Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strappy Sandals
I bought a pair of strappy sandals this afternoon from some guys who sell used shoes on the sidewalk. They cost me 120 meticais (about $3.33). In an earlier post I questioned the purchase of such sandals. I justified them today with the rationale that working in the national offices of CCM, I need look professional. Plus from my American perspective, $3 black leather strappy sandals is a bargain.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Riots over for now

A week has now past since we were stuck in our apartment while the city was in uproar. Things have pretty much returned back to normal. In the wake of everything it seems that at least 12 people were killed and hundreds injured. It also appears that the police were not prepared even though they had 3 days warning and had been donated protective equipment this year from Portugal. It also appears that they had used tear gas and rubber bullets in ways that were in appropriate and real bullets at times.

At our prayer meeting on Monday each person told of the things that happened in their neighborhood and how the situation was. One lady told of their pastor’s son who had been shot innocently for being on a scene where police were chasing after a group of teenagers who had hi-jacked a car. He died. Another woman told of rescuing a Portuguese woman who was walking with her suitcases from the airport into town. She also told of the tear gas that ended up in her neighbors’ house burning people and furniture. A third, who had been with me in the morning of the riot, had to walk 33 kms back to his house. I asked him if he had suffered along the way because of the rioters.

“No, but I suffered when I got home because I was so tired,” he exclaimed.

I told my story of how Jenny almost ended up in it and how I had to look up in the dictionary what the word ‘greve’ meant at the CCM office before realizing the seriousness of the situation. That story is going around because people have found it quite funny.

I guess the government has been in meetings and has decided to lower prices back down for fuel, electricity, water and wheat. This should be satisfactory to people. What is more is that the government decided to reduce some of the personnel subsidies they receive. What I have heard is that they have decided to pay for food out of their own salaries and diminish the amount of fuel they have available per week for their cars (which are bought by the state). Yes, it is true, up till this point they have received a salary, had all food paid for, receive their own car and 70 liters of fuel a week paid by tax payer money. So you can see why people would be striking on food costs. But, I am impressed by the steps the government took. One person said that it does not make a difference to them and shows how much they are making. But realistically, how many of us would reduce our salaries and lifestyle for the sake of others. Maybe we should not be so quick to judge. Would our government do that for the sake of its people?

Yes, there is still great disparity and the Mercedes, Audis, Hummers and BMW’s keep driving around Maputo but I am happy to say that maybe this government knows a little bit about what it means when Mozambicans say, “Estamos juntos!”, “We are together!”.

At least for now.
Maputo Riots September 3

I was listening to conversations within CCM this morning on the situation. According to my colleagues, this riot was worse than the last one in 2008 and there was a more violent response from the government. 10 people died this time, many shot by police, and a lot more destruction happened to stores, banks, fuel stations, etc. It is calm for now but the government response was not very good yesterday (September 4). It appears that it is mostly youth but it is not over and people are saying it will get worse before it will get better. I guess messages are circulating to start again at 12 so we will see what will happen. Otherwise it appears that things are getting back to normal today. Buses are running, shops are opening up and even mini-buses are starting to run. I think they may be opening schools.
Maputo Riots

September 3

It’s looking like the protests have stopped for now. They started on Wednesday and gradually calmed down yesterday afternoon. People were in the streets, burning tires and throwing rocks. The police intervened. The road between Maputo and Matola was one of the main protest points and until this morning the road was blocked. Today, public transportation (big buses) resumed and chapas (mini buses) were more sporadic. There were rumors going around that the protests were supposed to start again today at noon, but we haven’t heard of anything significant. The government met yesterday to consider the crisis. People are not satisfied with the government’s response to the protests against the price increases (not sure what their response was but it wasn’t what the people wanted). Things are exacerbated by the fact that government workers get all their expenses paid for so are not affected by the increases. Life seems to be resuming back to normal from our vantage point.

September 1

This morning, as we were getting ready, Rebeca (Nadia's nanny) called me and said that there weren’t any chapas running, so could I come get her. I got Nadia ready and started driving to her house. As I entered a neighborhood near her neighborhood, there were a lot of people in the streets and they started telling me to turn around. I stopped and talked with two women who said that if I didn’t turn around, someone would burn my car. I could see smoke ahead so turned around and tried to go a different way. That way too had smoke in the distance so I decided to go home and tell Rebeca to stay home. Joél, meanwhile went to work and only a few people came into the office. Someone mentioned something about a 'greve'. It is a word we have always confused with 'grave', which means grave. Joel had to look it up in the dictionary which said it means strike. They had the radio on and would tell Joél what was happening. It turns out that someone organized via SMS texts a protest against rising food, fuel, electric and cement costs. Various places around Maputo turned violent and people were burning tires, throwing rocks at cars and breaking into stores and warehouses. Joél had some meetings scheduled for today so wanted to stay at the office but (thankfully) came home for the day. I didn’t feel safe alone, more emotionally than worried about actual threats. His co-wokers said that our area of the city (and where the office is) is pretty safe. As the day went on, we saw fewer and fewer people on the streets and all the businesses near us were closed. We watched the news on TV which has been analyzing the violence. We talked with our next door neighbors who said that they were staying home too. During the morning, the kids in the building seemed to relish in a day off from school, running up the stairs and all over the roof but by the afternoon, they were in their apartments. When Joel came home he went up on the roof to look. He said that it looked like there was a ring of fire around the city about a half mile to the north and west. By the afternoon we knew that things had calmed down a little when one of our neighbors who like to play their music loudly started their stereo; I guess they too stopped watching the news. We called the MCC rep to let her know what was happening (and the SALT participant who lives in Matola, a suburb of Maputo also affected by the protests, who couldn’t get a bus into town so went back to her host family).

We’re safe and not in danger. We keep praying for peace and it confirms to us the relevance of MCC’s work with systemic programs. It seems so sad. I keep thinking that people resort to violence when it’s their last resort or feeling powerless. They are angry with the government because it’s allowing the price increases, but here it seems, people riot or join in things without thinking. So I wonder how many people were swept along with the wave of emotion without thinking through things. I’m thankful we’re safe.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Living Simply

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about living simply. It is a concept that though my parents never (that I remember) explicitly said we are trying to live simply, is something of their faith that I adopted for myself. And blessedly, my husband too, believes in living simply. We have tried to live without a lot of stuff. But since moving to Maputo we have had to reevaluate what living simply means for us.

One reason we’ve had to re-examine it is because we had to furnish an apartment, which made us feel like we were buying a lot of stuff (we were but that comes with the territory). One of the key questions was the durability of whatever we purchased, thinking ahead to whatever MCCer comes after us and inherits our purchases. An important factor for me in living simply is the difference between frugality and cheapness. Something might have a low price tag, which appeals to my wanting to be a good steward of MCC’s money, but if it isn’t good quality, it really isn’t worth buying.

Another reason that causes me to think about ‘what does it mean to live simply’ is encountering wealthy Mozambicans. Recently, I arranged a host family for our new SALT participant. Katie, the SALT participant, will be here for a year. After CCM sending out a letter requesting volunteers for host family, the only one that volunteered was a woman in Matola, a suburb of Maputo. The family has money and I know she does not understand MCC’s desire to live simply. In their house, they have multiple televisions in one room, several guest cottages out back and a couple of gazebo-like places for hanging out outside. They are definitely not the norm of Mozambique that I know.

For most of my life I have thought about living simply as an attempt to identify with the majority of the world’s populace—living simply so that others my simply live. Embarrassingly, only recently has the idea of living simply occurred to me as a spiritual discipline, like prayer or fellowship with other believers. Living simply, as spiritual discipline is a means for pursuing a closer relationship with Christ because I am not burdened by a lot of material things.

Living simply as a spiritual discipline opens the discussion to the poor. If I live simply in order to identify with the poor, it doesn’t make sense to those who are poor and could be construed as patronizing. A spiritual discipline opens the door for all to enter and journey together, drawing closer together and to Christ. So then for me, as I am coming to understand it, living simply is living with enough and being content with what I have. It can also mean taking into consideration what others have and eliciting others’ advice about purchases and lifestyle decisions.

The concept of enough is an odd one. It doesn’t make sense to my selfish desires of wanting more or hoarding what I have. Having enough means different things for different people. I’m sure that some people think that Joél and I live a bit too austere and other people think we have too much. It’s probably a little of both. But I am content with what I have? Not all the time. For example, I would really like a new pair of strappy sandals. I can easily justify it, especially since the ones I have just broke this morning. I could easily go to a cobbler—there are two within a block of our apartment to have him sew the strap back onto the shoe, but really I want to use it as an excuse to buy a new pair of sandals. If I would ask people I knew in Chimoio, what to do, they would recommend a cobbler and our nanny here would too. I don’t know what our new work colleagues would recommend. Friends and family in the States, would recommend I buy a new pair of shoes—it’s not worth hunting down a cobbler in the States to repair 10 year old shoes. I hear both sets of advice in my head.

Yesterday we took Nadia to a park where she could run around and play outside. We left the park feeling very alone. We don’t really fit in at the park, though it is filled with other foreigners, their children and nannies. There is a really nice café, a play ground, soccer field, and paths for walking or riding bike. We feel like we do not fit in at the park because we bring our own child and watch her instead of bringing our nanny (who only watches her when I’m at work). Also, we chose not to go to the café—it’s a bit too expensive for our taste—where all the adults hang out. So we are on the grass, playing with our daughter, where the nannies are congregated, looking after other people’s children. We normally walk to the park, though yesterday we drove. Our car, a MCC car with its bush road wornness, does not compete with the shiny new luxury SUV’s. Going to the park makes us feel lonely and like we are doing something odd in trying to live with enough. However, when we get home to our apartment, it feels like we are making the right decisions for us—choosing to live in a Mozambican neighborhood, choosing to live in a small apartment with primarily locally made furniture, choosing to buy the majority of our food and groceries from street vendors and local shops.

I am also coming to understand living simply as how I govern my time. If I try to live with fewer material goods in order to not be encumbered by things in my pursuit of a relationship with Christ, the same should also be applied in how I spend my time. Living in Mozambique has given us the luxury of a lot of family time. We do not have evening engagements very often which take one of us away. I have found that I really value the long dark evenings (the sun goes down early year round) with Joél and it’s been good for our relationship. Living in a different culture has its challenges and for Joél and I who are processors, there have been many evenings when we have talked about what we are experiencing, trying to understand, and ending in prayer.

A spiritual discipline is something that is a process. One does not attain perfection or reach a place where one can say that he/she accomplished it. Thankfully, in pursuing a relationship with Christ, he walks along side of us and teaches us what we need for our own journey.