Monday, February 14, 2011


For whatever reason several months ago, my landlord poured cement mix into a bucket. He did this four times, leaving to dry four short, stocky concrete stools in my communal sideyard. They remained there, scattered unevenly like birds on a telephone wire. Months went by with me passing them, absent-mindedly gazing upon them while washing dishes from my kitchen sink. Months went by without me paying them any mind until just the other day when I found myself engulfed in the stresses of packing, cleaning and errand-running in preparation for another trip to the south. Leaving my laptop at my sitemates' house, calling a taxi driver to confirm a 3:30AM pick-up, worrying about not getting the pick-up, figuring out how many shirts, bras, pairs of pants, underwear to pack, do I have a tiny squeeze bottle to put a bit of hairgel in?, wondering if Maputo is chilly enough to warrent shoes or a sweater, what if i come home and my house is infested with these roaches?, what if someone breaks in?, what if the bus breaks down tomorrow?, what will I make for dinner tonight?, how will I deliver my housekeys to my neighbor so early in the morning? I went to sweep out dirt from my suitcase, my incessant internal dialogue was kicked in the face and from here on out is a description of a treasured (and elusive) little nugget known as a "Magical Peace Corps Moment." Outside I heard the girls giggling and saw their parents-together-engrossed in some project whilst perched upon those scattered bucket seats. "Esta fazer o que!?" What are you doing, I asked, intrigued by their materialized concentration as much as I was grateful for the breaths of fresh nighttime air. Walking over, I saw Fatima's husband shaping a petite vase out of mud/clay and Fatima attempting to smooth out the cracks in the top of a bowl she'd just sculpted. In response, they said, "Servido!" a catch-all word meaning help yourself to whatever is being had. In this case it was a sticky pile of grey gooey slab and I just couldn't help myself. I perched myself in the soft glow of the porchlamp and started rolling my clay mass into a ball, while the baby became agitated at Fatima denying her the breast in favor of crafting her bowl. I chuckled at her finally giving in, getting wet clay all over the child, and at the older girls' desires to simply bake mud pies. For the first time in a year, I marveled at Fatima and her husband seemingly enjoying one another's company. Ten minutes later my eyes stung from low lighting, my back cramped from hunching and my podcast was blaring and almost completed in my room, but alas, my masterpiece was complete. A fish with bamboo score marks on the dorsal fin and an awkwardly shaped mouth was ready to hit the kiln...wherever that was. Obrigada, familia, I said, but I must be going. Before I could even say "screw you" to my To-Do List upon entering the indoors, a great chaos had begun outdoors. Within one crash of thunder a wall of water had suddenly started falling from the sky, dousing everything and everyone in its path. Parents, baby, little girls, freshly fashioned mud art-all nearly washed away in the whoosh of rain that prompted minor panic from those wishing to salvage items left outside and those screaming with sheer delight at the chest-pounding adreniline such an event brings about. As for me, I remained where I was, purely laughing for the first time that day.

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