Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"First world horrors"

Dear Ina, 

"First world horrors." I collide with them every day now, given that I wake up in the first world every single morning. I wake up in a big bed with clean sheets not soaked with my night sweats from the insatiable heat. No nets and no mozzies on my face or biting my ankles. When I turn on the light, it comes on. Every single time. But I still rush to the wall outlets to plug in draining electronics for fear that the electricity will run out. I am used to everything running out. Because that is the way it is isn't it? Petrol today. No petrol tomorrow. No electricity Sunday's. No milk. No dairy. No cell service. No water. No berries. Impassable roads. No way to protect myself. No money in the ATM. Even though I have loads, Barclay's hasn't a single Mozambican meticai. Every shadow out of the corner of my eye is a gecko on the wall. Or rat in the corner. But neither of those of here. I get to drink my coffee in complete solitude. I don't have to check the empty cup for nightly squatters.

When I finally make it outside, everyone is busy and preoccupied. No one even notices me. No one screams "FOREIGNER" in their native tongue. No children grab my hands to walk with me. No teenagers offer to sell me their fly covered fruit. It is lonely. No one notices me and no one notices each other. We honk and pass and zoom and move so incredibly fast here. I can't keep up. I loiter and linger and long for someone to hold my hand. Their problems as you say are "pathetic". It’s embarrassing really. I try to extend them some grace and act like I care, but to be honest, I don't. Not one bit. And now I am surrounded by them. Outnumbered. By not just rich, but filthy rich who because of their money feel powerful, seem to know everything, but are clueless. And then I am stuck with the guilt of disliking them and judging them. Every day. "You stupid prick.", enters my mind every day and I know that is not kindness or goodness or love. It is me being impatient and my own close-minded prick of my own kind. They have value. They are important and they matter but I really need help seeing it. But I see them as predictable and boring- the country club set that I am now encountering daily. The shoes, the fashions- predictable society. They are fun to watch, mind you. They entertain me at the very least but there I go belittling them again. Jesus help me. So I still have a long way to go.

More first world horrors for you…Oh! Women are rail thin. Starve themselves. Plates and plates of wonderful food right in front of them and they won't eat it. Sad. Malnourished rich people. Go figure. They are all quite an ambitious bunch, I will give them that. I like being around ambitious people. They wear different outfits every single day so I have trouble remembering their names since they all look so very much alike.

One thing that is great about first world is not being so bloody afraid all the time. The police here are generally good guys who are out to save and protect me. On a given day I never have to worry about being attacked or robbed. I think that is one of my favorite parts of first world living, feeling peace so deeply I sleep better.

I miss the modesty of the third world. Maybe it was just because I lived on a mission compound or maybe it was because my cleaning lady veronica would never let me leave the house with my shins exposed. This culture acts so shocked and appalled and runs slick campaigns against sex trafficking but everyone walks around here half naked. Strutting their emaciated frames. Believing the lie that their value is in their perceived beauty and that sex is love. The other day was pasta night at the country club. There were two little girls about 9 years old stuffing their faces. Afterwards as one politely pushed her chair back to the table as she got up, nudge her friend and said, "Look." as she pushed her belly out as far as it would go. She was proud of herself and I was proud of her too. It reminded me of those tight Mozambican baby bellies full of rice and beans. Sadly, she will lose that. She will exchange that innocence for insecurity because this first world society says so. 

But you would love the roads here. They are smooth and all paved and that is nice. Everyone, for the most part, stays in their lanes and there are lines painted on the roads to identify where to drive and signs to tell you when to stop to keep you safe. There are hospitals and doctors, but I can't afford them. Those are for the rich. There are pharmacies on almost every corner with drugs for every ailment and shampoos and lotions for every possible hair type or skin condition in every fragrance under the sun. It’s enjoyable but mostly just overwhelming. The constant electricity/internet are my favorite bits by far. That and family within in driving distance. I love kissing my nephews faces as long as they will let me. 
So there you are Love. A little window into my first world horrors that aren’t so bad. How’s being pregnant in one of the hottest places in the world?

Love,
Grace

Ina is a teacher at the international school in Pemba, Mozambique and is quite international herself. Half German, half Icelandic. She's beautiful inside and out and I miss her and her pancakes. 

and her reply:

Ina Steinke Grace, you beautiful, angelic creature! STOP THAT! I'm hormonal. I can't have you writing me a blog just like that. I didn't even get a tissue! Now I'm sitting in bed with a sting of snot hanging from my nose to my chest...
I had laugh so much though. It's all true. WHAT A CRAZY DIFFERENCE!! And yet we are all human. How did we develop so far from nature's way? The constant striving for materials and skinny and profiles and careers.. Is it something they inject into the 5 kg genetically modified chicken legs? IT'S EXHAUSTING, man! I read in the Icelandic newspaper that thigh-gaps are very important now. They even have uncomfortable plastic thingies to put between the thighs to make that gap - in case you are so imperfect that your thighs dare to touch! Also, post-sex instagram pictures. Like... still in bed and all. Everyone's doing that, apparently. Also, a really long article on how to apply and what make-up to use in order to wake up with a perfectly made up face. 
Can entire nations seriously reach that point of boredom while the rest of the world spends 12 hours a day preparing "the meal" from scratch - including the fishing of it, hacking firewood, attending the crops, pumping the water and peeling the rice..


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

oh ina. you wise one.


Blogger ├Źna said...
OH! What an amazing insight into the life of a waitress. And YES, it is true... we are SO SPOILED. You know, I often switch my mind into the "what if" gear when driving in our fancy car around the bairros, and I find myself wondering WHAT IF we switched lives with the locals. What if we had to walk from Maranganha to Baixa to clean some white pig's mess, iron their clothes and sweep their garbage off their sand while our children, playing on a dirt road and digging through garbage in search for that treasure-of-the-day, waited for something for the caril at supper time... what if we'd have to wait in endless lines at the hospital and watch a bunch of white oil heads be led straight into the doctor's office, although they just arrived NOW... what if I had to sell vegetables and some snotty white woman just pushed up her sunglasses and ignored my offer COMPLETELY, not even giving me a smile (guilty!)..
The world would go to hell, that's what.
Girl, you continue your lesson of humility and you do it with a smile. Nothing hurts an arrogant bastard more than a happy slave, I'm sure. That's what Hollywood says.
AND KEEP UP THE BLOGGING. I'm thrilled to get a peek into first world horrors ;)

work

It is 9am and I am already watching the clock and dreading having to tie that ankle length apron around my waist and walk into The Club this afternoon. I know I will walk out exhausted with half the day having passed me by. Don't feel sorry for me. I must do this. I want to do this. I need to do this. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, but I can still complain a little along the way. Getting the complaints out helps make room for more positivity. My boss yelled at me. The one with the mustache who wears maroon colored dress shirts and bad ties. I could tell he was the nervous type, always verbalizing his frustration, always a little overwhelmed. He never introduced himself when we met, just flustered around looking for an apron for me acting annoyed and bothered. I got the feeling introductions were not necessary. I'm the employee and he is the boss. Pleased to met you. He yelled, "THEY ARE RIGHT THERE!! Get em yourself!", when I asked the bartender for two wine glasses. I assumed glassware was behind the bar. It's not. Now I know. "Give me a break Mr. Mustache I am new, I didn't know and I won't do it again." Clearly he views me as insolent and in need of strong reprimand, rather than the new girl who is fully capable once properly informed. Jerk. No one yells at me. My father has never raised his voice at me. No one talks to me this way. This is not the military. Now I just avoid him. I struggle finding most all of this important. He freaks about not having enough table linens. 6 months ago I was freaking because a family of three were lying dead in the middle of the road in Pemba, 9 months ago there was a cholera outbreak in the village near where my friends live, 3 miles from my own. Two months ago the entire city of Pemba was under water and thousands lost their homes and many their lives. So excuse me Mr. Mustache if the table linen seams are not centered, my mistake. Please go back to your mumbling and fast walking and please don't yell at me. 

I worked 13 hours with no proper break on Mother's Day. I could sue. I won't. Their lack of proper management could drive me to yell at people but I won't. They really need a logistics person to come in and get that place organized and they need to hire about 20 more servers and purchase about 2000 more knives, forks and spoons. But I am not there to figure out solutions to their problems. But if they ask I could produce a list. I am there to schlep dishes and barware and clean and scrub and reset tables and move tables and fold linens and greet the members with a smile and by their name and serve them their eggs benedict with kindness. None of the other employees seem bothered. They grumble and complain but they continue going about doing their jobs as I shake my head knowing there has to be a better way to do this or that. Afterwards, I join them and follow along and chuck my dishes into the dish pit and shove open the swinging doors and hit the lush carpet with a smile. I hate it there, but there is a purpose in the midst of it all and I know it. I have already met the kindest couple you could ever meet and I genuinely look forward to seeing them. I've made friends with a fellow waitress, mother of two who also had to work on Mother's Day and made my 13 hours pale. Not to mention I have already made enough money to live in Cameroon for two months. And on Sunday I got to have cheesecake for lunch. It was all I had for breakfast, lunch or dinner but I am trying to be positive here. 

When I think about labor and hard work I always see Granny McDowell, widowed mother of seven sheering her own sheep and growing her own tea and coffee, breaking her back to put food on the table in 1914. And I see sweet Veronica in 2014, walking miles to my house with a bucket on her head, five children to feed, all abandoned. Dirt floors, leaky roof, rats biting her children in the night. Her arms and back tight and strong from hard labor. It is all she knows. She showed up for work the day after giving birth. I know nothing of hard work. I am soft with lots of sofa sitting. I can do this. I have five more hours to convince myself. Veronica would be proud. I can do this for her and the women like her and those girls in Cameroon I have yet to meet. And I can do it for myself because I need to make money and a few lessons in humility can never hurt. Who said that? They do hurt but they help and one day I will look back on this season and smile and thank God for this opportunity. It was actually this little gift of "table waiting" that helped fund the last few years of my life and taught me a little skill that I passed on to my students in Mozambique who are now waiting tables of their own. Sweet Rofi sent me this just this week after I told him I was working in the States for a little bit:

Oh i can not bealive that you are working as a waitress. that job is so very hard you can not imagine how much that job so very hard for my self doing scholl at same time. any way congratulation on your new job. fortunately my scholl is going well and tthanks to God for everything also missig you to teach me some knowlogde of public admistration. god bless you dear sister.


Yesterday, my only day off, I met Mom and Dad in Chattanooga and returned the truck I used to move up here. I am back in the June bug and maybe commutes with the top down will help my attitude. Maybe. We ate sandwiches and I had gelato and I complained and they listened. I have longed for the day when I can work and make money and I know pay day will help put things into perspective and these next few months will fly by and I will soon be boarding a plane to Africa with money in my bank account. So this is good. Complaints come out and positivity finds a place in their stead. Did I mentioned that I live in the prettiest house in all of East Nashville? And with the kindest, sweetest, smartest, prettiest, funniest girl in all of Tennessee? I do. I am abundantly blessed to have this open door and place to come and be myself and be loved.  Nothing is required of me. No one yells. If they do it's because Call the Midwife is on and I am being beckoned to take my place on the sofa. 
"Scoot" parked outside of Veronica's house. That's her in the yard wearing my shirt. Her son and grandson playing with the tire.

The only person who can get away with calling me fat. She means it as a term of endearment. I miss her loads.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunshine Nut Company

My friend Don Larson has started a social business in Mozambique, giving away 90% of the proceeds and creating community centers that will provide schools and healthcare. Coming soon to a Whole Foods near you!

working class

i started work saturday. real backbreaking, intensive, laborious work. God help me. in 48 hours have polished endless drawers of silverware, set at least 50 tables, carried and moved tables and chairs, schlepped dishes and glassware to the dish pit on heavy trays through swinging doors, and greeted those illustrious members with a somewhat heartfelt smile. i have never seen so much seersucker and lilly pulitzer all in one room. so many babies in peter pan collars. so many maserati's in the parking lot. i couldn't be any more indifferent to it all. i am here for the money.  meanwhile my feet are killing me and my back hurts. my feet are not accustomed to shoes. i am still rubbish at idle chit chat. but i did meet some very kind and compassionate people. two at least.  a sweet couple in their 50's who asked how long i had been working at the club. when i told them 45 minutes they were intrigued and asked more about it. they even gave me their email and want to get together with me. go figure. i can't remember their names. and now that's part of my job, remember names and use them. pour my heart into it and serve well. so hard. maybe when my feet become accustomed to shoes, my mind can focus a little more on my surroundings and the one in front of me. i know i am here for a reason, beyond the paycheck. i see reasons daily. but sadly i am kinda counting the days until i can quit and counting the work hours i can possibly fit into a week to make as much as possible. yet also wanting days off because i miss my family and want to see nathalie when she comes to visit hartwell all the way from fiji. and laura and i are way overdue for a few days together in the same room. 

despite having to wear a necktie and a tuxedo vest like a goober, life is pretty grand. this vagabond life of trusting God and going where He sends me is still working and i am still amazed. i will wait tables all day long if it leads me back to where i belong. while waiting tables i am also researching poverty and planning my curriculum for the school in August and dreaming with God about eradicating poverty and starting small businesses. i am also living in a home where i am fully loved and provided for and where we laugh so incredibly often. i become undone when i consider His kindness and how well He takes care of me. He loves you too. -xo, grace