So, in case you haven’t realized, I haven’t updated my blog in 9 months. Myyyy bad. I documented effectively my first ten months at Chimoio. Unfortunately, my blog won’t have these past 9 months. In those 9 months I did an immense amount of growing... perhaps the most of my life. Perhaps I should have documented the highs and lows, but I’ll document now some of the things I remember and now I’ve been convinced it’s important to document my final 6 months in Mozambique.
There is a saying here in the local dialect “pamberi ne kubatsirana” which roughly translates to “go forth and assist, always.” How do things get done in the States? You meet with all the people involved, consider your options, set an action plan and go to work on that plan. That method does NOT work here and I spent an absurd amount of months trying and failing miserably before I figured that out. Take having a 2:00pm meeting for example. If it’s too hot and sunny, that’s a perfectly valid reason for somebody not to show up. When you try to talk to the other people that came to the meeting about how it’s better for everyone to show up on time, they will respond “oh yeah I mean it is pretty hot. I don’t blame her.” I was taught, as many Americans are that “If you’re on time, you’re late.” You must be 10 minutes early to be on time. I remember distinctly as a pledge coming to the Fraternity House and having Trevor Shipley, forever in __kai__ bitch us out for 2 of our members showing up at 8:58pm for our 9:00pm meeting.
Here, well many people don’t have watches or phones so they'll judge if they’re supposed to be at a meeting based on what it “feels like.” Even if they do have a watch or phone, they’ll act as if they don’t. This seems a bit absurd to us but perhaps that’s just the way we’ve been trained to believe is right. In the States we’re all about efficiency and that can be a great thing. We work long, hard hours. God knows I’ve appreciated seeing it from my own parents, busting their asses for me and my sister our whole lives.
Here in Mozambique, efficiency takes a backseat. Here, it’s all about relationships. If my counterpart and I are running late to a meeting, it is still perfectly valid to stop and talk to a woman and have a 10-minute conversation with her about how her tomatoes are growing. Naturally as I’m sitting with my counterpart and she’s talking to this woman about her tomatoes, I’m losing my mind and thinking who gives a damn whether her tomatoes are growing! Let’s get to this meeting. We’re late!... But I’ve gotta respect the culture, and realize that I’d be being rude for brushing off the woman. Relationships are everything and people understand when you’re late.
If you’re in a chapa(essentially an overcrowded minivan used for public transport) and there’s another chapa stopped on the side of the road, your chapa driver will undoubtedly stop for the other chapa driver, even if it’s clear there’s nothing that can be done to help. If they’re waiting for somebody to bring them a tool to fix the issue, your chapa driver will ask what happened, what they’re gonna do, and who knows, maybe how their tomatoes are growing. If a member of the community passes away, you don’t generally wait til the weekend to ensure everybody can attend and not miss work. You drop everything you’re doing and go the funeral the next day. In an instance like this, it gives you doubts as to whether our culture in the States has got it right, or perhaps if we’re too consumed with our work and our efficiency.
I’m still stubborn as hell(Sorry Grandma. You always told me that.) and come to the 2:00pm meetings at 1:50. Some habits are hard to change even if I know damn well I’ll be reading a book by myself for at least an hour. But on my 20 minute walk to where we meet, I’ll look around, feel the temperature, ask myself, “am I sweating, from the heat?” I’ll look at the sky and the clouds and I’ve become pretty good at estimating just how late our meeting is going to start. Now the Mozambican culture is diverse much like America and this is most certainly a generalization, but these are recurring things I run into on a daily basis.
In the States it seems it’s never about the journey and it’s always about the destination. In reality, the journey is everything, and Mozambicans with their calm, slow paced walks, stopping to pick a mango, stopping to discuss a person’s day(and perhaps their tomatoes) get that. Now I absolutely love America, do not get me wrong. I will be thrilled to be back home with my family and friends in 6 months. But it is interesting to consider: In America, running through the streets from meeting to meeting, looking nobody in the eye, perhaps only messing with our phones… are we really the ones doing it right? Or are Mozambicans in their beautifully inefficient nature?