Sunday, December 31, 2006

Xai-Xai Beach

Saturday we took some of the kids from Chokwe that do the microenterprise trainings to the beach. Most of them have only been there a few times even though they live about 1 hour away. Public transportation costs about 2-3 days' wages and traveling just for fun isn't a common thing. But they did have fun and so did we, although we got a bit burned.

A handsome man in his sombrero!

We lost track of how many wedding parties showed up at the beach. Apparently most were there for pictures although there was always a group and singing as well.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Feliz Natal

It's Christmas night and we've just had a very nice afternoon with friends. Two families from Rwanda joined us for a meal and the afternoon. They are both refugee families with long and interesting/tragic stories that we are still learning about. I once asked Raquel (on the right in the green dress) about her family and she told me they are all gone, meaning they were all killed during the genocide. She was spared because she was away at a boarding school at the time.

It was an interesting meal--a potluck including pizza, chapatis, fried rice, flat chicken (they flatten it when they cook it), fruit salad, fries, and other goodies including buckeyes and ice cream for dessert. Definitely not your typical Christmas meal, but there was plenty of food and it seemed to be enjoyed by all.

Afterword, we got out the playdough and the older kids played pictionary with it and the younger ones just played. Lucas and Nadia were the life of the party. I forgot how intense young ones can be! They are a lot of fun. I wish I'd had my camera when Lucas saw the matchbox cars we got for him. The look on his face was priceless.

We ended our time with singing in Swahili (one family lived in Kenya for a time), English, Spanish and we could have kept going. The kids in one of the families speak or at least understand five languages.

These are some of the friends that enrich our lives here and it is a privilege to know them. We miss being home (the first time we've missed Christmas with family), but we are reminded that many in the world are never able to go home.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Christmas Season in Maputo

So far the Christmas season has been very low key in Maputo. There is one store comparable to an expensive Target that has gaudy looking decorations up and for sale. We’ve seen one small lighted tree in a window and that’s about it. December 25 is called “Day of the Family” here thanks to the Communist era and the fact that many Muslims and Hindus call Maputo their home. Instead of “Feliz Natal” (happy or merry Christmas) we hear “Boas Festas” (literally good parties or happy holidays).

We haven’t even seen much advertising or commercial push to “Buy, Buy” on TV. We’ll tell you more when we actually experience a Christmas here, but it seems that it’s more about having lots of food prepared for all the neighbors and friends who stop by than about giving gifts. The reality for most people is that once they buy all the food and drinks there is not much left for gifts. For that matter, there is not much left for food in January. Some workplaces actually save part of the December paycheck for January so that their people have something to live on—a forced savings plan so they don’t spend it all in December.

Actually it’s rather refreshing not to have the commercialization that surrounds Christmas in the West. Is Christmas really trees with gifts underneath, snow, too many sweets and red and green decorations? There’s nothing wrong with these—in moderation of course. But what is the real meaning? What are we really celebrating? When the trappings are missing, it leads to reflecting on deeper meanings and why we celebrate.

Here’s a picture of our co-workers in our Ag/Trade office. Tinashe works with agriculture and Helena has been working with accounting and is now taking over responsibilities for the chicken-raising businesses. Helena is Mozambican but spent most of her life living in Kenya. For Christmas she is traveling to Kenya to see family she has not seen in six years. It will take her a couple of weeks of travel by air and land to get there.

Speaking of Ag/Trade and Christmas—if you’d like ideas for giving this year, you can see our AfricaWorks giving suggestions by clicking on the “Newsletters” link beside the blog and then “AfricaWorks Brochure.” It’s one way to make a difference in the lives of some Mozambicans.