A couple weeks ago I returned from my 4th trip to Mozambique in two years since I got back from living there in the Peace Corps. Everytime I go and come back to my beautiful home in the San Francisco Bay Area, I find it harder to navigate the space between two different worlds.
It was hard enough when they weren't going through a hunger crisis, but right now I don't even know how to describe what's going on inside. So many questions about life. When I look around at my studio, that was so generously loaned to me by my family while I "figure out" my life, I wonder how is it that I have so much when they go to bed hungry.
These arn't people from some distant news article. These are my friends. My family.
The two-year drought in Mozambique has caused food shortages and hunger. Hunger. And yeah yeah I know that California is going through one of the worst droughts in history as well, but you really can't compare the two. A drought in California means you pay extra for using more water or buying certain produce. It means you have to ask for water at the restaurant instead of waiting for the waiter to fill your glass. It means say goodbye to your home garden unless you want to pay extra on your water bill.
But there is water and there is food, if you choose you want it. In my village in Mozambique, there are no faucets to turn on and miraculously have water appear. There are no grocery stores where you can pay a little extra for fresh produce. In times of drought, there is no water, and since you need water to grow crops, there is no food either.
Cows are dying because there isn't any grass for them to graze on. The villagers are starting to BUY corn husks from big farms with irrigation systems in the nearest city so that their livestock can have food and not die.
I'm a meat eater. I was a vegetarian for 6 years in elementary school and high school, but now I am more carnivore than not. Last February when I went to Mozambique, I had my empregada (lady who helps me cook, cart water, etc) kill 2 chickens a day for me to eat. But this last time was different. I was ready with my money to buy the same amount of chickens, but when I went to the community chicken coop, I saw what I thought were chicks. They were the age of a full-grown chicken, but they were tiny because the villagers who run the coop couldn't afford to buy chicken feed, so they were super skinny. Even though it was only $5/chicken, it wasn't worth it to me to take their life for so little meat. No meat for me on this trip. Bummer.
Thank goodness for the double cheeseburger from In-n-Out waiting for me in the car ride home from the airport. I had been craving a burger since that day I peered into the chicken coop and saw nothing but chicks. I thought that I'd have time to stop at the Shake Shack at JFK during my layover on the way home, but there wasn't enough time.
Now I sit in my comfortable home, back from the gym, with my green smoothie by my side. Although I have an empty fridge, I have a Trader Joe's super close that I plan on going to to buy food for the next couple of days. There is always food available. Even if I run out of money, I could buy food with a credit card. Or If it got really bad, I could go to a soup kitchen and ask for help. Or I could go around asking for samples at See's Candies and Baskin Robbins and get bread from restaurants and then leave because of an "emergency". I say this because when I was a little kid, I wondered what it would be like to be homeless. I thought that I would live off bread and free samples. Realistic?
Life isn't comparable.
But you know what? While I'm over here in the US feeling "weird" (I'm dealing with past feelings of guilt and feel like that's not the best word anymore) about the injustice in the world and how humanity can be so backward when a whole community is going hungry because it hasn't rained, and we are numa boa (look it up), the people in Mozambique are consoling me! What is up with that? When I talk to them on the phone discouraged about life, they say, "Elisabetta, don't worry, we'll be fine. We don't think about things like you do-- we're not sad about the 'hunger crisis' and injustice in the world, we just feel the physical pain when we go to sleep without having eaten. If we are still alive by the end of the year, then we'll be ok."
Wow. They're comforting me. These people who have nothing but happiness are comforting me. I can learn a lot from them.
Have you ever wondered what the space between two worlds looked like?