On our recent trip to Mozambique we did a very revealing exercise. For one day we tried to live within the food budget of an average local resident. Everyone in the team received 10 000 Meticais (R2.50 / 0.40$). With that amount of money we had to buy our food for the day.

The evening before our exercise one of the locals gave us some hints on what to buy with the money and taught us how to make it work. On Maundy Thursday we woke up and faced the day in the shoes of a local.

Some of the people in the group elected to pool the money and buy some food together. Those with a more individualistic bent went their own way. The group walked to the local mall (pictured) and started buying food. I decided to join a group and we shopped together.

We purchased eight small buns, four bananas, rice, a few tomatoes, some cabbage and a huge cucumber.

One of the striking things was the vendor’s graciousness with us. It was obvious to them that we were doing a voluntary exercise. And even though they had this knowledge I heard several reports of people receiving an extra banana or tomato and even an extra hand of rice – these poor people have very rich hearts.Mark1

Our group’s menu for the day consisted of:

Breakfast: 2 buns with banana (no butter)
Lunch: A few slices of cucumber
Dinner: A bowl of rice with tomatoes and some green vegetables mixed in
Drink: Only water.

It was amazing to see how far we could actually stretch the money. I realized that cutting out some of the ‘junk food’ made the day a lot cheaper and probably healthier too! Drinking water and not opting for Coca Cola quenched the thirst a lot faster. Drinking a beer would mean eating nothing for two days in order to experience the bitter-sweet.

Now that I’m back in Johannesburg I can’t help but think about my blaze attitude. In a world of credit cards it’s just so easy to buy stuff. After the trip one of my friends, Suzette, decided to only buy stuff that she can actually carry in her arms. She told us that she came to the realization that she didn’t know what things really cost. And so the journey continues.