Mozambique #9 Adaptability

Adaptability; one of the most interesting qualities of human beings on this planet. Humans can adapt and survive under almost any conditions imaginable. Right now I am experiencing this adaptive quality in two ways. First, within myself. Secondly, in my observations of people who must be resourceful and innovative with next to nothing in the way of technical support or material resources.

I feel that I am adapting quite well to the lifestyle here, and the necessities of daily life which demand my attention. I adapted quickly because there is no other option. It really is amazing how novel tasks such as fetching water from the well, washing laundry by hand or living without a sink become second nature. You don’t even think about it, you just live it. I hear all the time people say about living in a 3rd world country like Mozambique “oh I could never do that”. Bullshit. You could. You may not want to, but let’s not confuse “want” with “able to”.  You would adapt to whatever lifestyle is forced upon you because there are no other options, and after enough time this radical shift in lifestyle would cease to be novel and life would continue on from there. I think many people don’t give themselves enough credit or don’t believe in themselves enough to realize that in most cases, the only real limitations in their lives are self-imposed and largely motivated by fear. As a child, a quote that was posted on a filing cabinet in my home read “if you think you can, or if you think you can’t, your right”. I think that quote sums it up pretty well.

In the context of daily life, I don’t really think there is anything special about what I am doing here; voluntarily living under “less developed” conditions. In fact I think that what I am doing is taking a step back to a much more ordinary type of existence. It is you, in the “developed world”, who is special and out of the ordinary. With your technological wizardry and highly organized institutions you have managed to alienated yourself from the hard, cyclic reality of life here on this planet. For the top 5 percent of the world’s socio economic ladder, what I am doing is strange, special, different, brave, etc… For the rest of the 95%, welcome to the more common and ordinary human existence.

Another interesting aspect of adaptability is how culturally specific habits of behavior can infiltrate into ones general conduct. Cultures are insidious beasts, like parasites, seeding their larvae of conditioning deep into a person’s personality without any consciousness of the parasitic infection. Then in a totally unexpected moment, this newly infected habit hatches and manifests itself in the foreigner’s personality. ”Monkey see monkey do” prevails. An example of this in my life is that Mozambicans have a great way of expressing surprise in a conversation or in an action by making this throaty grunting noise. (I believe this may come from the indigenous language of the region I live) I am pleased to say that I have now incorporated this throaty grunt into my daily life, taking advantage of every opportunity to perform this quite pleasurable act of oration. I even do it when I am alone; drop a spoon in the kitchen… uhhh! Just found out your neighbors stole your papayas? Uhhh! It’s a great multi purpose expression and just one of many examples of how the habits and thought patterns of those around me have begun to influence me.

To return to the second theme of this post, I am constantly surprised by the general knowledge that children and adults have here about how to construct things, how to utilize raw materials and how to be innovative with basic tools and technologies. A tangible example of this: I constructed a fence around my newly dug garden to ward off the marauding chickens and pigs that love a tasty snack of freshly sown seeds. Using bamboo and two locally grown types of grasses  my neighbors (ages 5-14) and I constructed a beautiful fence! The kids knew how to do everything and eagerly shared with me their knowledge. What would have taken me over a week alone took 2 days. Ask your average 8 year old in a developed country how to do this and they would probably shrug and go back to their television or video games. People here are incredibly creative when it comes to using raw materials from the Earth, because they have to be! There is no home depot around the corner. This is rubbing off on me, I find myself saving things like spare boards, nails, pieces of bamboo, cement blocks, wire and cloth, thinking “hey! I can use this stuff for…” Necessity breeds invention is now being experienced firsthand every day.

An idea I have for this blog will be to do a bi-weekly update about some event or happening, but also to include a little section ide like to title “Get to know Mozambicans”. My idea is to every two weeks choose a different theme to discuss with people that I encounter in my everyday life; at the market, in the street, with my neighbors, at work etc. The themes can be very open ended but I am imagining themes that will help me and others get a better picture of Mozambican culture. A few examples: Marriage rights and rituals, homosexuality, sex, gender roles, personal finances, views of the world outside Mozambique, 3 things a Traveler should know about Mozambique etc… I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to informally interview people; fun for me and fun for them too! If you have any suggestions of subjects you would like see explored please leave a comment and ill add it to my growing list of curiosities.

Basically I have begun working with my organizations, developing projects to advance our vision of being an agriculture and nutrition resource for Gaza province among other things. I will go into more detail about this in later posts I am sure. I have also received many requests for the recipe to make the collard, peanut and coconut dish so I plan on making a post about that.

Photos: The guys that I hang out with a lot (I work with 2 of them),a shot of my house and yard with a bunch of plants I have planted, and my newly constructed garden (okra and beans have been sown).

3 responses to “Mozambique #9 Adaptability

  1. Evan,

    What wonderful perspective. If you haven’t already read ‘Ishmael,’ it’s a must…relative to the cultural influences, etc. (If there’s a way to send it to you, let me know!)

    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Sent from my iPhone

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