Yesterday I was able to spend quite a long time with the boys teaching them some English, playing with puzzles and looking at books. ‘Where’s Wally?’ is one of their favourite books, they are content to search over and over again at the crowded pages seeking out the little red and white Wally figure. Last night, reflecting over the day, I realised that I feel not unlike the little red and white Wally figure, especially when we have been walking through the crowded streets or even at the church we attended on Sunday (about 4000 people in an open air basketball stadium). Mine (and Victoria’s) are often the only white faces and while Victoria has naturally lost some of her self- consciousness over this, I am still acutely aware that I stand out in a crowd and am often the focus of curious attention such as yesterday when Alfredo and I caught a ‘chapa’ out to Casa Re’om (25 people in a vehicle that would ‘normally’ seat 12!) or the only person in a room full of people waiting for the results of a malaria test ( for Victoria’s not me – negative this time, phew!)
So I realise now with greater understanding why it is that people with the same ethnic origin prefer to live together in communities (sometimes we negatively refer to them as ghettos). There is great comfort and security in not feeling like you are the odd one out or isolated.
It is a great privilege to be hosted by a Mozambican family. They are very generous in sharing their home and lives but again, not being able to speak the language and being unsure of the customs gives me that ‘wally’ feeling from time to time. Might I be stumbling about , thinking I am doing the right thing but perhaps giving inadvertent offence? One evening when they had guests and had cooked a large supper, I offered to wash up. But was this the ‘right’ thing to do? I am a guest, perhaps it would dishonour my host to offer to help in this way? But to my way of thinking, it seems rude not help around the house, especially when one’s hostess had a baby just 4 days previously. This is a small (and as it turned out) relatively unimportant example of the cultural misunderstandings that can arise when we stumble about thinking that our way is the ‘right’ way to deal with things. Cleaning the floor with paraffin and cooking over charcoal on the stairwell landing are odd things to do in my world but just every day normalities for family life here. (p.s. I did wash up and Victoria assured me it had not given offence, I think they are used to odd westeners)
Finally, and on a lighter note, just to prove I really am a wally, here is a photo of me at the beach last Saturday with the boys. Victoria took this from 200m away not really seeing what I was doing and caught me in mid-leap of particularly large wave, something we had all been doing together but at this particular moment I appeared to be the only ‘wally’ in the water. We posted up this hilarious shot and requested captions. Enjoy!
Russell F Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
David B: Stop Press: White (very white) shark scares children from beach in Beira.
Ruth B: Never mind ‘flying Bishops’- watch out for ‘flying curates’ landing at a beach near you..
Ruth B (again): Sheila still had some way to go with the whole ‘ walking on water’ thing, but the locals were impressed, nevertheless with the attempt.
Dawn M: This is how I flew all the way from England!
Russell F: ”David Walliams? English Channel? River Thames? Huh, that’s nothing…” says Sheila as she arrives in Beira…
Martin S: ”And then you throw yourself backwards like this” said Sheila Bridge before swallowing a mouthful of the Indian Ocean!
Emily G: Where’s David Hasselhoff in his bright red shorts when you need him?!
Lucie F: And you part the waters like this…….this…….something like this……