Mozambican Odyssey, #12: “The Thousand Natural Shocks”

“An African Madonna” by Susan E. Brooks, 20 x 30 inches, oil pastel on mat board

I love that line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet for some reason.  Whenever I struggle, I think of the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”  We all struggle with a thousand things, but in the beginning of our time in Mozambique, there were so many shocks, literal,  emotional, and intellectual.

The electricity in Mozambique is 220, compared to our 110 in the US.  I don’t really know what that means, but I know that getting shocked is more serious with 220!  For some reason, we would get shocked if we touched the faucet in our newly built home when we tried to wash the dishes.  We had to wear shoes if we were to be in contact with the water, whether in the kitchen or in the shower.  It’s a wonder we are all fairly normal after getting shocked so many times.  It became a joke among the missionaries on the compound.  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with us!

In addition to the literal shocks in our house, there were the daily shocks of seeing how a different world operated.  My son saw a lady at the market selling roasted rats and bats.  I don’t know about the bats, but the rats were common.  They say it’s a vegetarian rat.  What exactly does that mean?  Is the rat picky?  He won’t eat his mashed potatoes with beef gravy? Or is the rat somehow how okay for vegetarians to eat? Does rat meat not count as real meat?  I have no clue, but I didn’t want any, vegetarian rat or not.

On the way to town one day we passed a pet baboon.  I don’t know what else to say about that.  Then we were again shocked at the high prices at the supermarket for anything that my kids might have eaten, such as boxed cereal.  The local people ate a lot of corn meal mush, but my kids wouldn’t have anything to do with it, and to be honest, I didn’t care much for it either.  So I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen, trying not to get shocked at the sink, and learning how to make chicken nuggets and fries from scratch.

Looking back on all of those shocks, I think perhaps I should have lowered my expectations of myself and others.  I now know that culture shock is difficult and demanding, and though I did enjoy some aspects of the newness of everything, I wish I had rejoiced in it more, and learned to go with the flow.  Instead, I often felt guilty about all of the things I wasn’t getting done, wasn’t eating, wasn’t enjoying, etc.

Isn’t it ironic that we can feel guilty for not enjoying something enough?  It kind of kills the joy when I’m always critiquing myself on how I am handling life.  “Never good enough” is a refrain that keeps coming back for me.

But when I listen to the right voice, I know I am enough because I am loved by my good God.  He knows I am human and loves me still.  That is enough.

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