Monday, June 19, 2006

This Week in Maputo


Recycling is a good thing and we try to do as much as possible.  But recycling caskets?  This morning on the news they were reporting on investigations of a carpentry shop.  Apparently they are taking caskets right out of the cemetery (who knows what happens to the bodies) and refurbishing them to sell.  Also in the news was the fact that there are 20-30 burials a day and they are running out of space.  The obit page in the newspaper is sad as the pictures are mainly of young people. 


Also on the news we’ve seen reports of couples celebrating 50 years of marriage or more.  Usually they have a church ceremony and renew their vows.  The reason it makes the national news is that it is very rare for people to live that long here, and to stay married that long.


The World Cup is definitely in swing.  I’ve never seen so much soccer in my life!  The games are shown live as we are almost on the same time as Germany.  They start in the afternoon and go until 11 pm with a few breaks in between.  It’s funny to watch guards clustered around a TV rigged up outside.  If I was a burglar it seems it would be a good time to make a move.  Many cities have giant screens in different locations for people to watch the games.  At half-time some have AIDS education programs. The locals are especially interested in African countries playing, as well as any Portuguese speaking teams.  Portugal vs. Angola was a popular and much talked-about game here.   Saturday night Ghana was the first African team to win a game.  When they scored the go-ahead goal, the shouts and howls coming out of the houses was so sudden that even the dogs in the parking lot started barking and howling.  It was a hoot!


We are in the middle of the busy season for NA teams to visit WR in Mozambique.  Steve is joining a group of businessmen today and tomorrow as they look at what is happening in Chokwe and Mucatine as well as visiting a couple of sugarcane mills that WR will possibly partner with in helping small farmers grow sugarcane.  The news that had Sam dancing in the halls last week was that AfricaWorks (agriculture and trade) has received a grant of $280,000 from the Mozambican government to be used in Gaza province.  Some planning has started but there’s a lot more to do.


This week will be a solid week of meetings.  It will include three days on knowing and developing our personal gifts (Strengthsfinders), strategic planning and a spiritual retreat on Saturday.  Hopefully we’ll still all like each other at the end of the week!  We will have a woman staying with us who works with the child development program.  Hopefully we will have running water.  We’ve been off for a week again.  One never knows what will happen when turning on a faucet.  It can’t be taken for granted!


Did you ever steam bread?  Last week I baked bread.  There is a lot of fresh bread in the city but it is all white so I made some oatmeal bread.  It was rising nicely so I preheated the oven.  Only problem was that 15 min. later the oven was still stone cold.  So, what to do with the dough?  I looked up my Wycliffe cookbook and sure enough it had a method for pressure cooking bread or steaming it.  Since I don’t have a pressure cooker I went for the steam method.  I got my largest pan, put a lid in the bottom with a couple of inches of water and the bread in the bread pan on top of that.  Only problem was that it took 1½ hrs to cook.  So I took the next loaf apart and formed it into balls and that only took about an hour.  It is OK, but I prefer baked better.  Thankfully, the electrician came and now I have an oven again.  Good thing he was here, he said the way things were wired we could have had a fire.  So it all worked out for the best and now I know how to steam bread if I have to!


How many employees does it take to sell fabric in Maputo?  Well, there is the guard at the door and then the guy that takes any packages you have in your hands.  Then there are the people standing in the aisles who watch you like a hawk as you walk around.  If you show interest in some folded pieces of cloth someone appears to unfold them and fold them back up.  After you make a selection you have to go to the counter where someone writes the price down on a paper and affixes it to the cloth.  Then it’s off to the cashier who takes your money.  She hands it off to another person to bag it and then it’s back to the counter to pick up your packages you came in with.  And that doesn’t count all the people standing around talking and waiting for other customers.  What can you say, they’ve created a lot of jobs and it is good customer service!


Saturday Steve and Dr. Pieter went to South Africa to talk to the Papaya King.  He’s an expert on papaya and plant breeding.  His advice and counsel is needed for the next two plantings of fruit trees in villages.  They are intercropped with mango and while they are growing, corn and pumpkins are planted between the rows.  Mozambique needs more trees as many are cut down for charcoal for cooking.  The fruit will be exported to S Africa and will provide income for villagers who are subsistence farmers.  The corn and pumpkins gives them food for daily needs.










Monday, June 05, 2006

A fine winter day (Maputo style)

There was quite a bit of haze in the early morning atmosphere as I looked out on the surrounding landscape.  It didn’t really seem too different from any other day except Rachel said, “oh, it is cooler out here than I thought,” as we went down the stairs.  However, she was not wearing a coat or jacket. 


When lunch time arrived we went up on the patio to eat our ham sandwiches (ham from South Africa, not to be found in Maputo) when she commented the sun was quite warm.   I was reminded of working out in Chokwe last week with Zulu the guard.  We were using a hack-saw to cut through some #6 re-rod and he was doing the sawing  (he wouldn’t let me do it). 


After a dozen cuts, he said to me, “ei, this sun is hot, we should move to the shade.”  Since I had slept in the container-turned-bunkhouse at Pieter’s the night before, I was really enjoying the warmth.  So I said, “yes, but it was cold last night.”  He agreed and then added, “but you know this is the kind of sun that will make you sick.”  “Hm, it felt good to me,” I said.  He cut a few more lengths or rod and then moved into the shade to cool off.  (They say good help is hard to find.)


So I said to Rachel, you know, this kind of sun can make you sick! at which she laughed.  It was probably 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  “Well, it is winter,” I said.  Her response, “I will take this kind of winter any time!”  It seems strange to sleep under a blanket and a mosquito net at the same time.  It seems the mosquitoes like the warmth of the inside of the house too. 


It also gets dark early as in 5:30 pm.  It makes a bit of a challenge for safety if we are traveling or when the neighborhood kids get out of school after 5.   But generally, we have 11.5 hours of daylight per day which beats 8-5 during the winter back in northern Indiana by a long shot. 


Because it is the dry season it feels like the great football weather of the mid-west in early October.  Some of the smells, like burning leaves are even hanging around as people burn grass and weeds in old gardens and in fields. 


In the cities it becomes a time to trim trees.  Here the trees get “buzz cuts” that pretty well strip all foliage and branches from the trunk.  They say, they don’t need the leaves since it is the cool season and I guess you could say it takes care of the overgrowth.  However, it is quite a shock to see the street after all is cut back and some of the trees look pretty knobby since they have been cut back so often.  Most of the trees seem to survive to get chopped back another year. 


Yesterday we participated in March for Jesus in Maputo.  There were about 200 people and we were the only whites (their publicity wasn’t too great and we just happened to find out about it).  We sang and walked about 2 km to a park.  Then they had a full-fledged 2-hr service planned, including a sermon.  (We ducked out early.)  It was fun to be in a march in Africa after having been involved with them in the 90s in Elkhart.


In the afternoon we visited an orphanage run by a young woman in her 20’s.  She worked at Iris for awhile and then decided to start her own home.  She has some great stories of how God has provided in many ways for them.  She has 15 people under her roof now and they are mostly teens with a few younger ones.  She will probably get more young ones soon.  We were impressed with the sense of order, of love for each other, of being family.  A couple of Mozambican young men are helping her in the home.  She is looking for land to build and to have a place for them to learn agriculture and other life skills.  Jennifer has a lot of get up and go, a willingness to serve even while she is still learning the language and culture.


The number of orphans in Moz keeps increasing.  On TV this week I heard an ad for people to contribute to the “social security” program so that when they die their children will have some support from the government.  It’s almost becoming a given that children will become orphans before they reach adulthood.  This is a huge issue with many repercussions for this society.  God help us know what our part of the solution should be.  I guess in a small way we are already doing something by providing businesses for people, some of whom have AIDS.  When they pass away, their children will have a source of income.


And on that note we will end this rambling letter.


Steve and Rachel