January 27, 2010

Cultural Frustration

Today has been one of those days that as a missionary I don't love to record but somehow find myself laughing at otherwise I may just go insane. You know before coming to the mission field you do your best to read all about the adjustments you will have to make moving into another culture. In all that reading so often I would see the phrases "Culture shock" and even "Culture stress" but today I want to add another one to the books and call it "Culture frustration" because somethings just don't make sense and never really will.

Frustration #1 Electricty
I am used to the fluctuating electricty supply here in Mozambique and that in itself is not enough to get me frustrated even when I am in the middle of baking something and the oven shuts off or I am sweating like crazy because it's hot and the fan disappears. Today though brought a new adventure with the electricty. Actually it starts yesterday when the local electricity workers decided to come to our rental house and install a new electricity meter. It is a pre-pay type of meter where you have to go stand in line and buy credit, receive a code and then come home and punch in the numbers for the credit to go onto your meter so you can have access to electricity. So yesterday it went in with a freebie of 5 credits (which I can now tell you doesn't even last one day) and by evening time we knew something was wrong. First Marc went to the office down town to get credit so we wouldn't be without power but they said our account was not activated yet and the only thing we could do was come back tomorrow and try. I love that answer....ok, not really. So Marc came home, we shut off all the lights and continued with the remainder of the evening by candlelight so we could try to conserve the couple of credit we had left to get us through the night with a fan since it was 90 degrees in the house. It worked because the credit ran out at 5:45 am this morning after a decent nights sleep with the fan. Anyway, this morning Marc was off to the electric company again to see if our account had been "activated" yet. Nope it sure hadn't he was told. Marc asked to speak to whoever he needed to so it could be activated but they said sorry you can't go upstairs to see them because you are wearing shorts. Huh? Apparently it is disrespectful to see the people in that part of the office in shorts instead of long pants...ok whatever you say. Anyway, to keep the story short my brilliant husband managed to get an employee to take it upstairs for him and after being passed along through several different people came to find out that the system isn't working. Their solution-they will send the same guys out that came yesterday and have them take out the new system and put back in the old regular meter. Hey, I don't care how they did it but we have power tonight.

#2 Tribal Thinking
The second frustration of the day came when our friend and worker Manuel showed up at our gate only a few minutes after leaving to go home for the day. He stepped into our house and immediately burst into tears. I have never seen Manuel cry. He has been through the war, grew up as an orphan, gone hungry, and had many family members die and I have never seen him cry. He explained to us that the husband of the women that helps me in the house a couple times a week had just confronted him and accused him of saying "Good morning" to his wife. Culturally we know that means he is accusing him of trying to get her attention and steal her. The whole thing is frustrating because first of all it is not true and the only time he talks to her is when we are asking him to translate something from Portuguese into dialect so she can better understand a situation and mostly because Manuel is newly married and a Christian and these accusations are hurtful to him. There is not much to say except culturally this husband believes he owns his wife and he is allowing his own paranoia to blind him. It is frustrating for us because in order to avoid a cultural catastrophe we will now need to fire her and find someone new to fill her positon. She likes working for us. She has no children and I believe having a job to bring in a little income was helping her to feel valuable. Pardon me for being so blunt but perhaps that was the problem-she was feeling like she is a person, that has skills and abilities and that was a bit too threatening for her husband. Women being treated as objects, slaves and property of their husbands for sure is one of my biggest cultural frustrations.

Anyway, I would ask that you pray for us as we go day to day and deal with these CULTURAL FRUSTRATIONS. They sure can be frustrating...

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