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Published: August 16th 2008
This is where we met.
Today was Sunday, and we went to a nearby branch in a place called Inhamizua.
The rented “chapel” is in a pavilion sort of place, with open-air rooms mostly surrounded by netting. It was pretty cool, though if the weather was bad that wouldn’t be the case. The branch is small enough that they meet for just two hours, basically omitting Sunday School. When sacrament meeting started ten minutes late, I counted 17 local members in attendance, of whom 14 were men or young men, one was a woman, and two were children. I understand that’s very common here—that the men always greatly outnumber the women. I can’t imagine how the church would grow well under those circumstances, but there you have it.
As I looked around during church, it quickly became apparent that there was abundant tropical wildlife in attendance. During sacrament meeting, I counted five lizards on the walls, a big spider in the rafters, and two wasps’ nests above my head. During priesthood the lizards were coming out more (maybe because it was warming up?), and I counted nine. There were also beetles and ants on the floor.
People came in throughout the meeting, including
This is one of the families in the branch.
several within 10 minutes of the end of the meeting. When we were done I counted about 55 members. The proportion of males to females improved a little, but not much. It was maybe 20% females, including the young women and girls.
The branch president was an elder from Utah. He seemed pretty sharp. I told him that I’d brought my photo printer to church and would love to do family photos for members. He said that some photos would be great, but doing it as families might be a bad idea. I said, huh? He said that there are issues in the branch with guys who have two wives, or where there are kids where the father is unknown, and you might have some disputes about who was supposed to be in a particular family photo, and it’s better not to go there. Uh, okay. So we took a big branch photo. And on the sly he picked out the two strong families in the ward and I did those photos and gave to them. And I did a few other young men who kind of saw what was going on and asked me to. It went pretty
well, and of course they were very excited to see the pictures, just like everyone here is.
I will say that I was disappointed in the other volunteers because they were kind of annoyed that they had to sit around for a few minutes while I took pictures. That’s been the case a couple times. I get the distinct feeling that everyone is bugged if they have to wait at all while I do the photos. Come on! Especially on Sunday at 11 a.m. when we literally have nowhere else to be all day long. It means so much to the Mozambicans that I would think it would not be such a big deal. I guess maybe I’m more enthusiastic about it because it’s my baby. Probably in their eyes I’m a pain in the butt to always want to be the noble African photographer.
After eating lunch I went out and sat on the bench out front and just watched people go for a little while. I gave the guard a tangerine and he was pretty stoked. He accepted it humbly with both hands, which kind of reminds me of the gesture that people make to accept
a favor in Japan. Then I took his picture and printed it out for him, and he was really, really stoked. He had a big grin on his face for quite a while.
About an hour after lunch we left to do a bit of sightseeing here in Beira. Several of the girls were bugged because they got summoned from their Sunday naps to sit in a hot, cramped truck and drive around. We more or less checked out everything worth checking out in this town, and it ain’t much. There’s an old lighthouse with a big rusty hulk of a ship half-buried in the sand, and there’s a beach there, and there’s the old Grand Hotel that is now horribly run down and filled with squatters and is kind of the emblem of how independence trashed the pretty parts of Mozambique, and finally there’s the cathedral, which is no big shakes.
The rusty hulk was actually pretty interesting to see and photograph. The Grand Hotel, like I said, is filled with squatters. I understand that it’s illegal to officially sell your place there as a squatter, but that there’s a market for it nonetheless, and it runs
Our security guard
With the photo I printed out for him.
$50-100 to buy out someone’s rights there. When we were there, music was blaring from someone’s gigantic speakers. As I told you about in a village we worked in on Saturday, it’s not uncommon here to have African music blaring at a volume that would lead to the cops getting called here. My question is, who’s the guy who doesn’t have money for a decent apartment but has the cash for a humongous boombox that literally rocks the whole block? The Grand Hotel used to be gorgeous and is now an unbelievable dump. I took photos. But people here know that when you take photos of it now, it’s because it is trashed. So they don’t like it. So I took the pictures from a distance with my telephoto on maximum.
The cathedral was of medium size and much simpler construction than what I’ve seen in Europe. We didn’t go in. The clocks in the towers have been stripped, and several of the stained glass windows have been broken out. Those that remain are covered with foggy plexiglass or something similar. We walked around the block and you could get an idea of how nice it once was. There was
Near the lighthouse in Beira.
a school on the block that was also beat up and apparently vacant. In the side yard of that school was a big pile of trash. An utterly wretched-looking old woman dressed in rags was sitting in the trash, cooking something that looked like the leftover bones from when you eat a roast chicken. That might’ve been the most pathetic thing I’ve seen here.
Since it was the weekend, to get around the town we rode in the Care for Life truck. I think I told you about it. A pickup with a shell and benches in the back facing each other. We had 11 people in there, and it was EXTREMELY squished and uncomfortable. If the truck was not moving, the air would get hot and stale in there in about 90 seconds. It was so bad. It made me grateful for the rattling, uncomfortable (I thought) minivan when we got it back on Monday.
In the afternoon I went along to help deliver a sewing table from our office nearby to a woman’s house. I’m not sure why we were doing that, but it was nice to just get out and drive.
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