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June 1, 2002

My favorite visitors

I have been in Moçambique for one month now. My thought yesterday was actually 'Geez, just 11 to go'. I think that just about sums it up. At times I feel like I am soaking everything up bit-by-bit and at other times it feels like I am swimming and the tide is about to take me out! I suppose, though, it would be odd if I were not overwhelmed occasionally.

Everything here seems to be just a bit more authentic than what I am used to. I am a very appreciative of that. Life here puts everything into perspective very quickly. Things that annoyed me before are hardly given a second thought. And, the things that I have complained about... I don't know, working at IHOP to save money to do this, for example.... certainly don't matter in the realm of things. The other day, for example, I was feeling quite frustrated after a long teachers meeting. I was only able to catch bits and pieces of what was said and I was being particularly hard on myself. But, then, I returned to my house and my most favorite visitors stopped by, Luis and Zeika.

LuisZeikaLuis and Zeika are the children of one of school massa-makers and someone who looks after the animals. They spend the majority of the day here, working with their father. They each spend a half-day at the local primary school. Most times, when they are passing by and see that I am in the kitchen, they come and press their little faces into the screen-door and say hello. They have the widest and most irresistible smiles you could imagine. They are what people talk about when they say that someone is ´Glowing´. I am usually more than eager to invite them in for at least a little while. I try out whatever Portuguese I learned the night before on them! If they can understand me, I feel a bit more confidant trying it out on other people, too.

I had assumed since the day that I met them that they were probably 6 and 8 years old. They are of that height and even under that weight. And, I thought that they are at that grade level, based, of course, on my knowledge of the American school systems. Just out of curiosity and also because there is only so much you can talk about when you have just been speaking a language for a month, I asked them how old they were. Luis, the younger of the two, responded first. He is 12. Zieka then replied that he is 14. I tried as best as I could to hide my disbelief.

Usually, when they come for a visit, they ask for a banana or for a tangerine. Obviously, they do not have a very fulfilling and nourishing diet. I never hesitate to give them what they ask for.

Luis and IOn this particular day, though, Luis asked for a banana, as usual. But, he did not eat it. I asked him why. He told me that his mom was not feeling well and had not eaten all day. He thought that she might be able to eat the banana and wanted to take it home to her. I was almost brought to tears in the presence of this child. His generosity overwhelmed me. He exemplified what Mother Teresa once said.... that we should be willing to `give of our want, not of our excess`. Luis, a 12 year old, has proven to be a role model for me. Here was a child, who clearly is not eating enough himself, willing to offer his banana to someone who needed it more.

And I was feeling frustrated because I felt lost in a meeting...