Friday, August 3, 2012
what's mine is yours. what's yours you should share.
I sometimes just sit and think about my mom's pantry.
There are some things I know you can find in there today: tortilla chips and an unopened jar of quality salsa, a variety of boxed cereals, walnuts and almonds and raisins a plenty, a few shapes of pasta, black licorice, English Breakfast tea, and the list goes on. On certain days you can find a jar of artichoke hearts, some chocolates, goldfish crackers, and maybe-if I have not been home in a while- Trader Joe's trail mix.
No one in Manjacaze has a pantry like my mom.
But then again, people here do not really have pantries. The idea of having a stash of food, I have learned, is foreign to most people here. When you have extra tomatoes from your machamba, you give them to your neighbor. You might trade for their extra peanuts. You might just be thanking them for them always letting you use their well.
But it isn't just food. Americans like to have things in excess. We buy things when they are on sale, even if we do not need them. We like to have 5 different pairs of black dress shoes, because we think we need them. And plus, those patent leather ones were too cute to pass up, but I really need flats to go with that sun dress.
Mozambicans do not have things in excess. If you have two of something here, you give one to your neighbor. Melita, who does my laundry, always makes fun of how many t-shirts and skirts I have. Once she said, look I have never seen you wear this dress, you should give it to me. She was right. And I did.
This is a society of giving.
Perhaps its the traditional African tribal culture that remains or influence from years of foreign communism. Either way, Mozambicans are extremely collective. What's mine is yours. What's yours, you should share.
If you showed up at my parents house around 7 PM when I was a kid, my Mom might have sent me to answer the door. If I yelled back that it was some random neighbor kid selling popcorn for his Boy Scout troop, my Mom would have said to tell him to come back later.
It was not that she did not want to help, but getting all of us organized for dinner was enough of a trial, you did not want to come around dinner time. It should be mentioned, that my Mom always supported the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school fundraisers, kids going on mission trips. She was a good door to knock on.
If a cute eight year old in a Brownie uniform showed up selling cookies in Mozambique, she would most likely not have much luck. No one really has extra cash for cookies on a random fall day. If, however, she showed up around dinner time, she would be invited in and could be guaranteed a delicious meal.
People here look after each other. If someone is sick, everyone in the neighborhood helps to do their laundry and cook for their family. There are no concerns about where the kids are, because they are somewhere, and eventually someone will send them home to have a bath. People often have to walk very far out to their farms. If you get caught in the rain, you can stop at someone's house, even if you do not know them, and be sure that you will be taken in for the night.
At first, people “pedir-ing” (asking) for things annoyed me. No you cannot have my shirt that I am wearing. I cannot give you my hair. I do not have any sweets with me and if I did I would be eating them. But then I learned to embrace it. If I am walking down the street with a snack, I offer some up. When I am in the chapa and someone next to me buys bananas, I gladly accept on. Why not? He has a whole bunch and I do not have any.
Collective societies work because people trust that everyone is in agreement about them. Its the classic commons problem. If you have commons for the cows to graze, everyone must utilize it only their fair share or the commons will become over-used and no longer feed anyone.
Here, cows and goats graze anywhere. Chickens roam around and I have no idea how the little capulana strip tied to their wings helps them get home, but that is the closest thing to a marker they have. No dogs have collars and if one wanders into the yard, it is alright for him to nibble on your scraps from last night. No one claims that the fruit from the tree near their house is theirs, kids who climb the tree get the best mangoes or the biggest coconuts.
It is pretty refreshing. In the US, you know you have a good relationship with your neighbors when you can borrow a cup of sugar or an egg. Here, everyone borrows from each other. If one person has a big pot, the whole neighborhood knows and will borrow it when their families come to visit. If you have some luxury item like an electric oven or a cake pan, you can expect it will be put to good use. It is not a huge favor, it is just life. Why wouldn't you share?
Well if it is peanut m&ms, I understand. I don't really share those either.