Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My First Joke in Portuguese

I know I already told some of you this story already, but here's the story of my first joke in Portuguese. The story goes like this:

I was sitting in the living room with my host dad watching the evening news, which had spent its whole time covering the riot that was happening in Maputo (the capital city).
There were some videos on the news showing people looting stores. In one of the videos there was this woman running away with like five colorful big plastic buckets upside down over her head. She makes it like 100 yards, when the other rioters around her notice what's going on and they pull the buckets off her head and each try to get a bucket of their own.

I turn to my host dad and in terrible portuguese I say, "In America during riots, people steal televisions; In Mozambique during riots, people steal plastic buckets."

He busted up laughing and I was totally proud of myself for the rest of the night.

The thing about that story though, is that it actually explains a lot about the social-economic background here in Mozambique. The riot in Maputo was over the cost of bread and transportation that have been rising recently. I think it costs something like 5 Meticals for a single serving of bread and something like 10 Meticals to go somewhere around a mile on chapa (usually some beat up old toyota van ran privately instead of a bus system). The exchange rate is something like 37 Mets to the US Dollar and the average Mozambican makes somewhere around 40 US Dollars a month. So say you have a family of five and you are the average Mozambican. And each person eats a single serving of bread a day. There goes half your income.

Ok, so why buckets? Buckets are hugely important to life in Mozambique as they are used to wash clothes, flush toilets, do dishes, and bathe. And since water service is intermittent, water storage is pretty important.

Also, there was pretty heavy vandalism because of the riots, which is unfortunate because there were millions of dollars lost while the country just doesn't have millions of dollars to spare. I think Moz is like seventh from the bottom on the list of countries ranked on the Human Development Index.

Crazy, right?

Your brother,


  1. Waddup Steve, your Tete adventure sounds awesome, minus the parasites. What kind of stuff have you been doing for the project?

    -Bob Tran

  2. Hey Stephen, If you can tell jokes in another language, you are mastering that language. Take care and hope you got rid of the sand fleas.

    uncle Carey

  3. Uncle Carey! Holy smokes it's good to hear from you! Hope all is well with the recovery. Just so you know, you'll have someone in Moz prayin' for you.

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  5. sounds like you're really gaining some perspective...and subsequently i am, too from reading your posts!


  6. Stephen, I love your blog. I love learning about the country/city you are in. I hope you are doing well... and keep the updates coming!
    Beth :)

  7. Hi Stephen, Cory here.
    I am beyond impressed, and praying often for you. I am humbled by what little you have shared, to know (again) how hard life is for so many. Something I tend to let fade from my memory to easily. I look forward to reading what you write - keep us in the loop, so we know how to be praying!
    Btw - the sand fleas would have had me running - somewhere other than there!!! And the mosquitoes? I do not like them at all - a useless insect, i think - wonder why God created them?
    Take care,

  8. Very interesting!! For some reason I am reminded of the New York Times story from the other day about the global project to provide 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America by 2020. Toxic cooking smoke kills nearly 2 million people a year in the world’s poorest places (a fact that I did not know), contributes to deforestation and global climate change.

    Like the sand dam project, there are so many simple things that can make a direct influence on people's lives. Thank goodness there are people with the foresight and passion to pursue them to make them real.