Saturday, December 26, 2009

I had the privilege of visiting Maputo with Steve, our country representative, for a few meetings with the Christian Council of Mozambique recently in their national office. We flew, and I was glad, because it would have been a sixteen hour drive. I always enjoy going to Maputo. Being the capital of Mozambique it is a very vibrant place. It is very different than the rest of Mozambique. It is very near to South Africa and has access to much more then the rest of the country. It is a very cultured and cosmopolitan city with wide sidewalks and streets lined with flaming acacia trees shading side walk cafes full of people of all colors. It is a busy city, being the capital, but is also full of art and Mozambican jazz which is world famous. There are parks a botanical gardens and six cinemas to keep the families of foreign ambassadors and government people occupied.

Maputo is a city that shows what Mozambique could be like eventually. The streets are continuing to get repaired, new high rises are going up and the airport is getting revamped with a very modern design in an effort to update the main entry into the country. On leaving we passed a beautiful fountain framed by multicolored lights and drove down tree lined streets with art painted on the walls, through a traffic circle with a monument containing the body of one of Mozambique’s great leaders of the independence to our guesthouse. We stayed in a missionary guesthouse located near the city center and I took advantage of being able to walk every evening the streets full of children, past tropically colored houses and fruit vendors.

We were there to have meetings with the national offices of CCM Maputo about future strategy for our work in Mozambique. People kept complaining of the heat but I realized that it was much fresher, dries and cooler than either Beira or Chimoio. The meetings went well and were quite stimulating. As we left the office I was asking on of our colleagues how the environment was in Maputo these days. I was thinking specifically of whether it was safe to walk around in the downtown area, especially being the end of elections and all. I was hoping to enjoy a brisk walk each day to rejuvenate my spirit and to be able to get down to the Portuguese bookstore to buy a book for our daughter.

“Very agitated,” was the response I got from my colleague.

I was a little taken aback as I watched all the people enjoying late afternoon strolls along the sidewalks as we drove back to our guesthouse. I enquired further to see what he meant by agitated. I expected that violence was up because of the recent elections and that it was dangerous to be out, especially a foreigner who stands out, like me.

"Why is it agitated?", I asked.

“The traffic is terrible," was his response.

I was floored. Truly, Maputo had more traffic than the rest of the country but still not the levels of what I was used to in the US cities. His other colleague said that it is now easy to get less expensive cars from Asia in South Africa and everyone is buying them, filling up the streets and making driving more difficult.

I found this strange considering in the rest of the country people cram onto any car they can get into to travel because of the shortage of cars and every young boy dreams of having a car one day.

“Too many cars,” our driver said.

I bet if he did not have a car he would not have said that. At least traffic does not effect someone who likes to walk, like me. Was it safe, I wanted to know.

“Oh, yeah, you can walk even in the evening. No problem,” they said.
And that is what I did.

Merry ‘blazing hot’ Christmas

We are all excited about Christmas. We have our little tree decorated. We were even able to get lights for it this year and Jenny made some more ornaments for it at one of the Women’s teas that a lady in our missionary fellowship has from time to time. It is blazing hot with barely any rain in sight to bring relief so it looks like we will have 90 degree and above temperatures for our festivities. Without an air conditioner in our house the last few days we have spent just sitting around trying to conserve our energy to do the things that need to be done. Nadia is excited about her presents. She has two. She even gave daddy a gift. We will see if mommy gets one to but we all know that daddy is her favorite (ha,ha). Cheryl gave us her toaster oven and slow cooker while they are gone so Jenny made bagels and we bought cream cheese for breakfast. We are going to cook pork and pineapple with mashed potatoes and a passion fruit dessert. We plan to go to the Anglican Church who is having a service in the morning. Then I suppose we will sleep off the heat in the afternoon and maybe watch a movie in the evening.

This week has been crazy in both Chimoio and Beira. Both of the shopping districts are full of people buying stuff for the holidays. Maybe it is because we are in a different city this year but both the supermarkets in Beira and Chimoio were packed with people. It was hard to get in and out. I walked down the streets of Chimoio to go to the market today and they were chalk full of people. Maybe it is a sign that people are getting more disposable income. I think we are definitely noticing a difference. Unfortunately we saw way too much alcohol being purchased and the noise and drunks on the street remind us that not everyone is celebrating the birth of Jesus.

We watched the Nativity story the other night to get us into the mood for Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’s birth. Maybe we will watch it again on Christmas to stir up those feelings again which are so easily aroused when family, friends and a familiar community of faith surrounded us while living in the US. We were able to celebrate Christmas with our international missionary fellowship. But at least it is a community of faith and familiar faces that we can call our family here in this place. They help us to remember what the celebrating of this season is really about.
Still no rain. Licking a frozen water hydrant is sounding like a pretty good idea at this point.
Ok, I was wrong. The rain did not come. It is still hot!
It is that time of year again when we lay in our bed with the fan going in the middle of the afternoon in order to escape the heat. It was 92 degrees today and is supposed to climb to 95 tomorrow. All our plants in the yard are suffering this week and are ready for the rain. Of course, those of my family in Nebraska are probably saying, 92 degrees is nothing. It is true but not when there is no air conditioner in sight.

I guess I should not complain as our friend Jon is in Tete this minute and he just sent me a message saying that it is 120 degrees in Tete and that his room is at 115. What is worse is that there is absolutely no wind today. Everything is baking.

Fortunately there is rain in the forecast for this week and when it heats up like this it is usually the case that a change is coming soon. This will be welcome news, though it is bound to be a heavy downpour. The weather forecasters are predicting a year of flooding and are alerting people as such so they can be prepared this year. Especially those who live in lowlands and along the river banks where flooding often occurs.