Monday, November 26, 2007

Zambia in November

Steve and I both traveled to Zambia for two weeks this November. It was great for me, Rachel, to go along this time as it is becoming a regular visit for Steve. The first thing I learned is that greetings involve a clap, shake of hands and clap, clap while slightly bending the knees at the same time. In the past when greeting someone older they would actually get down on their knees although this isn’t as common now, especially in the cities.

Another fun thing was to speak English and be understood by most people, even in the villages! However, we did discover that our American accent wasn’t always understood. In the microenterprise training that we did I was talking about adults. One woman gave me a puzzled look and said, “Are you talking about a door or a dog?” That’s when I realized that they pronounce it adults! There are many words in which we emphasize different syllables than they do.

The training of trainers went really well with about 19 attending and people seemed to appreciate it. Steve was able to relax more than usual during the week as we put the trainers to work teaching the lessons themselves so they could get some experience. The participants really seemed to appreciate the training. One older gentleman said it awakened things in him that he had studied long ago, but many had never studied these topics. Another said, “I woke up this morning thinking how different I felt today than I did on Monday before I started the course.” At the end we found out that several had altered their plans for the week just to attend.

The town of Mongu where we were reminded us of the old West a bit. It’s built on a plateau next to a plain that runs 25 km on each side of the Zambezi River. Four months of the year this plain is flooded and people who live there have to move. This includes the king of the region (it used to be a kingdom). He makes his entrance into Mongu in March and people flock from all over for the festivities of the king coming to town. There is a guesthouse on every corner because of this.

The king’s cousin was part of the training and occasionally someone would call her “princess” (in the white blouse in the center of picture). Her sister is the Zambian ambassador to the U.S. and they are a well educated, influential family.

To get to Mongu we drove through a game park and saw these elephants along with some foolish people who had gotten out of their car to see them better. They seemed to forget that these are wild and powerful animals. We’ve heard more than one story about grouchy elephants. We also saw herds of various kinds of antelopes.

In some ways Zambia is different than Mozambique and in other ways it is very similar. There are some African customs that transcend country borders. Colonial powers have influenced the countries but many times I saw scenes that reminded me of Moz. I do appreciate Maputo’s shoreline and ocean views. Landlocked cities just aren’t the same. There is lots of room for improvement in Maputo but I am thankful that we live here for now. Speaking of living here, we found out that we need to move in December so we’d appreciate your prayers for locating our next apartment. We have had a roomy, furnished place for lower than average price and it may be hard to find something similar.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Moz Wedding

When we first started working with chickens we needed to find a source for chicken feeders and waterers. We saw people selling them along the road and stopped and talked to a couple of them. We weren't very impressed with the guys that wanted to charge an extravagant amount even though we told them we would be buying these regularly. Then we met Nato. He gave us a fair price, had a great attitude and was willing to work with us.

We've related to him over the years and gave him enough business for him to take a driving course and hire a relative to help him. We heard his dad tell someone that we gave his business "força" or strength.

A couple of months ago he invited us to his wedding and even had us over to his house ahead of time so we would know where to come. Saturday was the big day.

The invitation said the civil ceremony at the wedding palace would be at 9:30 and the church service at 12. We were quite sure it wouldn't start on time because things get backed up at the palace, so we left home at 12. We were too optimistic. We should have left home at 2. But we're learning that when we attend an event like this it's best to just leave the watches at home.

The junior bridesmaid and groomsman were at the head of the procession followed by the bride and groom who walked in with their godparents. Then came the four bridesmaids and groomsmen. They all sat in the front rows and it was good they sat because the Brazilian pastor talked for at least one hour (but who's watching the time!). After the vows and rings they went to the platform and signed the license along with the godparents and parents.

They didn't have a western recessional, but stood up front and some folks greeted them. The rest of the people just walked out. But you should have seen the wedding party earlier when they sang and danced/stomped. They really got into it! I had a glimpse of what Mozambican weddings were like before western ideas were introduced. I'll bet they didn't walk in to the "Wedding March!"

The reception was held in a different place, a large court at a high school with a roof. Sides would have been nice too as the winds picked up and it got chilly. It took awhile for people to collect. The wedding car arrived and then left and then returned. We just sat and wondered if people visiting the U.S. are as curious about our traditions as we are about these.

There was a table up front and we noticed that the chairs beside the bride and groom were for family, not the wedding party. And then first thing we knew, the groom's father was escorting us up there! We felt a bit strange, but he introduced us to an uncle as very important people to Nato who have helped him in his business. We enjoyed the rice and chicken, beef and shrimp and eventually the cake.

I had heard that people in Moz like to dance their presents up and it was fun to watch firsthand. It was usually a group that would sing and do a little dance/march to the bride and groom and hand the present to them along with kisses or handshakes. It was really nice and made it very personal and special. Some gifts were wrapped, some were not. The wrapped ones were not opened there.

To complete this picture you must imagine a couple dozen neighborhood kids doing cartwheels, running around, squealing during the whole reception. No one seemed to mind and they even got some food.

On Sunday, the festivities continued. The couple attended church in their wedding clothes and then there was another feast at his family's home. We didn't think we'd attend, but they are quite insistent, so we went. Once again we were escorted right up front. There was even more food and Nato told us he raised 100 chickens for the event. He also disclosed that he is pretty much penniless after paying for all the wedding, but he will start saving again. His friends can't understand why he would go to all this expense, but he shared that he wants to do things God's way and be responsible.

Nato gives us hope for Mozambique. He and his family are quite industrious and find things to do or go out and get someone to teach them a skill. Nato said he learned how to do sheet metal work from a relative during a vacation. He has a good heart and we believe God is raising up many more like him. It was an honor to spend such a time with him and his extended families.