Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maputo's Cafes

Maputo is known for a little flair, for it's African Jazz, for it's outdoor cafes and, you guessed it, coffee. So, those of you who know me, would understand why I could easily come to like this place. Yes, I do miss the beautiful green forests and pastures of Manicaland but each place has its blessings. Jenny and I have decided to take each saturday and test out a new cafe with its plethorah of sweet rolls, donuts and good coffee (tea for Jenny).

Nadia sharing a cup of java (er, I mean sippy cup with water) with me at Cafe Cristal

Maputo-Beira-Maputo: Second time, second verse, a whole lot of driving, thankfully, not worse.
I never did report on our trip to Beira for team meetings. The trip was a whole lot easier with out the breakdowns we had when we moved to Maputo. It was quite enjoyable driving through the country laden with palm trees and baobob trees. We stopped overnight in Vilanculus on our way. Unfortunately, it is still the run down town we initially thought it was and any lodging is either way over priced or cheap and run down. So, what did we do. We stayed in a run down place and saved our money. Fortunately the food in the evening was excellent. Jenny and I had crab curries and it was the best I have had in Mozambique. It will have to be a stop on our next trip and we will stay in the rooms at this restaurant which were cheaper and nicer.

Enjoying some leisure time in Maxixe

We enjoyed the 'despedida' or going away party for Steve and Cheryl in Beira. Our wonderful cook, and Steve and Cheryl's maid, Aziza, did the preparations with lots of good food and sodas to follow. Many of our local partners were invited and we enjoyed good conversation. I noticed that it was one of those times when I realized that I had made friends in that part of the country. We sat down and had many a good conversation over world cup football which was in the later stages in South Africa.

Aziza cooking food

Cheryl with the food all prepared

On our way back, we passed through Chimoio for one last night and mourned as we said once again goodbyes to our wonderful staff, the beautiful terrain of Manica and our wonderful house and yard. Life is full of goodbyes for us.

On our way back we stayed in Maxixe in a house that was occupied in the past by MCCers. It is a guesthouse for the Anglican church and is set among the coconut palms along the banks of the bay between Maxixe and Inhambane. Truly a restful sight and much better then any hotel we could have found.

View of house toward bay

Nadia exploring the yard around the house in Maxixe

The next day we arrived safely back to Maputo after taking advantage of a few stops along the way to buy some excellent Piri-Piri (hot sauce).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I find myself thinking alot about food lately. I am constantly on the search for new recipes to make with the fresh foods I am able to get. My problem is two fold: 1. I don't like to repeat recipes much and 2. Alot of recipes, though they may not be difficult, when using vegetables are time consuming because of how much chopping is involved. So I am on the look out for new recipes that do not take much time to prepare. Sometimes that cannot be avoided given that pre-prepared vegetables do not exist (there are some canned ones, but few frozen and definitely not pre-prepared ones).

It's greens season now. The other day I tried a new corn bread recipe that a friend had sent me over a year ago that has spinach in it. It was really good. But the recipe called for a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach. I don't have 10 oz. of frozen spinach. I have a random amount of fresh spinach, which after soaking in water and bleach to sanitize it, I chopped and boiled to prep it for the corn bread. Mozambicans prepare greens (mostly collard greens) with ground peanuts and coconut. It's quite yummy and is a complete protein when combined with rice or shima (corn meal mush). But I like to try new recipes and so am constantly perusing my cook books for a recipe that calls for any type of greens that I can. In the past week, we've cooked a mashed potato-greens dish, a spicy potato and greens dish, a sumptuous curry vegetable-chicken soup and a chick pea-greens salad with tomatoes. Joel wonders why we can't just prepare the same thing on a regular basis. I like variety in my meals, to the detriment of my husband who would like to eat things multiple times. My parents had/have similar conversations. So if any one has any good recipes for greens, send them my way!

Maputo has a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was afraid I would really miss the 25th of June market in Chimoio, which was 2 blocks from our house. I miss it but for different reasons than availability of produce; I miss the vendors and how low key shopping there was. Across the street from our apartment here in Maputo is Mercado Janet (named after the American wife of one of the heros of the Mozambican independence movement). The vendors have their produce beautifully displayed, as if it is a grocery store or a market like the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. The first time I went, I was shocked at the prices. I'm not in Chimoio anymore! I'm in the capital city and though, Mozambique produces alot of fruits and vegetables, it seems like the majority come from South Africa. So now, instead of buying 15+/- bananas for 10 meticais, I pay 20 meticais ($0.75) for a kilogram which is 6 or so bananas. Perhaps the prices are more realistic for the labor that goes into the cultivation and harvest or perhaps the prices are elevated because of the location in the city. I just have to adjust my thinking to these new prices.
Sometimes it is difficult to make purchases, knowing that people in North America donated the money to support our life and work here. We expected higher prices than we had in Chimoio and yet the reality is an adjustment to renegotiate prices in my head.

I've read that the majority of the world spends a significant amount of their income on purchasing food. We in North America might complain about food prices but in reality the amount we spend on food in proportion to our income is relatively low compared to our neighbors around the world. For example, our housekeeper in Chimoio took out an advance against her salary equal to 2 months' worth in order to buy corn for the year. This will not be enough for her family of 5 and does not include breakfasts or accompanying stew or rice (for variety). She tried to plant a field last year, but because the rains were delayed and she was helping her parents cultivate their field, she lost her crop. It's sobering to think about it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

For the past two months in Chimoio, internet access has been touch and go. For two weeks shortly after we returned to Moz from the States, we did not have any cell phone and thus internet access because we used the cell network to get online. When it was finally fixed (a huge fibre optic cable in the ocean was damaged), the network coverage was still sketchy. Below are a few posts I (Jenny) wrote during that time.
More Savings Group Impact

Another update about savings groups written by Steve Hochstetler Shirk, MCC Co-Representative in Mozambique:

Dona Cristina was in our office again this week for some work on reporting. Some items that came out of our discussion:

- A group in southern Mozambique just sent photos of 8 chairs, some cups, and jars that they had bought for their local church, after distributing their savings at the end of a cycle. When people have money, they start looking around and seeing the needs right among them, feeling that they have the power to do something rather than feeling poor.
- These groups motivate people to get moving, because people think, "I've got a Savings meeting coming up; I need to have something to put in." So they get busy selling or making something, doing a job, "move here, turn there, mix it up there..." (mexer aqui, mexer aí, mexer aqui). Whereas before, she said, many people just sat around or even "would be sleeping," thinking that they are poor and don't have a job and therefore can't do anything.
- A group in central Mozambique just did its distribution. They had collected 41,700 MT (approx 1400 USD). This was their second cycle, and in the first cycle they'd collected some 4000 MT. People start out with a certain suspicion that the people organizing this will in some way walk off with their money. When they discover that it really is their money, for them, they get motivated - in this case they increased their savings by 1000% from one cycle to the next.
- She noted with a laugh that there is money that "it doesn't hurt to give away," referring to the separate sack of money from interest (from loans) and fines (from members who violate group rules). No one knows how much of it came from where, so it doesn't hurt to give that money for other purposes. Even so, groups have had members voluntarily give from their own savings to improve the local church facilities or help needy people.

Finally, she said that they are no longer going to speak of this as a Women's Society activity (of the United Church of Christ), they are going to speak of it as the Family Development program. There are women who are sitting around doing nothing, but they can think "I'm part of the Women's Society." Also, not everyone wants to save regularly. On the other hand, everyone has a family, and everyone can think and needs to think that "My family's development begins with me." Savings groups are one way people can foster that development, but they are not the purpose of the activity, they are merely an instrument toward other ends.

15 May 2010
No “Rede” (network)

It’s amazing how much two days without “rede” (cell phone network coverage) working makes me (Jenny) feel isolated. We are waiting for the network to get back up and running and it feels like it has been a long time since we had a signal, when in reality it has only been since Sunday (it’s now late Tuesday afternoon). We get our email through the cell phone and so we have not been able to check email and hear from any of our family, friends or work colleagues for two days. We are waiting to hear if all of our luggage came into Beira from their gallivanting in Europe without us. I long to text a friend to ask her to go out for tea sometime and catch up with her after three months away. But there’s no rede.

Tomorrow, Joél was scheduled to go on a trip to visit the sand dams in Tete because the prime minister was going to visit. But it was canceled. The funny thing is how we learned his trip was canceled. The Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) in Tete was hosting the visit and when the visit was canceled, the director tried to call Beira to let the MCC rep (also going on the trip) know. However, the cell network is down and it seems like most landline phone lines are experiencing difficulties in these central provinces. Sr. Tiago finally was able to contact his CCM counterpart in Beira who then physically went over to the MCC office to inform the MCC rep of the change. Steve, then tried repeatedly to call the CCM Manica office to tell Joél (we don’t have a land line phone). He tried all morning and around 11:30 got through to the office. After talking, Sr. Moriane then drove to our house to inform Joél.

And when we get rede, I will post this.

Tuesday, 27 April

I took Nadia to get her measles vaccine this morning. When we first arrived back in Mozambique with her, I asked around about where to get her immunizations. I was referred to the public health center in downtown Chimoio. So, since then, I have been taking Nadia there every month. Some months she gets shots, other times, just weighed and measured. The Center is open from 7:00 to 12:00 every week day morning.

Mozambique offers free healthcare and childhood vaccines. My understanding of the Mozambican health system is that people get to the clinic really early in the morning and wait until the nurse calls them, for whatever ailment they have—sickness or immunizing their child. My experience at this clinic was service without having to wait very long. I learned today that that is my service.

This morning, we went earlier than usual because I wanted to get Nadia vaccinated before her morning nap. The clinic waiting area, an outdoor area with cement benches shaded by a roof in a courtyard of a larger health center, was full of women and their babies already at 8:15. We showed up and waited in the line for weighing babies. It was about 7-8 women and babies long which was plenty of time for me to wrangle Nadia out of the baby carrier she was in, undress her completely and finagle her into the sack from which she is hung to be weighed. Just before we weighed her, she peed, soaking the sack, my pant leg and the floor beneath us. I guess I looked apologetic because the nurse said something like, “It happens” (I know it does, I just didn’t want my child to do it!). She weighed 8.8 kg (19 lbs 5¾ oz). Then we stood in line to have her length measured. I attempted to dress her while she wiggled and tried to touch all sorts of interesting things in the cramped line (people’s hair, other babies). When it was our turn, I laid Nadia down on a board that had a measuring tape stuck to it. I held her head next to the top of the board and the nurse held her feet and moved another board to the end of them. She was 70 cm = 28 in. I asked the nurse where to go to get Nadia vaccinated. She replied that I should wait on the benches because the immunizations hadn’t started yet. I found myself a spot on a bench and waited. Nadia fell asleep and they hadn’t begun vaccinating.

Waiting gave me an opportunity to observe, having already disrupted the norm by showing up to weigh and measure my child. In the months I have been taking Nadia there, I have never seen another foreign woman, as light skinned as me (there could be but never at the same time I go or could be darker skinned). Women of all economic classes were present at the clinic. Babies had all sorts of different diapers—some were disposable diapers, some had the normal terry cloth diapers and some had just a folded up capulana. Most all the babies were bundled up (except for when they were weighed) and several people asked me if Nadia’s feet were cold because she didn’t have socks or shoes on (it was in the low 70’s—cold for here). I found one woman’s question ironic because her child wore shoes and socks but had bare legs, where as Nadia was wearing long pants and was barefoot. Babies of all ages were present and surprisingly though there were numerous present who could walk or crawl, all were held by their mothers.

After sitting for a while, I decided to go home. Nadia was asleep and I could bring her back later in the morning, get some work done and avoid the long line for vaccines.

When we returned, the head nurse with whom I usually related asked me where I had gone. She said that she had looked for me. She promptly got Nadia’s vaccine and filled out the information needed for documentation. Then she gave Nadia her shot. I told her that I had gone home instead of waiting in line. Her response was that I do not have to wait in line, because I am a foreigner.

I don’t know how to take that. On one level, I am thankful that it takes less time for us to get Nadia’s vaccines and I don’t have to sit and wait. On another level, it saddens me that I get such prompt service and others have to wait. It feels like cheating. And yet, it feels like that is what is expected by the average person—foreigners, like myself, get to go to the head of the line. I don’t know if I should fight it. I do some by waiting in line to weigh and measure Nadia. I don’t completely because, frankly it works to my advantage and in my foreign mentality time is money/less time waiting around allows me to do something else. However, waiting gives me opportunity to talk with women with whom I normally wouldn’t see and ask them about their babies. Though it seems rare that women come by themselves and their babies, or perhaps they meet people they know at the clinic. So I am the odd one with no one with whom to talk.

Every time we go, the head nurse works with us. I don’t know her name and she always forgets that Nadia is a girl, but she knows me and treats me kindly, converses with me, and offers advice and direction in a confusing place. And for that I am thankful.

Monday, 26 April
It is sunday and another day not knowing where to go to church. We have found a nice fellowship in the eveining that nourishes our souls. The worship is good. It is composed primarily by people from the US with a scattering of a few others and it is very close to our house so that we can easily walk there.

But we would like to plug into a local congregation. How do we do this? Where are the churches? It was normal in Manica to be invited by our coleagues to church. There the problem was being able to say 'no' when it was too much. It is much more western here and no-one has invited us to church. I even asked if I could go with someone and they gave me the feeling that this Sunday was not a good time without telling me directly. Last Sunday we went to a church that was in English and was mostly Africans from English speaking countries. Unfortunately it was at 11:00 which is not a good time for Nadia because she gets hungry. It was nice but not quite what we were looking for. We would also like to go to a service in Portuguese and with one of our colleagues so we can build relationships as representatives of MCC. So I guess we will have to start hunting. It is hard to hunt because there is no time to walk around and just look for churches. We can ask people but we often find the directions difficult to follow until we know Maputo better.

We go to Beira this week. That will give us an opportunity to participate in one of the churches we are familiar with. Maybe afterwards we will start the 'hunt' again? It seems such an aweful word to use. What is a church that we have to 'hunt' for one? Sometimes we talk about 'shopping' for a church. I do not like that word either.
God, give me Love overflowing that
I can't help but Love Others...
...give me Wisdom to guide that Love
so that it truly Helps Others...
...give me Courage to show people that the
Wisdom and Love comes from
knowing You...
...that all will Praise Your Name!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maputo, here we come!
So we have not written a while on our blog. It has been a hassle to be able to write in the last few months with the business, travel and frankly, just poor internet. Apparently in the month of May a cable was severed in the Pacific Ocean which basically shut down all communication for about 2 weeks. The internet and phone systems have never quite been the same. Now we have moved to Maputo and we have finally bought ourselves broadband internet. Now after 3 years we have re-established communication with the outside role.

Our move to Maputo was a fun time. We ended up hitting an owl while driving at night. We stopped at a gas station and the attendant told us that we had hit and killed a great witch doctor. The rest of the trip was almost a nightmare. Our clutch went out before we reached our destination. We then spent the next day fixing it. Fortunately we found a really nice hotel not far from where we broke down. The next day people told us that it would take us 5 hours to get to Maputo. What they forgot to tell us was that their was road construction which we hit as it began to rain, turning the road into a flowing river of mud, soaking our things in the back and dowsing mud on them. The trip in fact took about 9 1/2 hours. We straggled into Maputo at 10. Fortunately the nice ladies at the Koinania guest house welcomed us in and gave us supper and a bed for the night. The next few weeks was the adventure of getting things together for our house, buying furniture and kitchen ware, a fridge and fixing the water system. The owner put in a shower heater for us. The only thing that seems to need to be done yet is to fix the leaks in the roof. I am not sure how or when that will happen.

Work has been good and we have just hired a nanny for Nadia so that Jenny can work as well. Overall, Maputo is a nice city with lots of flavor, places to eat, stores, museums, even movie theatres and malls. Unfortunately the nice mall has just been deemed off limits to American citizens because supposedly the President has declared that the owner is involved in the drug trade. Someone said that it is actually trade in Uranium but that they use drugs as a cover up. Who knows. What I do know is we are told to use cash if we go there so I think it is best we steer clear.

We can take walks here and the road to 'Costa del Sol' (the Sun Coast) along the beach front is beautiful past big fancy houses of national and international government people. There is plenty of art sold on the sidewalks and parks to stroll around in. The only downside is that we can't play in the grass.

In any case, we are feeling more settled and happy to be in one spot for a while.