Tim does a great job of writing blogs and keeping everyone up to date on what is happening with our family. But I have had many requests for “Betsy’s perspective.” And in true form, “I have been meaning to get to that.” Tim asked me the other day if I had anything to add to our “first experiences” for his blog, and I replied, “I can’t give you all my material!” So here goes…Betsy’s perspective….
As I write, I am watching what one missionary observed as “a six year old boy’s delight.” Outside our apartment, men have been working non-stop on a ditch, putting in new water pipes. So we have BIG machinery out there doing some amazing things. I wish I knew what they were doing. And more importantly, when they are going to be done. We have had this major construction outside since we moved in, and it’s quite loud, with jack hammers and the works. The pros: well, one will be a better water system. The other is they have blocked the road from traffic and so we don’t have any traffic noise! (And of course, when this is finally published, the work is done and the traffic is back.)
Going to the Market
I went to the “praca” the other day, which is the “market.” The woman who is working for us, helping cook and clean, Perpetua, escorted me there. Perpetua is a dear, sweet, petite woman who takes two or three taxis in the morning to get to our house. Some days she walks an hour and a half, and then works for 4 hours. She has a large family, and her husband is not working right now (it’s very difficult to find work here), so I’m glad that we can help by employing her.
Anyway, back to the praca (pronounced ‘prassa’). It was a very interesting experience, one I’m glad that I did not attempt alone. It’s not that it wasn’t safe as the other missionaries shop there. But it was much wiser to go with someone who knew where they were going and what they were doing. It was very big, and very confusing, like a very large outdoor flee market. I parked my car many blocks away, and we walked – over ditches full of trash, hard packed dirt, rocks and dust. People everywhere, and motorcycles weaving in and out. We stopped by a house to pick up her 22-year-old daughter, who went with us. I took no purse, and had my money in my pocket, as theft is a huge problem here.
Once we actually got to the market, because I was looking for “panos,” a particular type of fabric, she lead me in and through to the right area. I’d say that took about 10 minutes of walking past all kinds of open air shops: used car or motorcycle parts, food, liquor, household items. We were weaving in and out, with lots of noise, smells, dust, and people. I would have been lost! Then we arrived and… how beautiful! All kinds of “panos” to choose from. I looked and hunted and went from one woman to the other, trying to decide. (And for those who know me, you know that wasn’t easy!) Perpetua was quite patient with me, but I could also tell that she would be very happy once we were out of there and safely back to our car. By the way, I didn’t mention that she chose morning to go, because by afternoon there are many more people, and men everywhere drinking and being loud. The potential for being seen “as a target” was much less in the morning.
Why this particular fabric? “Panos” is a meter of very fun, colorful, African print used here for many purposes. I am using it to make curtains. Women here use the square of fabric as a wrap-around skirt; a wrap to hold their babies on their backs; a way to cover and carry their food; to cover up when it’s cold; and to make clothing.
I’m very thankful for the grocery stores here, many more than when Tim and I visited in 2010, which allows me to shop in a more familiar atmosphere. There are many options, and sometimes I go to several just to get what we need. And I drive there, if you can believe it! When we first arrived, I really didn’t want to drive. But now I have a sturdy truck and don’t get “pushed around” so easily. For awhile, I was driving my friend’s small car, and taxis* would just turn in front of me, go around me, cut me off, as if I wasn’t there. You have to be aggressive, or you won’t get anywhere! It is definitely a city, as Tim has said, and there are many cars, motorcycles and people, dodging in and out, avoiding potholes and open ditches, and each other. I couldn’t believe it when Tim was pulled over for a traffic violation. You mean, there are rules? (*taxis are blue passenger vans. It is the main form of transportation for anyone without a car.)
Shopping for bulk items is another experience I had. I found the “Cosco” of Lubango! It is not one store, but an entire area of town, with many warehouses. Thanks to Tammy, another missionary here with MAF, for escorting me from one warehouse to the other, looking for what we needed. You never know what a particular warehouse will have that day, so you are on a bit of a treasure hunt. What did I purchase? Twenty chickens, two cases of canned black beans, 25 Kilos of rice, 20 bricks of butter, 3 cases of other canned goods, two cases of juice, and more. The price is half of what you would pay in the store, making it worth the hassle. And the hassle is- driving around a very crowded area, getting everything loaded into the car while several men try to help (for a tip), taking the time to find what you need. As I write about it, it doesn’t sound so bad? But for some reason, when I returned home, I was pretty tired! But what a relief to have a month’s worth of food bought in just a few hours.
So that is just a few notes from my first month here. We have definitely adjusted quickly, and knowing the language really helps with that. We have learned to turn on the generator when the city power turns off; learned how to buy food from vendors at our door; learned how to get around blocked streets. But the list is long as far as learning about the culture and people around us. That is next.