Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marching on...


Okay let’s be frank. Moçambique is a beautiful country with unbelievably friendly people and some damn good bread but it’s also a completely different way of life.  In our sheltered world in the states it’s hard to believe that this is how a majority of the world always lives, never knowing anything else. My two weeks (sometimes it seems like a lot longer)here in Namaacha have opened my eyes to more new things than I can explain.

I’ll start with the fact that I’m in place where very little English is spoken and the only real way to communicate with the people I live with is through butchered Portuguese and hand gestures.  And while my language skills are improving, most conversations revolve around how we are feeling, the day’s activities, the weather and those words I can quickly look up in my dictionary. We’re not solving the world’s problems here but we’re communicating. I understand when my mom tells me I don’t eat enough (um when you eat five good meals of carbs and starch a day it’s hard for any given one to be very big), when my sister tells me which water to use to tomar banho (take a bath) and when my uncle continually explains the geography of Moz and southern Africa to me. And I was well aware that I got scolded this morning for leaving my boiled water in the teapot to cool overnight and for not refilling it to warm water for morning cha (tea). I was actually really happy about that one because I really felt like one of the kids and not the poor little American girl who doesn’t know a rinse basin from a pot of shima.

I’ve also experienced some interesting new things here in Moz.  Last weekend my mom was in Maputo visiting a family friend who was in the hospital, so it was pretty much just me, my sisters and my nieces and nephews in the house.  On Sunday I learned how to wash clothes and really clean my room and that night my sisters asked if I knew how to cook. I smiled and explain that of course I did - if it meant boiling water and adding the contents of a box to said water.  I pointed to a package of massa (pasta) and said “oh, I can make that”. My sister looked back and said “okay, show me”. I proceeded to make my massa to my standards (which means an eighth of the oil) and learn how to sauté chicken feet with onions and tomatoes.  I didn’t actually eat the chicken feet but I can’t knock the flavor they added to the meal. I was proud of myself until one sister laughed and said I had a lot to learn. Okay fine, burst my nice little bubble with your terribly true dose of reality. My confidence is fine.

Probably the most eye opening and uncomfortable experience was my first trip in a true Moçambiquen chapa (taxi like van).  Last Saturday we all went into Maputo with our language groups to do some shopping and practice our Portuguese.  We left Namaacha at 6:30am in PC only chapas. Now a chapa is like a really well worn 15 passenger van that will take you and 20 of what you better hope are your nearest and dearest, very clean friends from point A to point B. Safe to say it was tight in those chapas as we headed into Maputo but it was other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) and our language teachers so everyone was cool.  Seven hours later the situation wasn’t quite as neat and tidy.  Groups were spread out throughout Maputo and surrounding areas to shop because the place they normal go is officially off limits since it was discovered that the owner sells drugs to fund terrorist groups.  Now that order comes straight from Obama so there’s no arguing. Anyway, our group stayed with another group to do our shopping and after hours of walking all over Baixo (downtown Maputo) we headed towards the chapa terminal to catch a ride back out to Namaacha. This time it was our group of 10, 8 other adults, a baby and everyone’s shopping bags. It was hot, there was traffic leaving town and 1.5 hours turned to 2 as our chapa struggled up the hills to Namaacha.  One thing to mention is that Moçambiquens don’t use deodorant and have a very distinct odor to them. They are actually very clean people but being crammed into a chapa with a bunch of them can do number on your nostrils. Luckily we had all just bought our phones so we had some good distractions.  I learned that I feel quite strongly about my personal bubble, it’s important to open your window if possible despite the glares from the person practically sitting in your lap and I will be in incredible shape after two years because I plan on riding my bike whenever possible.


  1. I am still amazed that we have the connectivity for a phone call but, even if that goes away, the occasional blog posting will be nice: you write in a way that makes me feel like you're in the room with me!

    I like that you name your family with "family names": mom, sister, etc. I never thought I'd be "threatened" by those changes and am actually quite comforted!

    Some say (?!?) I speak or write too much, so I will stop. I am SO pleased to "see you" so clearly through these writings and look forward to your adventures!


  2. Oh Rem, it sounds like you're doing beautifully. I love hearing about your adventures and I'm so impressed with your incredible spirit.

    Thomas says he loves you and that he's very excited because he found his foot and can almost get it into his mouth. He wanted you to know that little tidbit.

    We miss you and love you, Auntie Rem!

  3. I wish I could come there with you! Sounds like a wonderful, hard, spiritual experience!

    Last week we went for Susanna's first ultrasound! Little bugger would not be still for the tech to get the proper image of the top of his/her head! She was hilarious too! Baby looks terrific and she is right on target for a March 21 delivery. Heard the heart, saw it, saw spine and head and ears and little feet and hands kicking and swimming! Sooooo amazing. She feels much better now too! Love ya! LOVE your writing.

  4. Em - loving your posts! I'm so impressed with your openness to it all! Know we're all thinking of you and living through your great stories!