Friday, June 13, 2008

Mozambican Heavens

As daylight breaks, he pedals his bike through the dusty village streets, rushing to get to work by 7 a.m.

Not quite 20, still a teenager, he moved to the city several months ago to further his education. He had brothers here; a place to stay. But it quickly became evident that his sisters-in-law did not want another mouth to feed. So he moved out and got a job at my husband’s metal shop, putting together steel structures for churches and schools.

The lunch provided at work is his one meal of the day. When the shop closes at 4:30, he washes himself in the stagnant rainwater pond and pedals again, this time to class. At midnight, he finally arrives home, only to start the cycle again in five hours.

He’s been investing his hard-earned $100/month. Realizing the chapa (African taxi) was taking a huge chunk of his pay, he bought the bicycle. He purchased a variety of locks and now sells locks during his free time on the weekends. And he borrowed funds from us to buy a piece of property, slowly acquiring materials to build a house one of these days.

He’s going places - reaching for the sky.

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She knocks determinedly on our metal gate at least once a week, demanding an audience. She knows her persistence will pay off here.

She speaks no English, and we speak no Portuguese. But she manages to get across her message. Some days she needs money. Her teenage daughter needs school books. She needs medicine for malaria. Other days she brings evidence of how she’s spent the money: pharmacy receipts; her daughter’s test scores.

We might give her an odd job, we might give her school supplies, or we might just give her money. She always leaves with what she needs. And she will come back again, for her daughter’s sake.

Through her daughter, she’s going places – reaching for the sky.

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By western standards, she looks much older than her 30-something years, but in this country with a life expectancy of 42 years, she IS one of the elderly.

Her four-year-old son had meningitis. And he needs medical treatment. And that costs money. And she doesn’t have any.

So she’s looking for work as an empregada (maid). She doesn’t have the experience, skills, or references, but is willing to do anything. ANYTHING.

It may be hard to see, but she’s going places – reaching for the sky.

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“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp -- or what’s a heaven for?”
- Robert Browning

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This post has been entered into Scribbit’s Write-Away contest.

5 comments:

Marcia said...

Hey - thanks for visiting and glad you found the tip on dealing with sentimental items useful.

It REALLY works :)

Marcia, Organising queen

Summer said...

Great entry Jane. I was very touched by these small stories of people who have so little, giving everything to make a better life for themselves and the ones they love.

Andrea said...

It's my first time to your blog and I love it already. :) What great stories...they definitely are powerful!!

Scribbit said...

That's wonderful! It makes me want to visit so badly!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I thought about this topic and had nothing...THIS is great. What beautiful stories of these people. They truly are going places and how exciting for you to be part of their journey!