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Published: August 16th 2008
Dangit, Tucker's getting taller than me.
Today was Sunday, but I still had some adventures.
Today we (another team member and I) started by making breakfast, which was French toast and eggs. Unfortunately, some on the team are slobs. They don’t really clean up their messes. It’s like living in Heritage Halls. Not good from a slobby kitchen standpoint.
We had leftover scrambled eggs, lots of ‘em. Maybe 10. I gave them to our security guard, who was all stoked. He took them with both hands, thanked me profusely, and disappeared to snarf them down somewhere with the plastic spoon I gave him. Life here is hard, and 10 eggs is a big old treat, I guess.
We went to church at 9. It’s about a half-mile away. It’s a very old, beat-up building. It’s in a sort of strip mall on the main drag here in town, so it can be noisy when a semi goes by. (Yeah, semis and other big trucks go by on the road, which has no shoulder and tiny kids walking all around. I’m told a lot of kids get run over here.) We walked in during the opening song. There was a leader but no accompanist,
This was located behind the church we attended today.
and it sounded like our family singing a family home evening song. Yikes. And sooooo sloooooow.
There were about 100 people there, with a very high proportion of priesthood holders (or at least men) in attendance. They tell me that some member families send dad alone because the whole family can’t afford to go to church. I think that it’s also the culture here that if there’s something important, the man does it. So it’s the opposite of the problem that we had in Japan as far as gender imbalance goes.
The meeting was dimly lit. Most of the front wall is comprised of windows that were covered by translucent drapes. There were also a grand total of four bare fluorescent bulbs, of which only two worked. One of the fluorescent bulbs was on the wall behind the speaker. Someone had draped it with red Christmas garland, attached as bunting. And there was a hymn number holder thingee with two fake flowers were stuck into the top of it. The ceiling was really high, maybe 16 feet. And there was ancient tile on the floor. The speaker system was old and had a constant buzz. So it was
Not sure what this guy's story was, but we could see him frequently staggering around Manga.
really noisy in the meeting and the acoustics were crummy. Especially when you don’t know the language and you’re straining to just catch a phrase here or there! The roof had significant water damage, as in all of the painted plywood was warped, and some of it was hanging off. I’ve noticed that every roof in Mozambique has significant water damage. The only exception is that fancy hotel we went to. (In fact, speaking of water damage, it seems that no one ever does any maintenance of any sort here.)
The wires are not inside the walls like in America. In fact, they hardly ever are here. The wires are stapled to the wall, and they just run all over the place. There are two stories in the church. A scary concrete stairway leads to the second floor, where the branch president’s office and library are located. There’s a back yard with a big concrete baptismal font above ground and a mangy lawn with a bunch of broken glass in it. Not sure why anyone would leave the broken glass sitting around, but there you have it. Some Eagle Scout needs to do a project. But beautification doesn’t really seem
This kid would buy kerosene and then sell it by the small bottle.
to be an issue for anyone around here. The only exceptions I’ve seen is that people sweep the dirt in front of their houses in the villages, and the mobile phone companies here paint some buildings for free, provided that the building is on a main street and that they can plaster their company name all over the building.
Anyway, back to my description of the church. The boys there were better dressed than I thought they would be. Most of them had slacks, white shirts and ties. There were two sets of elders there. There are about 20 elders in the area surrounding Beira. I don’t know what the population of the area is, but Beira is about 300,000. There were more late people than in the US. In Sunday School a mom was nursing her baby very openly. Tucker was a bit discombobulated by that. On the roll, 14 non-members were listed. I understand that they baptize about one new member per month per missionary here, and they could baptize many more, except they’d have “too many branches and not enough roots,” so they’ve consciously slowed down. The Sunday School teacher was a bit over-assertive—seemed like a
No gutter or storm drain to speak of in Manga. This was a pretty big road and it hadn't rained for days, but it was still flooded.
former evangelical preacher or something. And he was telling the women to stop talking and listen, and generally not being very reserved. Reminds me of some of the members in our mission in Japan. You’d cringe to bring a member to their class.
In priesthood, the best part of the meeting was that a lizard crept up the wall at the front of the class. Of course nobody cared except me and Tucker. The guy next to us was holding his son, who was maybe 2 or 3. Fifteen minutes before the meeting was over, the boy peed all over his dad. I looked over and we exchanged the knowing looks of dads who’ve been peed on in church. Whaddya gonna do?
They have a 24-hour guard at the church because there’s a TV and VCR there. I got some questions about my scriptures. They’d never seen a quad before. And I don’t think that anyone in Mozambique has ever seen a book with gold-edged pages before. As I walked back to the house carrying them, a lot of passers-by were checking them out.
Now I’ll tell you a bit about where we’re staying. The kitchen is tiny. There are ants and flies in it more or less constantly. We have a fancy water purifier that works well but turns out water VERY slowly—maybe a cup a minute. The dishes are all cheap plastic. The fridge is very small (if our old one was 25 cubic feet, it’s maybe half that). There’s a little microwave and stove that works pretty good. It has two gas burners and two electric ones and an electric oven. We have A/C units in all the rooms. They’re not super high capacity but they seem okay. Of course, it’s not particularly taxing on them when the high is 80 and the low is 60 day after day.
We have rebar cages around our doors and windows, and they are padlocked. Broken glass is cemented onto the top of the eight-foot block wall surrounding the place. We also have a 24-hour guard.
There’s water damage on the ceiling throughout our place, and also on many places on the walls as well. The whole place is pretty beat up. The tile floor is truly ridiculous—grout cracks vary from a quarter inch to one inch, and there are also several places where there is a giant gap under the tiles so they are breaking off. It appears that when they lay a tile here they save money by putting a blob of mortar underneath each tile, but not enough to be under the whole tile. So the corners are “floating,” with nothing underneath. So eventually they break off.
Our bedrooms are dorm style. We sleep on bunk beds. There are two bunk beds in my room. I share with Tucker and one other guy. He has sleep apnea. He snores quietly, louder, louder, louder, SNORT, wakes himself up, sleeps silently for a while, then resumes the cycle. I’ve been sleeping fine though because I’ve been tired and I’m just a pretty darn solid sleeper. Our dining tables are a vinyl table and a beat-to-crap wooden table. Our chairs are white vinyl chairs. Our couches are cheap, something like you’d see in a worn-out college apartment. There are humanitarian supplies, suitcases and crud stacked all over the place. All the lighting is bare bulbs.
The bathrooms are kind of scary. You can’t put toilet paper in any of the toilets. There is a sign by one of the bathrooms that says “NO SOLIDS IN THIS TOILET,” so if you want to poo, you have to do it in the other one. The bathtub does not drain right, so foul water is usually sitting in it. There’s no hot water in the shower. The shower puts out less water than our kitchen faucet sprayer. Thank heavens it’s not too cold here, so the showers really aren’t all that miserable. Well, at least less miserable than smelling like a sweaty, pee-soaked Mozambican orphan. The fixtures are all old and really, really cruddy. You’re not supposed to go barefoot in the apartment or shower because of worms that live here and burrow into your foot. One lady that was here got one. It was yucky when they dug it out. But I’m pretty sure that they’re being paranoid about catching them in the apartment. She got hers out in the dirt in the village, I’m sure. Not in a porcelain bathtub.
Today after church I went outside and just sat and watched people go by for a couple hours, African-style. It was fun and very relaxing, and the weather was perfect. I noticed a few things.
First, tons of people ride bicycles here, and frequently more than one person on a bike, but you never see anyone on a bike unless there’s a man or boy on it. Could be one male, could be a boyfriend and girlfriend, could be a husband and wife, could be a dad with one or more kids. But never a mom alone, or a teenage girl, or a mom with kid(s). I’m not sure if women just aren’t considered worthy to ride alone, or if their bike would get stolen if they weren’t protected by a man. The latter doesn’t seem too likely, since I see plenty of bikes ridden by boys who look 10 or 12.
Comfort has a whole different meaning here. People ride in the most uncomfortable-looking places, such as on bike frames, on semi truck beds, clinging to the back of flatbed trucks, etc. They sit in the dirt, or on weird little stools, etc. They just don’t ever really have the option of being comfortable, so they deal with it.
Seems like more of a community culture, too. Men sometimes hold hands when they’re walking around. They’ll see their buddy and invite him to hop on the bike for a buzz. Or they happen across each other on the road and stop to chat a while. That aspect of things seems nice. Of course it’s easier to do that when you have no job and not really any realistic way of being more productive with your time.
Saw a guy chewing on a piece of sugar cane today. They sell it by the side of the road. I need to get some and try it.
I did a stupid thing today. While I was sitting around out front, a wretched old lady in a wheelchair rolled up and held up her hands to beg. The security guard went to shoo her away, but I wanted to give her something. I gave her my half-bag of Skittles, which is all I had with me. She had no idea what they were, so the security guard explained to her. I felt ridiculous—I mean, the neon blue bag itself was ridiculous—but I just didn’t want to turn her away completely. I’ve been approached before here by beggars. Maybe from now on when we’re out I’ll keep an old bread roll in my pocket to hand to people like that.
When I was sitting out in front of the house, the security guard chatted me up. Between my Portuguese, gesturing wildly, and writing in the dirt with a stick, we sort of had a conversation. He fought in the war for seven years. He’s had seven kids, but the first three died. It seems like every time I talk to someone here, they say they want to come to America and ask how much it costs, how they could do it, can I help them, etc. It’s sad. This place is just the hugest dead-end ever from an economic point of view. I suppose it’s politically incorrect to say that, but if the Mozambicans believe that it’s true, it can’t be too wrong to repeat it.
At about 3:30, we went on a walk down the road: me, two of the girls on the team, and a local who works for Care for Life. It was a blast. We talked to some people, took photos of kids and videos of them singing and dancing, and just checked out the crowded, dirty life on Sunday night in Mozambique. We saw kids selling kerosene by the little bottle, a lady who was selling a giant plate of bird fetuses by the kilo (yeah you heard that right, giant plate of bird fetuses), a nasty swampy mosquito-breeding place, informal barbershops, pool halls, and all kinds of other stuff. We got back about 5:50, and it was nearly dark. We’d been told to be back by dark, so we got in trouble from the group leader when we arrived.
Tonight after dinner we went out back in the little concrete courtyard. We could see rats scurrying around on the other side of the decorative block wall fencing (you know, the kind with holes through it like you sometimes see in Arizona). I almost sent one flying with a stick, but accidentally hit the block wall part instead of the hole part, so the rat got away. It would’ve been so cool. With the amount of trash everywhere here and the population density, there has to be just an incredible rat population here. Mmm, protein.
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