McClenahens to Mozambique
"…That they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

The Pakiti Life

November 12, 2014 by rkmcclenahen

In order to live in Pakiti, we are learning, one must be resilient, strong, and patient. Work is done all by hand and from scratch, and all in the sweltering and humid 95 degrees. We are SO thankful to have the luxuries of a night guard, a wash woman, 3 electric fans, mosquito nets, and a stove. Our neighbors“wankupinga magi,” or carry water (usually on their heads) every day from someone several “blocks” away who receives city water. This of course takes several trips of filling 5 gallons at a time. On top of that, fresh water comes at a price, so many use water from a local salt water well for free. In the heat, this job is best done first thing in the morning- around 5am. Lucky for us, our night guard does this as part of his chores before leaving our house around 7:30am. For our family, we buy and use about 30 gallons of water a day- including laundry, bathing, drinking, toilet flushing, etc- which we pour into our now functional water tanks so that we can use running water in the house. The task of washing laundry for a family of 5 with 2 toddlers who enjoy the ubiquitous sand takes about 2 hours, and we pay a lady about $2 three times a week to come and wash for us. However, even being paid does not assure that someone will show up here. Already in the past 3 weeks of employment our wash woman has experienced a death in her extended family, which warranted 3 days off to observe the normal mourning ritual of “matanga.”

We are learning how common disease and death are for everyone living here; Kristen has already attended one matanga the week before moving to Pakiti, and the children’s ministry program our team has been planning to launch has now been delayed twice on account of deaths that were too immediate to the neighborhood involved to start right away after the deaths. (Apparently it is appropriate to wait until 3 weeks after a death to engage in fun activities like a children’s Sunday school.) Even these last couple of days, we have been up to the hospital and over to visit Kristen’s language helper’s family because their kids were sick with what might be malaria, and one was in the hospital for almost a week. (***Please don’t worry about us, though!! Most disease and death here is on account of unhealthy living among already unhealthy people, and no good medical care to speak of. We have many more resources at our disposal if we were to need them in a crisis.***)

The short of it is, nothing about life in Pakiti is easy, however in many respects it is simple. Many days bread and bananas is our staple food, at least for breakfast and lunch; it is for many of the Mwani as well, although it is now becoming the season of bread and mangos. Rusty is learning a whole new meaning of “taking out the trash.” There is definitely no trash pick up here- everyone else just dumps it on the beach. So Rusty will drive a few days a week up to town where there are a few trash bins that get collected- all in all a 40 minute task. With two in diapers this is no picnic! Then there is the issue of electricity. Often we sit down to try and catch up on some language studying or to get other work done once the kids are in bed, only to have the power go out. This last weekend was our first 12 hour stint with no power- we thought we would melt without fans!!! The reality is, though, that most people in Pakiti live without them every day. Instead they sit out on their porches, often on the back side of their houses, in any piece of shade available. Many even lay in the sand (which is imbued with biting fleas and chiggers), and some in the middle of the road if it is shady! Even at night we have found that our neighbors all sleep on their back porch on torn up foam mattresses, despite the risk of malaria. It is really that hot.

The kids on our street cannot understand, though, why our children are not always out in the street playing with them. Kids our children’s age have nothing really to do but run around with each other in the sun. Of course, Amelia and Owen cannot go out on their own, and we need to get things done during the day, so playtime with the neighbors is limited to the cooler part of the afternoon- after the sun is past its prime, but before mosquitoes start turning up in hordes. It doesn’t stop the kids asking, though. The little ones are constantly turning up on our back porch peering in, and putting up quite a fuss when we send them out. At least we are finally learning enough Kimwani to be able to ask them to leave (although probably incorrectly).

For us, it is a time of learning. Not just learning language so that we can pursue our own agenda here, but learning about every aspect of life in a culture that really is nearly completely foreign. It seems to us that already many are deciding to take us in, despite our ignorance of their way of life. Our next-door neighbors have taken to bringing us food to try, to which we reciprocate. The woman across the street who just returned from the Hajj is intrigued every time we step out of our house, always calling us over to find out where we are going and inviting us to sit and chat. Others across town that we don’t remember ever meeting shout over fences, “How is the baby doing?” (“Bebe nkomu?”) And we are never without a trail of children shouting the local greeting over and over, “Salaama!!” Though it is often all quite overwhelming, we hope that we will also learn to be resilient, strong, and patient as we continue on as residents of Pakiti.

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