Friday, June 4, 2010
Irene is singing the World Cup song. "Ooo-oo-ooo-oh-oh! Ooo-whoa-oh-oh!" Mariama is giggling with sheer delight, probably at something she shouldn't be doing. This will only serve to provoke her mother, who is busy making breakfast and nursing the baby. The smell of burning charcoal fills my room and no matter how many hundreds of times I encounter it the scent always reminds me of camping. It's 7:17 AM on a Saturday and I just can't seem to sleep anymore. Three fellow volunteers are sprawled out on straw mats in the living room and I can't wait to finish this entry to go put on a pot of tea, not only to add some lemongrass to it (of which I just discovered it growing in my garden) but to help settle my stomach. I don't believe my GI system is too pleased with me right about now, no, not after two meals of restaurant food consisting of something other than rice and cucumber. Before this all began, I was laying in bed reading a borrowed book from my literary kindred spirit Margaret, down in Angoche. It's an astute social commentary on immigrant life in New York City, Nepali nationalism in northern India and the remnants of colonialist constructs. And I love it. Which brings me to what I would like to talk about: Books are my best friends here. There. I said it. Call me a nerd if you will, but in my world, where nothing seems to make sense and people always seem to want something from me, it's awesome to come home to characters and a storyline separate from my own. That being said, as much as I love to read here, I do take for granted my fully-stocked book shelf consisting of HIV/AIDS materials, Mozambique country statistics, popular fiction, Portuguese manuals and Africanists' perspectives on development. I say this because the majority of Mozambican households do not contain a single book. Maybe a newspaper (from the one news source, run by the government), or maybe a dirty water-logged children's book from the market (that may or may not be in Portuguese, purchased by a parent that may or may not know how to read). In a country where the average person lives off of $1 or less a day and the average book costs $6 or more, it's no wonder that the written word is an ever-elusive presence here. However, I'm writing to tell you that you can help bring knowledge and resources to children and students somewhere far away. With all of the jadedness I've expressed about just throwing First World money at a Third World problem, it may seem strange to you that I'm throwing out a website address. But it's directly connected to us, those of us in communities who both know and love the people. It's www.peacecorps.gov/donate, and while I do not have any project up and running yet, I encourage you to find one that you feel passionate about and help support a volunteer's efforts (preferably in Mozambique!). Thanks! :) ...and please let me know if you do donate.