Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Condusive Life

This is Zachariah. 

Zachariah Lapiassi, Age 21

He is one of our closest friends at site and one of the very best people we have ever met.  He speaks English fluently, as well as Portuguese and Chi-Chewa.  He attends church every Saturday and is perfectly, impeccably, honest and good.

I wrote about him, before, last January, when he first told me about his life and his many, compounding difficulties.  At the time, he was doing data entry for a small construction business.  He was earning very little money and struggling with illness from the water in the city.  He was “suffering” from the “fierce heat of the sun” and “feeble” from “non-viscous excrement.”  He was wholly miserable, and there was little that we could do to help.

In June, Zachariah lost his job.  Caught between his Portuguese bosses and his Mozambican co-workers, he felt as if he had no choice but to take the most honorable route and resign from his position.  He moved back to his family farm in the village of Tchessa (5 kilometers outside of Zobue) and started selling gasoline on the highway. 

“Help me, Lisa,” he said.  “I beseech you.  Can you help me advance my life?”

I wanted to, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t have any connections in town and I didn’t have any ideas.  There was nothing I could do. 

Then Dan and I received a text from a missionary family on the outskirts of Tete City.

“We’ve been reading your blog,” the message read, “and we were wondering if your friend Zachariah would be interested in working for our church.  We are looking for an interpreter.”

I jumped straight up in the air and clapped my hands.

“Yes, yes!” I said to Dan.  “Tell them yes!”

And so the second saga of Zach’s adventure began.  On Tuesday morning, he packed two pairs of slacks and took a chapa to Moatize.  By Wednesday afternoon, he had already started working.  He is now officially a translator for the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.  If all goes well, he will transfer to the next missionary, and then the next, and the next.  We can only pray. 

It is the best possible job in the world for Zachariah, and an opportunity that he truly deserves.  I can’t think of anyone who speaks English better than he does, or anybody who is more devoted to their church.  I believe that he will be successful, and I am so, so, so proud of him.  His whole life is just beginning. 

In honor of Zachariah and his big, exciting success, I want to publish an essay that he wrote for me on the topic of Mozambique.  This essay, more than anything I could possibly write myself, really illustrates the depth of his language skills and earnest nature of his character.  He wrote this essay after I prompted him to find more information on this history of Mozambique.  Everything in this composition—the pictures, the vocabulary lists, the funny, old-fashioned language—is his and his alone. 

Read, enjoy, and learn!  This is our friend, Zachariah. 


The History of Mozambique
Life in the Olden Days

I am cajoled by your supplication, Lisa, that you want to know about how people lived in the past—
Zachariah Lupia Lapiassi

Before the emerge of maize seed and other seeds we see now, people were not tilling ground at all but, instead, were nourishing the following foods:  chitedize, calongonda, yams, mpama, bamboo ears, and wild fruit.   Because there was no maize, tender/fresh bamboo was smashed to flour for xima preparation.

When corn emerged there were no mortars or maize mills.  People would soak the maize in water for it to turn soft and then they would take it to the grinding place and rub it with a grind stone into powder.  Then xima was made in clay pots.  Indeed, it was a dreadful age.

There was no fire in the past but man’s brain gradually began to be witful.  People discovered that tenderly dried pieces of bamboo were a source of fire.  The bamboo would be cut to pieces about the size of a bamboo node and another would be cut and made thinner with a pike at one end.  The stout piece was bored in the middle to place the spike in there and therefore a man would rub the thinner one against the whole of the stout one.  The friction would render the crumbs to be glowing with heat and then the glowing crumbs would trigger fire to burn.  Underneath the stout bamboo there were some tiny nyanda pieces placed to kindle easily.

There was no metal after the introduction of corn.  Therefore persons used branches of trees to till the soil for the corn. 

There were no clothes here!  People used to wear nyanda to cover their nudity.  They were not able to find enough nyanda to cover the whole body so they would use the nyanda as a loin-cloth.  This is an appalling story.  They were unable to assuage the plight. 

Soap was not found at all but people used bwazi and chipuzi to cleanse the stubborn stains in their clothes and nyanda.  First was nyanda because cloth came later.

Houses were not as we behold now.  There were only molded houses not topped with grass as we see but they were oval-like on top.  Then after molding in that manner the houses were burned in and out to make it hardened as a pot for curry so that the rain drops would pound the top of the houses with vehemence with no harm. 

But with the introduction of metal people began to make arrows and the spirit of killing became common.  The matter was to scramble for women because men would try to marry many women.  Every man was supposed to walk with a spear to fend off himself unless he dies and then the killer would take the deceased’s wife as his wife.  Your enemy would come at night with a spear and get on top of your house thereby trying to bore the top of your house even trying to urinate in the hole in order to break through the house top-soil layer so that he can impale you and take your wife.  There was no unison but violence then. 

People were becoming able to make gun-powder using the salt-like substances formed on dried rock puddles and in caves.  They would take the salt-like matter and mix it with the well-roasted dry part of the bark of chatowa with some water added.  This is even used nowadays with people but it’s not publicly done.

Salt for the curry was not available but people used a certain plant that grows in water as salt.  They would dry it and then burn it to ashes and the ashes were put on a bamboo plate with some water so that the bamboo vessel would leak salt-like juices for the preparation of curry (as shown in the following illustration).  The name of the plant is mwerere.

There is a need of translation for these words to you:

Bwazi:  Bark (a shrub whose root-barks and stem-barks produce bubbles as soap)
Chipuzi:  Wild cucumber
Mwerere:  A plant found in rivers in which the ashes produce salty juice
Mpama:  Creepers (like yams, eaten in times of scarcity)
Matowa:  A tree fruit (like chewing gum but more sticky)
Chatowa:  A tree that exudes white glue used in catching birds
Nyanda:  A loin-cloth, cloth made from bark of a tree, mainly a fibrous one

I, Zachariah, am completely humble because with your request, Lisa, I have learned deep things which I did not know at all in life.  Please confine this in your mind and tell your siblings and parents about the past life here in Tete more specifically Zobue.  Now I close out with my assignment. 

Good Lucky!

--Zachariah Lupia Lapiassi


So here's to Zachariah.  Here's to his new job, his future prospects, and his funny, funny English.  Of equal importance, here's to all of the Peace Corps Volunteers who sat with him, talked to him, and nurtured his love of learning.  I believe that the Peace Corps can make a difference, and I believe that Zachariah is living proof of the positive effects of grass-roots development.

Thank you Chelsea, Katie, Angelina, Janet, Luke, and "Mr. Jordan".  He talks about you all the time!  Your time in Africa was meaningful and you are still important to the people who "knew you when."

1 comment:

  1. YAY!! What awesome new! I think the church will have gain an amazing assistant and friend -- wishing him all the best as he starts a new adventure!