Hello from Mozambique, friends!
First things first – I’ve gotten really good at ordering grilled cheese in Portuguese. Just thought you should know that.
The language barrier here is no joke and English is intermittent at best. I can often understand because Portuguese (and yes, they speak Portuguese in Mozambique) sounds so much like Spanish, but when it comes time for me to respond, I am totally, completely lost.
In the evenings, after long days of interviews, I walk down the street to Continental Cafe and order my tosta de queijo and sit and write and read. And sometimes that reading and writing and processing leads to some interesting thoughts. Which is how I find myself now reproducing a journal entry on the very public internet.
I’ve seen and experienced things here that are decidedly, undeniably hard.
And if I’m honest, it’s been awhile since I’ve been jarred and shocked and slapped in the face with hard.
I’ve spent so much of my life reading about and studying and visiting the outwardly-broken parts of the world that I’ve become accustomed – numb, really – to the reality of it all. Kids playing barefoot in the broken-beer-bottle-flecked dirt and moms walking miles with babies strapped to their backs and tin lean-tos lining the road – I’m as prepared as you can be to see these things. Horribly, I have seen them before. And even more horribly, I know that I will see them again and again and again.
And so these things make me sad, but they don’t get under my skin the way they once did. I wish they did, if I’m honest.
But this week, a couple moments have struck me deeply. Viscerally.
Today, driving to visit a client, we passed a trash dump. The smoke from the many fires that dotted its expanse was visible from a considerable distance. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the garbage was not just covered with fires, but was also full of people. Miles of mountains of trash full of people literally scrambling for their lives.
I was aware of the fact that many people around the world scavenge for a living, of course, but actually seeing it made my stomach turn.
What are we even doing if there are people who can only survive by picking through piles of burning garbage?
And then I think about 12 hours earlier, when my sleepless thoughts circled around city hikes and future kickstarter campaigns and how badly I want to sit in a cute cafe with my friends, iced coffee in hand. It makes me crazy.
Also related, I just ate some delicious pumpkin soup and now I want to fuss around my kitchen making soup from scratch and pour it into mason jars. Because of course.
Meanwhile, earlier today, I saw two precious boys – brothers, probably – wearing one roller skate each. Using them as crappy imitations of razor scooters. Each of their other, non-skated, feet was barefoot, dragging through the mixture of litter and glass and dirt that lined the road. Never mind that the skates were missing their laces. Forget that they were too big for one brother and too small for the other. These boys had found a toy, and they were going to use it, even if it meant splitting up the pair between them so they could both have fun. I could cry just thinking about it. My heart.
I wander through neighborhoods hugging my bag full of valuables to my chest. Hyper-aware because I am so evidently an outsider.
And yet time and again, people welcome me in.
Over and over, people pull out plastic chairs and say here, sit. Be our guest.
Today at the most incredible bread bakery (an Opportunity International client who has gone from working for himself to now having 53 employees!) I joked with the staff and was gifted with five loaves fresh from the oven upon leaving.
What remarkable, undeserved generosity.
And so I’m left wrestling.
Wrestling with how to reconcile this world with the one I miss at home.
Wrestling with how to explain and encourage (others and myself) without feeling or sounding judge-y or condescending.
Because I want SO BADLY for the world to be better. Safer. Less painful. Less broken. Jesus, make it so.
And I am so aware of how special it is that I’ve been given the opportunity to be present in this place. To be invited, welcomed, into this world and these lives.
But the inner me also wants chai and tall brown boots and the necklace I saw on instagram.
And it’s so confusing to want both. To want both so fully at the same time.
I know what my resources can do, yet I buy random crap at Target and have a literal running list on my phone of stuff I want for my birthday (all of which happen to be from social good companies, which I guess sort of makes it better, but not really).
I know what my voice and platform can do, but I spend my time binging Netflix.
And I know that I can’t (and importantly SHOULDN’T) pour out all the time. Rest and self-care are SO important. I’m grateful every second that God is in control and I’m not, so ultimately whatever I do is just a drop in His larger plan.
I want the $15 cheeseburger. I really do. But I also spent the day hanging out with hilarious guys who work long, hot shifts and earn $48 a month.
That is a really hard, awkward place to sit. To be. To handle.
And that is my life.
I guess it’s a gift, really. That I get to meet these people. Share their stories. Be confronted with a few of the many hard realities of the world that are so easy to ignore from the comfort of home.
And so I’ll stay here, wrestling. Simultaneously dreaming about fall clothes and the end of global poverty. But mostly simply doing what I can right now – which is sitting and listening and sharing the lives and stories and moments I feel so incredibly fortunate to witness.