Edit Blog Post
Published: August 16th 2008
More like porridge, actually.
First, I’ll answer questions I’ve received. The food here (for us, as opposed to the natives) is about what you’d get in a freshman college dorm, because the people doing the cooking are usually 18 year-olds. And they’re using somewhat weird Mozambican food, too, which doesn’t help much. But it’s not terrible. We have PB&J every day for lunch (yum!). And tonight we had tacos that actually weren’t too bad. Tomorrow night I guess we’re going out to dinner, which entails certain risks of puking afterward. I’m looking forward to some of these huge shrimp that I keep hearing are a Mozambican specialty.
I’m sleeping better now. One night I took an Ambien and slept a full eight hours. Then last night I was fine. I think I’m adjusted now.
Tucker was wearing an apron at the baby orphanage because we all wear plastic aprons. Many times the kids are soaked with pee or worse, so it’s to keep our clothes from getting too yucky.
The internet just sucks here. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and most of the time there are certain sites that just don’t come up. Don’t know why.
The weather here is gorgeous.
This group was just outside our Care for Life HQ.
It’s about 80 for the high every day. The low is about 60. It’s usually a little breezy. The weather has never been a factor yet. There are a few mosquitoes, but they’re not too bad. We sleep under mosquito nets.
Today was a really interesting day. In the morning, our appointment with the orphanage we were going to go to fell through. So the director of Care for Life invited me to go along with them to visit a village where Care for Life had had the first meeting. The idea was to check up on how things were going. It didn’t go quite as planned.
Care for Life is not like other charity organizations. It gives out very little in material assistance, and what is given is given as rewards for meeting village or family goals. All the other NGOs (non-governmental organizations, such as charity outfits) for the most part just hand stuff out. They typically don’t stick around for long, don’t do significant training on self-sufficiency, and usually don’t even keep their up-front promises. Care for Life, by contrast, does a lot less as far as making grandiose promises, but teaches skills that will stand
Cooking up some grub
It's amazing how young kids learn to fend for themselves.
the villagers much better in the long term.
Unfortunately, the result of the last 30 years of charity work in Mozambique is that everyone is used to getting a handout whenever a muzungu shows up. So today, when we met with the leaders that the community had elected, the first thing they asked was when they were getting their T-shirts like ours. Then they asked when they were getting their salaries. Um, never. That didn’t go over so well. Some of them said that they hadn’t really signed up for the deal. Others said that they should still do it, and that this might be an NGO that actually would do what it said. We told them to talk it over and we’d be back in a week. Hmm, it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. At the end they asked me to talk and I actually got a couple of decent sentences out till they offered me a translator. Oh well, so much for the gift of tongues. After all this, I realized for the first time that it really doesn’t do much good just to throw money at the problem. The only way to truly help
people is to teach them how to be self-reliant, and that takes tons of work and people actually on the ground, involved for long periods of time. I’m more convinced than ever that the problems of places like this are utterly entrenched and the way that people are going about fixing them is almost entirely wrong. Giving big bags of clothes collected from an Eagle Project makes the donors feel nice, but probably isn’t helping the people, and might actually be hurting them. This might even apply to all those Relief Society humanitarian projects. One related observation I had was that all the roadside clothing vendors seem to be selling old stuff donated by someone in the developed world.
After the meeting we walked around and talked to people. It was really interesting. Got pictures of things like a little kid cooking over a tiny fire, a boy moving a coal to his house to start a new fire, tons of grubby little kids, all the good stuff. I made lots of shrieking friends by taking videos of kids jumping and then showing them the videos on the back of my camera. It’s hilarious.
One issue that seemed
This is one of the community buildings that we helped construct.
to also cause issues was that I think there were two religious factions in camp. One group would suggest that we sing and pray, while another group would talk disrespectfully during the prayer and song. Good ol’ politics yields its ugly head, even when the community’s survival is at stake. Sad.
Tomorrow the whole group is going back to work on a community center with the villagers. The idea is to have a base for the villagers to do their health/hygiene/education stuff. I have some pictures of the building frame that we’ll be adding to.
On the drive back we discussed HIV/AIDS incidence rates. They estimated that in town the infection rate is about 20-25%, while out in the villages like the one I visited today, it’s as high as 40%. In some of the really rural areas near trucking routes, I understand that it’s about 70%. Holy cow. How can a society survive under those conditions? Maybe they won’t.
This is not at all a tourist town. There’s nothing to see. Consequently, there are no souvenirs that really are worth buying, except some wood carvings. I’ll get some of those. But it’s not like there’s a
This one is pretty nice.
bunch of cool stuff to buy. People here are just eking out whatever living they can, and so what’s for sale is wood, bananas, oranges, sweet potatoes, bike parts, crappy clothes. That’s about it.
Today we taught English class again. It was uneventful. I taught some guys about future tenses of verbs. You know, when you try to explain English, it can get pretty complicated and weird. On the way to English class, I saw a mom selling oranges and bananas, with her toddler who looked maybe 12-16 months old. The kid was playing with a BUTCHER KNIFE as mom looked on nonchalantly from 10 feet away. I took a picture, but what the heck was that? Jeez. When I got to English class an old lady approached me on the street and asked for something to eat. I said I didn’t have anything. She kept at it. I told her sorry, not today and went to put my arm around her because she was right up next to me. She pushed my arm away and started yelling that she had just come from Zimbabwe, that she was hungry and needed something to eat. This was on a busy
street, and it wasn’t too fun. After a few minutes of that, the security guard finally told her to get lost. She didn’t go easily even for him. Sheesh.
After English class on the way home I bought a bunch of bananas from a kid for five meticais (about 20 cents). We took some cute pictures of babies, and as soon as we got back it was time to go to the baby orphanage again. Tonight I first went into the newborn room. They have about 12 babies under the age of one. They are absolutely so cute you cannot believe it. If she were here, Nancy would shriek and squeeze them and never leave. We’re not supposed to take pictures in the baby orphanage until our last day. (That cute one of the little kid eating porridge was contraband that I took on the sly.) So I’ll get photos of those babies either on the last day we’re here, or sometime if I’m in there and the nurse isn’t. One of the babies in the newborn room has hydrocephaly (water on the brain), and is there basically to die. It’s pretty sad.
Well, that’s all there is for
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