Friday, May 14, 2010


On a late March Saturday morning around 11am, I found my way to Hotel Milenio, decked out in a red Mozambican Mambas jersey. A good Mozambican friend of mine, Josue, had invited me to go with him to the Mozambique-Malawi soccer game that was being played in town. A couple of my friends were quick to jump on the opportunity and tagged along. Josue, having lived most of his life in Malawi, actually once played on the U-17 national team for the Flames. He thinks he had a chance of going pro had he not decided to quit after his friend died on the field and his mother feared for him. Yet, Josue still knows a lot of the national team players he once played with. And so we set our compasses in the direction of Hotel Milenio, where the team was staying to join the pre-game shenanigans. A bunch of Malawians had flown in for the game, and you better believe that any fan who flew in to support the team was going to be nuts. Of course, I didn’t know we were going to be Flames groupies for the day, so I felt quite embarrassed by my jersey. Amidst a hoard of riotous Malawians, we watched as Mozambique won the game but Malawi won the series by goals. I think my favorite part came when a Malawi chant started up: “I…want to be…nakedie!” As this happened, two men, and unfortunately one large women started stripping down to their underwear. Could have done without that.

But our relationship isn’t all about fun and games. I first met Josue back in January while working for TechnoServe on the chicken study. He works for New Horizons poultry company and was part of my study, and out of our work together he invited me into his home and has even taken me to his church little one-room cinder-block church in the bairro (suburb). Getting to know Josue has been great – he’s an extremely fascinating and impressive individual. He and his wife Sakina have a 3-year old girl and an adopted son (you don’t see that often in Mozambique). Prior to working at New Horizons he worked at World Relief while taking college classes. He’s currently involved as a forming member with Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), which is an emerging party trying to take down the dominant FRELIMO. He comes from a political background – his father was captured during the civil war by RENAMO, now works for the Mozambican government, and while previously working for the Malawian government, was in the committee that wrote the national anthem.

Currently, I’m trying to push the few buttons I have (being American) to get Josue funding for a training trip on soybean processing and poultry in Minnesota, but most of our interactions now are actually about an idea he shared with me in January. At New Horizons he has worked in the feed mill (dealing with corn and soybean) and as I mentioned, he lived in Malawi, which is basically where corn-soya blend (CSB) was invented. Out of these experiences has come his desire to start a commercial CSB company (he's holding his product in the picture, and man does it taste good!) to not only earn money but also combat malnutrition. So now, as I am working with CLUSA on soy foods, Josue is one of our potential entrepreneurs. Josue and I bounce ideas off each other almost on a daily basis – me helping him with his business plan or machinery costing, for example. The past week or so we have been preparing for a test marketing trial run of his CSB in the Nampula bairros with the help of local university students. This is a very exciting time to be in the thick of launching a business in a developing country.

I am already beginning to think back on my experiences on this fellowship. What really sticks out are not the tourist shops I wandered in, the amazing beaches, or even the baffling vistas gazed during a difficult mountain hike. It’s not the countries that stand out to me (though I’m constantly craving Indian food). Rather, it’s the one or two people in each country who have become quite good friends, and from whom I learned a lot. Josue is one of them. And when I say learning I am not talking just about poverty, but about who I am and who I want to be. In college and at home, I’m around people who characteristically are quite different: we don’t have the same career interests but share the same behavior, which is great for enjoyment but not for understanding other lifestyles. But abroad, my friends are people who have such varied personalities. Through living with them I’m learning with who I mesh well and through their personalities understanding my own. And, we simply have some great times together. I won’t go back to visit the countries; I’ll go back to visit these friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment