful for the adult’s intervention.

English on the street
Strangers like to practice their English with me. They come up to me and ask, “Do you speak English?” Sometimes I will answer “Sim” (yes, in Portuguese), sometimes, “Não” (no, in Portuguese). The other day some guy as I was waiting to get on a chapa in Chimoio said, “Good Afternoon! How are you?” So I responded, “Zdvrastvyute, kak dela?” (Russian for “hi, how are you?”). I don’t really feel like entering into conversations with random guys who want to practice their English. I know from your perspective it sounds rude or unfriendly but this happens several times a week. Random people (men) come up and try to speak English. It’s one thing when it’s kids as I am walking down the street; but another thing when it’s men on the chapa. And it doesn’t happen to me as much when I am with Joél, mostly when I am alone.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Storm Breaks Over Gondola


It’s rained almost every day since December 1st. What started out as a projected good harvest because of good early rains is now almost completely ruined from too much rain. The ground is completely saturated and most people’s corn plants are yellow instead of green. I heard of a woman this afternoon whose corn field has been covered in water up to her mid-calves so she planted rice instead. We keep hearing that it will be hungry year. As for me, I like the rain and the cooler temperatures that it brings. But I am not depending on the corn in Joél’s fields to feed us the rest of the year like most everyone else is depending on their harvests.

The savings group that was associated with the Mennonite church disintegrated in October when there was much confusion about a church conflict. However, last week during announcements, one of the men stood up and announced that if anyone is interested in starting a savings group again, to talk with him. I know several others are interested. The CCM Women’s group is also interested in beginning one. I have a conversation with Sara’s (a fellow MCCer) assistant on Monday about starting savings groups in communities where there are Anglican preschools that MCC supports. I am going to focus on savings groups this year.

We are starting to find friends. Yes, after over a year, we are finding friends outside of our work relationships! Last year we did not have opportunities to reach out beyond our work because of lack of transportation and too much travel. However, this year we are beginning to attend a Christian fellowship of other missionary types in Chimoio. We also discovered that biking to Maforga (see our Christmas entry) is doable and so are getting to know a couple who work there. It feels healthy for our well beings as well as helps to give us perspective on our work and life here.

Cholera is going around because of the amount of water. They tell us that this is the season of many sicknesses—cholera, malaria and the flu. So many people are sick with fevers, not all have malaria but they call it that. Fortunately we haven’t been sick. We are taking extra precautions against cholera by making sure we soak all our fresh foods in water with chlorine. And we always treat our water. On Saturday when we brought a chapa back from Beira, everyone had to get out at one of the towns to wash their hands off with chlorine water and step in it too. It seems like there is still little knowledge about how cholera is spread. Many people have wells in their yards, but their houses are surrounded by lots of other houses and latrines. Very few treat their water here by boiling it or leaving it out in the sun for 8 hours (also kills all the nasty things in the water). So, Joél and I have decided that we’re going to decline any water offered at someone’s house for now. We were always a bit careful but now will be even more.

Church news

Four women in our congregation had babies from second week in November to the last week in December. Two women had boys—Moises and Jeremias—and two had girls—Carlota and Carla. Moises is the youngest of three, Jeremias is the youngest of four, Carlota the youngest of two (incidentally, Noemia, our housekeeper’s baby) and Carla the youngest of five. When the child is born, the women of the church go to the mother’s house to have a dedication. They preach a sermonette on Luke 2: 21-52, the story of Jesus presented at the temple. Then they sing, dance and pass the baby around while others donate money to the family. After this ceremony the mother is free to bring the child to church. The first Sunday the mother and child are in church, they have a baby dedication. At this dedication, the name is announced (if they haven’t yet announced its name). The pastor gives a sermonette about how babies are from God and again people sing, dance and give an offering to the mother.

Joél has started Sunday School at church for the men. They are learning the books of the Bible and a brief synopsis of each book. Each week they have a different verse to memorize. He told them if they memorize 50 verses, he will give them a Bible. After two weeks, most people have said their verses. About 10 men are attending and they seem to be liking the study. The 9:00 AM Sunday School actually begins at 10:00ish. It’s part of us learning how to adapt to the difference in time understanding as well as admitting that no one will actually arrive for 9:00 until 10:00.

I have started children’s time during the service. I began the week before Christmas and told the children the Christmas story using my Nativity scene figurines. The adults were more interested that the children that week! Each week, I chose a different story from a children’s Bible story book to tell. The children do not seem to understand if I read it so I tell them the story and one of the men in church interprets for me. More children have started coming to church. It also is a good way to have the adults learn the stories of the Bible because they listen as well.

The women in the church have met together every week of this New Year. This is quite the accomplishment for these women who do not consistently meet. The first week of the year, we went to Amelia’s house to dedicate her baby. The second week, we went to Mariazinha’s to dedicate her baby. The following week they decided to visit me. During that visit, we decided to hold it at my house the next week because only four women came. So this past week, seven women came. When it was at my house, I asked them questions about why church is important and where they want their church to be in the future. We also agreed to pray for the woman on our right through out the week. Next week it is at Mãe Pastora’s (pastor’s wife) and several have said that they will pick me up en route. I do not have much hope for this group to continue meeting like this because of their tendency to not consistently come, but am delighted each week when women come. Perhaps as we pray together, God’s spirit will move and the group will continue to grow in commitment.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year! We added four new posts today. Happy reading!
Food Discoveries

I made mango jam the other week. Someone from our church gave us a number of little mangos that are really stringy that neither of us like eating. So I found a recipe for jam that used jello for pectin. It was a good way to use mangos and because we can easily get jello here (plus our families keep mailing it to us!), it is a good recipe.

It’s "abóbora" (anything remotely like a squash or pumpkin) season. Yesterday in the market, I found some that looked like green summer squash. Portuguese only has one word for squash and pumpkin but the local dialect has a name for all the various kinds. The women selling the squash told me how to prepare it; though unfortunately, the only thing I understood was “muito bom” (very good) at the end of her description. So I bought it (what’s to lose, when three squashes cost me 2 meticiais ($0.08)?). When Joél saw it, he was excited that it might be like zucchini. We sliced it and prepared it with onions and soy sauce. It was like a green summer squash. Now we have two more to eat.

I’ve gained the reputation in the church here for baking. I’ve taken cookies and or a cake to several church functions and make banana bread for each family that has a baby. I even made the wedding cake for our housekeeper’s wedding. Mozambicans really like cakes. They like to make them for their “festas”(parties). So Christmas Eve, three women arrived at my house to make cakes for their Christmas celebrations. The Sunday prior, they had asked me what ingredients they needed for a cake, and so when they arrived at my house, they brought their own ingredients and then learned how to make the cakes. Two of the women made two cakes each, the third one cake. The following week, two other women and the husband of one of the women from Christmas, came and made cakes. It’s been fun getting to know the women of the church this way and it’s helping them feel more comfortable coming to visit me. The next step is teaching them how to bake over a fire.

Since arriving in Gondola, I have visited the hospital more than I have my whole life. Last week we visited the pastor of one of the zone Mennonite churches who was in the hospital for severe diarrhea. The hospital is the place one goes if he/she is sick, needs a malaria test, has any other ailment or to give birth. The hospital functions as one’s family doctor/primary care physician and the hospital in the American sense of medical establishments. When one is admitted to the hospital, it means that one is very sick. Being admitted also means bringing someone to look after the sick person, who fetches the nurse if the patient’s condition changes.

The Gondola Hospital appears to have three wings—a maternity wing, an infirmary and the general clinic. Patients admitted to the infirmary share a room with seven other people of the same gender. Each person has his/her own bed with a mosquito net. There are two doors, one on either side of the room and two windows for ventilation. The selected care taker of each patient, sits on the bed with the patient. The hospital feeds the patients and the few nurses administer medicines when needed, but the majority of the patient care seems to be with the family. The maternity ward admits women in labor but no one may accompany them. So husbands bring meals, talk with the nurses about the condition of their wives but are not present at birth; neither can sisters or mothers of the women in labor be present. After birth, people may visit the mother and baby during hospital visiting hours: 16:00 hours to 18:00 hours each day. Mothers are discharged a day after delivery.

In July, we took some friends who were in a bad bus accident to the Provincial Hospital in Chimoio. The “Emergency Room” personnel looked at all those who were wounded in the accident and treated those with the most blood. The remainder were given pain medication and told to come back on Monday morning to see a doctor (it was Saturday night at 9 PM).

In some of the rural areas, there are health posts with voluntary health workers. They are trained in knowing the symptoms of malaria and a few other sicknesses and given some medicine to disperse on an as needed basis.

There is a medical school in Beira. Students study text books from Portugal and some in English. The hospital in Chimoio trains nurses. I’m sure there are a few other medical schools in the country and nurses training schools but these are the ones of which I am aware.

written January 2, 2008
Holiday observations

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is full of holiday celebrations. The month preceding it is not full of preparations like we do in the States; it seems like the preparations only begin about 3 days prior. Then are the stores full of shoppers. Prices for certain foods inflate—eggs, sugar, shortening (baking things), spaghetti, sodas—foods that generally would be used to make holiday foods. For example, normally the cost per individual egg is 3.5 meticais ($0.14), but during the holidays, prices rose to 5 meticais ($0.20) per egg, making a dozen (as I like to buy them) over $2.00 or a “favo” (carton of 30 eggs) over $5.00.

As we have written before Mozambique is LOUD. During the holidays it is louder with people partying together. Some people make money by brewing their own alcohol and then “advertising” by blaring music through loudspeakers until the supply is finished. Someone who lives some where in our neighborhood frequently graces the neighbors with the same music over and over again; it was no different this holiday. In addition to the impromptu liquor selling, people are at home with many guests and so play music loudly as they sit around and visit.

In general, people like to “passear” (literally “to go out and about”, means more taking a walk with the intention of hanging out). The holidays increase this and we have watched more people out, dressed up and walking with friends.

Churches seem to not do much to celebrate Christmas. There seems to be few songs if any for the Christmas season other than those translated into Portuguese, like many of our carols are translated from German into English. At all the church services we attended—ours and at Maforga—the songs sung were the usual praise songs. When Joél and I sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” (in English) at our church, people seemed to like it because it was so different than their usual melodies. Christmas was only mentioned the Sunday prior to the 25th. But we account that for our church being comprised of mostly new Christians and low attendance (14 adults) that Sunday. We were thankful to attend the Christmas Eve Service at our church—to celebrate Jesus’ birth with other Christians.

New Years is a bigger holiday. Many people were walking around. Many people had guests in their homes. In the hours leading up to the New Year, people played loud music, set off small fireworks and ate together. Joél went to church to the all night service; I was too tired from my baking classes so stayed home. At midnight, I was awoken by a fireworks display, so watched it from our spare bedroom.

The next morning—New Year’s day—people were obviously because it was quiet for a few hours (except for the neighbor once again blasting their alcohol music). We spent the day in Chimoio with other MCCers, enjoying the quiet of their neighborhood. In the evening, we could tell the next day was a work day because few people were walking around and it was more like normal life.
Christmas 2007

We had a full Christmas this year. It was not full of all the trimmings that we expect in the States, but we were able to celebrate Christ’s birth several times.

The first time we celebrated Christmas was with our fellow MCCers at the Southern Africa Regional Retreat in Zambia. There we spent time decorating gingerbread cookies, making cards, and singing carols. We also had a night focused especially on celebrating Christmas—singing carols, scripture readings, and talking about what Emmanuel means to us.

The Friday prior to Christmas, we got together with the other MCCers in Chimoio and made Christmas cookies together. We also sang a few carols together and enjoyed each other’s company.

We then participated in our church’s Christmas Eve service. We were the first to arrive, though we had hoped that being 45 minutes late would mean that others would be there already. The next person arrived about 5 minutes later, the next about 30 minutes later. So what was supposed to start at 8 PM ended up beginning at 10:30 by the time all 10 people who came had arrived. We sang some, listened to the Pastor tell the Christmas story, Joél and I sang a carol and at 12:00 the service was over.

We got early the next morning to attend the baptismal service. Seven youths from the church got baptized. For such an important event in the life of the church, we were surprised that only one parent, two deacons, the pastor and us came to celebrate with those being baptized. We walked down to a small stream where they answered the simple question of, “Do you accept Jesus as your Savior?” before being dunked. It was a nice temperature and partially overcast, so it wasn’t too cold for those wet from the baptism or too hot for those watching from the bank.

After the baptism was over, Joél and went back to our house, grabbed our bikes and began our ride of 20 kilometers to participate in a worship service with other expats. There is a missionary compound-like place, named Maforga, about 20 km from Gondola where there are several orphanages, a clinic, church and a number of expats work. So we went there, to worship in a more familiar manner. The service was conducted in English with translation into Shiutewe. An English Anglican priest gave the sermon and a local woman led the worship. We met a few people we hadn’t met previously. We then biked back to Gondola, where our collegue, Brooke was waiting for us to arrive.

We spent the afternoon with Brooke. We drank tea and had Christmas cookies.

In the evening, Joél and I sang a few carols together. We then exchanged gifts. We are trying to figure out a few traditions to have for our Christmases together. So far the only one we have continued two years in a row is drinking a cold Coke on Christmas day! Later on, my parents called. Joél’s called several days later when his brothers were present.