Friday, March 20, 2015

5 Mozambican Phrases and What They Actually Mean

Pobreza Não zanga

(Poverty Doesn’t Get Angry)

I thought this was an intruging statement insinuating that it was the rich who made wars. Nope, I wasn’t even close. I first heard it when my friend was talking about his co-workers waiting around the shop for 4 hours after they were supposed to leave until the owner would pay them. “Oh well, poverty doesn’t get angry” they said. My friend had left because he had the money to get through the weekend and would pick up his salary on Monday, but his co-workers weren’t as fortunate. The Mozambicans use it to mean that when you are poor, you don’t have any rights. That people can do anything to you and you don’t have recourse.

This made me realize the importance of Lev 19:13 and a number of verses in Isaiah that speak strongly of paying your workers on time and not oppressing them.

Americanos tem roupas Moçambicano

(Americans have Mozambican clothing)

It took me a while to realize that they mean ONLY Americans have Mozambican clothing. This again was a touch-in-cheek way of discussing poverty; only the visitors could afford the traditional tribal gear. The Mozambicans themselves have to wear hand-me-down t-shirts and misprints from the US and other countries.

The problem with Mozambicans: we give flowers to dead people.

(told to me in English)

One of the most profound insights I received about the culture, this one also means ‘we ONLY give flowers to dead people’. When you’re there at the moment, no one will appreciate you. However, once you leave, everyone will think fondly of you. This definitely happened to us and these words were a comfort to know we weren’t the only ones. Thank you Pastor Supresa.

Prior to que Negro

(worse than a black person)

My least favorite phrase of all-time, bar none. This is used to describe terrible missionaries, and yes, they do exist. But what I hate most is that it assumes foreigners are better than nationals, which is a very common perception. It leads Mozambicans to buy from a stranger before they’ll buy from another Mozambican, and do business with foreigners before they do business with their own. Mozambicans also treat other Mozambicans terribly, if they are paying them to get a job done. It also leads to Mozambicans thinking that, because of their nationality, it’s ok to steal and lie. One of our overarching goals is to kill this mindset and bring integrity to the people.

Mazungu, Mulungu

(foreigners, specifically westerners)

I had to throw them in there because I love these. They don’t actually mean ‘white’. ‘Mazungu’ means The Restless People, and I can’t think of a better name for us. If you are an African and used to the African pace of life, the most obviously different thing about us has got to be the pace of our life; how we are always rushing around to get things done and rarely stop to smell the roses. When our day stops because of something unexpected, we don’t take it as a time of relaxation – we instead get stressed out and frustrated and the powers beyond our control.

Mulungu means ‘the holy people’ or ‘the godly ones’. You may think it refers to foreigners bringing Christianity to the area, but you’d be wrong… The Mozambicans insist that it was what they called the secular traders for introducing beer to the land!

I'm sure I'll remember more notable phrases, but I figured I'd share at least these now :).

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