Thursday, June 24, 2004

Two worlds....

So it turns out that I am a walking dollar bill. Really. I feel my skin has turned green and I now have a dead president plastered on my ass, or is it abdomen? Maybe it's a little of both. Either way, I am nothing more than a walking wallet in this city of Maputo....no, not just Maputo. Anywhere Mozambique. I guess that this is ok though. Afterall, it seems that I have come to Mozambique with some serious miscalculations. I guess I shouldn't have been expecting a welcome into my culture parade. I shouldn't have expected the whole country to throw me into some sort of initiation ceremony upon arrival. I am not entitled to anything else but the weird sort of walking currency position that I have inherited simply by being. If Mozambiquans are entitled to the poor African stereotype, than I can handle being someone's monthly salary. it's more the reality of the situation that I can not handle. It's this nagging thought that I am only now coming to grips with. This place is not real. It can't be real. I can stare in the face of a burn victim without eyes, the frighteningly frequent albino, people sleeping on the streets, red eyes, I can stare in the face of these things and keep a cheap/obscenely expensive dinner in my stomach simply because of this fact. This place is a national geographic special. This is a nightly news report. This is an NGO cause. I am not here. I am separate. Afterall, If I am a person to these people, not simply a meal ticket, than do they have to become real to me??
I often wonder what it will take for these two worlds to be real enough to each other. Will it ever be? Maybe this separation drives us from going insane. All of us. Afterall, how would it feel to know that Beverly Hill mansions are real while bread becomes luxury? Would that not drive a Mozambiquan to nightly fits of rage? And for those Beverly Hill inhabitants, how can the luxury of a nightly steak be eaten knowing that there are millions of those who depend on one cow for everything? Life would not be possible. Maybe this is why people turn away from these things. Maybe this is why Clueless is a comedy and not a reality. Maybe, just maybe, this is why I can exist here and still laugh. And why people can laugh around me. Life as usual.
I have accepted that I can never fit here. If my money is stripped, if my health is destroyed, my looks taken away, I will still not fit. I am from a different world, ruled by different monetary amounts. I may lust to understand poverty, to appreciate the clothes I wear and not simply wish to accumulate more, but it will never truly happen. So I can be a dollar sign. I can. Because I don't want to become real. I need to live still.

There was moment that shocked me into peace. One moment amidst all of the thoughts and speculation. There was one time only that I thought, maybe we do have a chance to understand. It was a simple sign. "Worship tonight. In English". Religion. That horrible divide. The cause of fundamentalism, the catalyst of war, the call to 'civilize', missionaries destroying cultures....yet it is religion. It is this same religion that John Lennon and millions of idealists wished away that also brings us together. Instead of no religion, how about a world that really adhered to religion? How about recognizing that I can sit in a place of worship anywhere in this world and be looked upon as an equal? In the matters of unearthly things, differences in upbringing cease to exist. Afterall, aren't we all God's children? Or, aren't we all living in the same land that Buddha found enlightenment? That Muhammad heard Allah speak? Aren't we all guided by the same principles? Love, peace, the release of possession? This is what religion appeals to. Throwing away who we are to realize what we may become. This is a message the whole world may hear. Yes, this sign is a sign of a missionary bringing a message of right way versus wrong way. Yes, this story is repeated in all world's outside of Europe. But this pristine world is dead. We can no longer look for cultures that have staid from change. We're all changed. And now religion that once destroyed cultures is loved by Portugese speaking Africans. This is all over the world. I once wished to see 'Africa'. This romantic Africa is dead. It hardly exists. The true Africa is different as the cultures that changed it. It is a new world, truly. Religion is part of this. Maybe I shouldn't hate missionaries...just accept that I might not like them, but they are as real as colonizialism. Africans today are not Africans of yesterday. I will never find this Africa. But I will find Christians and Muslims, coexisting with yesterdays ancestors. We can all find this, and maybe in this, we can all find ourselves sharing something real and deep.

So it is beautiful in a way. To think where the material world has failed us, the cosmic soul has potential to keep us together. As one, understanding, all reaching for one goal in any sacred place. Without guns we can be friends, without expectations we can understand, with our souls we can belong together. On this world. Right now. Walking dollars and street vendors alike.

Who would have thought?