Sometime in November...
I've never been coordinated enough to do fancy handshakes-you know, the ones with the fingersnaps and fistbumps. These calculated sequences were thrust uipon me and I've always felt as though I missed the rehearsal. Here in Mozambique, I find myself in the same boat, albeit with a brand new spectrum of greetings. Here in Mozambique, I live on a mountaintop, and on my way back from training, young kids shout "Hola, Mana Sara!!!" from afar, while those along the way giggle uncontrollably at my fingersnap handshake gone awry. But it's ok-because if there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that making a mockery of yourself for all of your bairro to see is essential. Whether it's comparing belly sizes with your host dad at the dinner table or landing flat on your butt in the sea of red mud-you must laugh, if for no other reason than to get through the day.
How do I describe my life in Mozambique so far? Tears, homesickness, rice, beans, rain, mud, scorching heat, geckos, goats, market day, cockroaches, rats, pride, joy, anxiety, and the like. But "the like" is o much more and I could not conceivably encapsulate these 6 weeks into a bottom-line statement. For now, we'll have to settle on "emotional rollercoaster."
You're right, that is a lackluster term in this instance. Let's move on, shall we?
So, really, you're probably reading this and wondering when I"ll get to the good stuff-the "Africa" stuff. The wild animals, trekking through the bush, tales of hut-style living, eating bugs, conflict zones, babies with big bellies and sprawling, barren landscapes. Well reader, these things I have yet to see, and so far the Africa I know is so, so much more. Yes, there are wild animals up north and sometimes ascending the clouds to my house can seem like the bush, but my life here is filled with wonderful people, beautiful scenery and interesting experiences.
They say that events such as JFK's assassination or September 11th we'll remember for the rest of our lives-my first steps out of the airport in Maputo were no different. My heart was pounding, my blood was racing and I'd wondered what I'd gotten myself into. The children begging for change, the shantytowns punctuated by massive corporate logos, the vendors selling bootleg DVDs and official signage in Portuguese-these images made me realize I was here. However, what I will most remember is seeing the name of a secondary girl's school as we drove past-a name I recognized from an academic article I'd read at Panera in preparation for coming here.
But alas, loved ones, the culture shock has worn off and the homesickness isn't quite as unbearable. I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to write, but you're catching me at a good time. I'm now used to peeing in an outside bathhouse, having unruly hair (NOTE: Africa brings about an entirely new meaning to "frizzy."), scraped and blistered feet and having the roosters wake me up at dawn every morning.
As of right now I'm sitting by lantern light writing this in hardcopy. The rain falls so loudly on my tin roof that it sounds as though Chicken Little was indeed a prophet. Because of the downpour, the rats have chosen to invade my room, having bravely by-passed the poison ladid down by my host mom earlier in the day. Despite the rats and the rain, I'm feeling pretty good about eating by candlelight with my family tonight-there was not evening news about elections or SADC or Mugabe to divert our attention from one another.
Speaking of dinner, you're probably wondering about the food here. "Did they sacrifice a goat for you and make you drink it's blood?" No, although I'm sure I would have been honored just the same. I've heard the diet here likened to that of Southern cuisine (says the couple friends from Arkansas) or that of my hispanic friend's grandma's cooking. Beans, rice, fried chicken, xima (grits)-the staples. And then there are the dishes that take hours of labor-only to be gobbled up heartile in two minutes flat. Matapa, couvé, carapão-many involve peanuts, coconut milk and collard greens. Delicious! However, I'll be the first to point out that there is a severe lack of hot sauce here. :) Rest assured that at site spices and or condiments will be procured.
Speaking of site, I'll be moving there in mid-December after the Swearing-In ceremony and while I am elated at the prospect of making my house a home, I'll indeed miss the people who so graciously took me under their wing for ten weeks. I won the host family megamillions: Two sisters, one who kills rats with her flip flops, one who can shake her booty like nobody's business; a dad who wears 1990s boardshorts and fixes things that arent broken, a brother who'll engage me in political debates or walk me home from a friend's house at night; and a big-hearted, badass of a host mom who can crack a coconut in less than 3 seconds flat. Not to mention, an adorable 2 year old nephew who meets me at the gate while stuffing his face with rice. To say "we have fun" is an understatement. Remember the previous lesson of making fun of yourself? Such is a constant here atop the mountain-whether it's confusing the Portuguese word for "mud" with that of a traditional dish of green veggies or doing jazzercize on the front lawn, my family seems pretty entertained.
"I never wantd to be away from the family. Intuitively, I knew how easily
distances could harden and become permanent. On the ride to Boca Chica I was
always too depressed to notice the ocean, the young boys fishing and selling
cocos by the side of the road, the surf exploding into the air like a cloud
of shredded silver." -Junot Diaz, "Drown"