Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Roadtripping from Maputo to Beira March 28, 2008

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 12:05 pm

The weekend of my birthday I flew down to Maputo – thankfully for pleasure and not to visit the embassy! I returned to Beira by car. Here are some scenes from the two-day trip:


Preachers from my Country March 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 8:01 am

There is an annoying conversation that I have regularly with Mozambican Christians.  It has to do with American evangelists.  For example, my roommate and I were talking the other day to the man in the telephone company who organized our internet set-up.  He wanted to know if I liked Joel Osteen.  I started laughing.  I explained that Joel Osteen’s church is very near where I used to live in America but that I didn’t like him.  “But why?” he wanted to know.  I asked Marina, “How do I explain ‘cheesy’ in Portuguese?”  I ended up saying something about how I didn’t think he was that deep.  Then this man went on to ask me what I thought about Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, etc.  Each time I kind of laughed and said I don’t listen to them; I know their names, but I don’t know them very well.  He was shocked (as all Mozambicans are when I tell them this):  “But they are American!  Why don’t you listen to your own preachers?  Why do I know your preachers better than you do?  Who do you listen to?”  My roommate and I explained that there are many different kinds of preachers in America.  The ones he knows happen to be popular in Africa, but there are others who are popular in America who Africans have not heard of.

Last weekend we had some Mozambican colleagues and their spouses over for lunch.  One of them asked me if I like TD Jakes.  I laughed and said ironically, “Oh yes.  And Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyers and Joel Osteen?”  He didn’t get my tone and was excited that I seemed to know all these people. 

So my question is, do I continue to laugh and become annoyed with everyone’s enthusiasm about these evangelists, and learn how to explain ‘cheesy’ in Portuguese?  Do I lie and pretend I really like them?  Or do I fully engage in the local culture and begin watching the God Channel?        


Buying Drugs March 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 1:30 pm

I went to a pharmacy today to buy amoxicillin for a friend who’s home sick.  (Note:  medicine here is cheap and most is available over the counter.)  I went to the 24-hour pharmacy that also sells (well, used to sell) electricity credit so that I could get both things taken care of.  Here’s the conversation that ensued (in Portuguese):

Me:  Do you have amoxicillin?

P(harmacist):  Um…yes.  (Long pause during which I think he hasn’t understood what I asked for or that he’s waiting for me to explain something further)  Capsules?  For an adult?

Me:  Yes.

P:  Do you have a prescription?

Me:  No, sorry.  Do I need a prescription?  It’s for my friend who’s sick at home.

P:  Yes, you need a prescription for all antibiotics.

Me:  Okay.  Thank you.  One more thing, you don’t sell Credelec?

P:  No.

Me:  Okay.  Thank you. 

(I turn to leave and am about halfway to the door.)

P:  It’s a possibility.

Me:  (Walking back to the counter)  Sorry?  A possibility?

P:  It’s a possibility to buy amoxicillin.

Me:  I can buy amoxicillin?

P:  How much do you need?

Me:  Um.  I don’t know. 

P:  A week?

Me:  Sure.  One week.

P:  (Hands me two packets of capsules)  70 meticais ($2.80)

Me:  Two per day?

P:  Three per day.

Me:  Thank you.  


This Easter Thing March 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 7:23 pm

It is Easter Sunday evening, and I am feeling completely out of sorts. Holy Week has come and gone with very little reflection or celebration. My housemate and I had a conversation this morning about how frustrated we were with the English fellowship sunrise service and how it just hadn’t been a focused or worshipful time at all. And that was the only Holy Week service I’ve attended.

I love Holy Week. It is truly my favorite time of year. Actually I love all of Lent, the time leading up to Holy Week. I appreciate the time of reflection and focus and anticipation leading up to the week that defines Christian faith.

Of course the Protestant churches here do not recognize Ash Wednesday or Lent. To do so would be to associate themselves too much with the Catholic Church. Fair enough. Many Protestant churches in the US and UK also do nothing for Lent. But I did nothing either. I gave nothing up because honestly there is little to give up here. However, I also did little to reflect in other ways.

Then Holy Week was suddenly upon us. Last weekend I was in Maputo, and by my own fault and misunderstanding, I missed going to a Palm Sunday service. At least I had Good Friday and Easter Sunday to look forward to.

On Thursday morning I asked a colleague, who is one of the leaders at the Mozambican church I attend, what special services there would be for Good Friday. He kind of laughed and said that the pastor had been confused about dates so nothing was planned. “And anything special for Easter Sunday?” I asked. “Just the regular service,” he replied. “But perhaps we will share communion together.”

What they did have planned was a “youth anniversary” (don’t ask me what that is) celebration on Saturday morning, which consisted of a 2+ hour service and a lunch. So apparently my church celebrates its youth anniversary but not the death and resurrection or our Lord Jesus Christ! Regardless of my personal issues about planning, Saturday was a blast. Youth—defined in Mozambique as 18- to 35-year-olds—from six different churches packed out the tiny, rickety church to sing, dance, and pray together. The service was also partly a birthday celebration for my Portuguese language partner who surprised me by inviting me up to the front of church to cut the cake and share the celebration with her since it had been my birthday recently.

Meanwhile my housemate was at a cook-off at her church all afternoon, and I wondered if indeed any churches were acknowledging Easter. In fact, several were, I heard. Apparently, just not the ones I’m associated with. (An interesting note: My housemate’s church did have a Good Friday service, but she said they were singing praise songs and wishing each other Happy Easter.) At least I had the English fellowship Easter sunrise service to look forward to.

We were on the beach this morning at 5:30 (wearing sweaters in fact!), and by 6:00 we were done after singing some dull songs and listening to a couple poems. That was it?! That was my Easter celebration?! What about a time of reflection, especially sitting facing the sea and watching a beautiful sunrise? What about a time of thanksgiving for what Jesus’ resurrection means? What about some rousing music celebrating the risen Lord?

During the conversation later this morning with my housemate, she captured exactly how I’ve been feeling this whole week as she said in frustration, “I want to be part of this Easter thing that seems to be going on around me! How do I get in on that?”

P.S.  I found out that my Mozambican church did indeed have a Good Friday service in the end.  I’m not really sure what it consisted of though.


Turning Old Tomorrow March 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 9:00 pm

Here is an actual conversation I had with a four-year-old at my birthday party this evening. Note: I’m turning 30 tomorrow.

K: Do you have any kids?

Me: No. I’m not married.

K: When are you getting married?

Me: Sometime soon, I hope.

K: Before you get old?

Me: Yep. Before I get old. So does that mean you don’t think I’m old?

K: (Looking at me seriously then rubbing my upper arm with the back of her hand) No, you’re young.

(And later when I told her I’d take some balloons down and send them home with her, her eyes lit up and she said, “That would be lovely!”)


Mozambique from the Air March 11, 2008

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 8:14 am

Machambas (farm plots)

My fair city



American Price March 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 2:32 pm

I’ve been on the look-out for a pair of cute shoes for awhile.  Every time I walk to Immigration, I pass a little market where vendors have all sorts of random objects spread out on broken-down cardboard boxes along the path.  The first vendors one comes to on the way to Immigration are the shoe vendors.  One man has all women’s shoes lined up neatly on cardboard.  The next has men’s shoes.  The next children’s.  Most of them are used, donated from North America.  (I used to think they were stolen but have been told they legitimately come from donations sent to Africa from America.)

Today I stopped to try on a couple pairs.  One pair fit well and was cute, so I asked the price.  Here is the conversation that followed:

Vendor:  380 ($15)

Me:  Ha!  (handing the shoes back)  Why are these shoes so expensive?

Vendor:  Okay, 350 ($14).

Me:  No!  So expensive!

Vendor:  Okay 300 ($12).

Me:  And if I am Mozambican.  Then how much? 

(Much laughter from surrounding vendors watching this interaction.)

Vendor:  No, no, this is Mozambican price.  You think I make American price?

Me:  Yes.  It’s true, you do.  I want a Mozambican price.

(More laughter from surrounding vendors and repetition of phrase “Mozambican price”.)

Vendor:  But look, it’s leather.

Me:  Yes, it is.  They are pretty shoes.  But they’re not new.

Vendor:  But look, they’re only a little bit used.  In America these cost $100.

Me:  (laughing)  $100?!  In America I can buy used shoes for $3.

Vendor:  $3?  No.  They are $100.

Me:  Thank you very much.  They are pretty shoes, but I am not paying this American price.  (Walk away to continued laughter and sounds of the phrase “Mozambican price” from other vendors.)

Now I’m on the look-out for a pair of cute, Mozambican-priced shoes.