Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oi! I know that this has been a long time coming…. I have been pretty bad at keeping in contact lately, sorry! It is just that everything in my life here has become so “normal” so the stories that I used to think were interesting, are no longer news, and therefore I have been lacking creativity and motivation to write anything. I cant remember what I wrote in my last short little message, but I am writing this from home where I have no internet, so if anything is a repeat , my apologies. The trip that I took in April was about much more amazing than I can even begin to explain, but I will try (I am going to try to put some pics up on webshots, so check it out too!) I started out the trip with a (sorry about the negative attitude) horrible bus trip from Chimoio to Maputo. The bus left early in the morning…. And is supposed to take gasp….17 hours. Not something that I was terribly excited to do. We ended up getting stopped a few times because they thought that the bus had human cargo… hmmm obviously being a passenger bus we would have human cargo, but the police thought that there were people in the bags on top of the bus and almost made the workers unpack everything, it was kind of crazy. When we were about 4 hours from Maputo the bus broke down in some tiny little village that had no energy when we arrived. Being the drama queen that I am I started crying because my bus from Maputo to Pretoria was leaving at 7 am the next morning, and they said that we would not get there until 11. As I am bawling my eyes out ( strange enough that I am the only muzungu in the village, but I am crying, which is very rarely seen in Mozambique) this darling old woman tries to comfort me in broken English because she didn’t realize that I spoke English, very cute and sweet of her. I somehow made it to my bus and arrived in Pretoria. I went bowling in the largest mall in Africa, and got a whopping 93! Pretty impressive huh? I guess that’s what happens when you don’t bowl for a while, but its not like I was ever any good to begin with. We took a day driving from Pretoria to Botswana, and on the way almost ran out of gas so we had to stop at some house in a tiny tiny village and ask to buy gas from them, you always know you are getting quality products when they come out of a plastic bottle, but the family was so sweet, so it actually turned out to be a pretty neat experience. Botswana was so different from Mozambique because there was wildlife everywhere, TONS of baboons and even a few wild ostriches. Namibia was one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. There are sand dunes everywhere, and they are absolutely beautiful. I went sandboarding while there, and if you ever get the chance I would suggest it, but the time it takes to walk up the dune( no lifts because it is a protected area) may or may not be worth the 3 seconds that it takes to board down the dune. Sossusvlei is beautiful, the dunes where giant and unfortunately I don’t have the words to explain it. We also saw more wild ostriches and a bunch of hoofed animals(springbok, Impala, blesbok, gemsbok and kudu) which by comparison make they lovely white-tailed deer in American very boring. Namibia is also home to the Himba people, who are believed to be the most traditional tribe remaining in Africa. The women still go totally topless, and they cover them selves with a brown mud-like mixture which is apparently to help keep them young looking, it was beautiful. Driving the the Zambian boarder we saw an elephant right on the side of the road, probably about 10 feet from our car, and of course TONS of baboons and warthogs too. We also managed to spend a few days in Livingstone Zambia. Victoria Falls was amazing. Apparently the falls are at the largest capacity that they have been in recent history, so if there was even the slightest breeze you could not seen the falls because of the vast amount of water pouring over, but it was increadible! There is a bridge over the river that I would guess is between 50-75 yards from the falls, and walking over it was astounding! It was so loud that you could not hear the person walking next to you, and when you finally crossed over the bridge it looked as though you had just gotten out of the shower, and I was wearing a poncho! Hopefully the pictures will be up soon!
Here starts an unrelated story, so if you are tired of reading this might be a good place to stop
Carrie and I have this wonderful student, Helio, who basically does all of our gardening because he just seems to have some inate ability to do so. He bothered us all year last year to visit his house so a few weeks ago we finally went…and I am trememdously excited that we did. He lives in a village smaller than Catandica called Nhamatama, located about half way between Catandica and Chimoio. When I say a small village I mean SMALL. There are about 12 little stores that all sell the same thing( sugar, margarine, salt, oil…..) and they have a school that has grades 1-7. Its pretty tiny. When we got off the chapa he took us on a “tour” which took all of about 5 minutues, but he was so proud to have us there. His house is about a 30 minute walk away from the highway in the middle of the bush. Part way there Helio yelled something in dialect that we didn’t understand, and he told us that he was asking for permission to cross the stream, because the place where we were going to cross was the place where women take baths, so for men to cross they have to first ask permission. When we first arrived things were pretty awkward. First of all there are 27 people who live at his house. When I say house, it is more of a compound that consists of about 15-20 structrues that range from houses, to kitchens, to chicken coops, goat corals, cow corals you name it . His father has 2 wives who live at this compound, and one more who lives somewhere else, but we did not get the chance to meet her. There were so many people that it was impossible to keep them straight. He has 3 brothers from the same mother, all of whom have wives( 1 or 2) and children. There were so many women and children, it was quite overwhelming. The entire time that we were there Carrie and I were the only females who sat on chairs, all of the other women sat on straw mats on the ground. Also none of the women or children speak Portuguese, and the 15 words that we know in dialect don’t get a person very far in conversation. Helio also told us that it was the first time that any of the kids had seen a muzungu, and surprisingly we didn’t manage to make any of them cry! A real success! The children(especially the female children) are extremely respectful of their elders. When they greet someone they bow slightly, bend their knees 3 or 4 times, and do a cupped hand clap as a sign of respect. I felt like we had walked onto the set of a movie. When it was time to eat lunch Carrie, Helio and I were served first and we sat at a table by ourselves while the others sat and watched until their food was ready. We were served xima ( ground corn flour, cooked with water and salt) and eggs. When everyone else ate the father at a table by himself, all of the men and boys ate at a table, and all of the women and girls sat on the ground. They all ate from community bowls and everything was shared. They ate xima and an okra sauce. After lunch when we asked if there was anything that we could to do help clean up they laughed at us like it was a crazy thing for us to even offer. They did let us help de-cob ( take the kernels off the cob, not sure if it is called de-cobbing or what) corn to make more flour. It was kind of embarrassing when the 4 and 5 year olds were doing it twice as fast as we were, and ended up getting 2 pretty big blisters on each of my thumbs and they ladies were quite concerned that I was not going to be able to pilar( pound the kernels to flour) when I got home. Little do they know that I have only pillared once in all of my time in Mozambique. Before and after dinner we sat around a fire and talked to the men, because unfortunately none of the women speak portugues as I mentioned. There was one girl who showed up a little later who spoke Portugues, and when she told us that she had studied until 7th grade she was so proud. It really made me realize how lucky I was to be born in a country where women have equal rights. We were talking to one of Helios brothers who has 4 children, and Carrie asked how many children he wanted and he said “muitos” (many) and when she asked why he wanted many children he said it was because there was so much land that was suitable to be farmed and that they needed more people to work on the farm…kind of a sad reason to have children isn’t it? When bed time finally rolled around about 9 o’clock I got a little scared, I had known what was coming all day, but when I was actually getting ready to go to bed, reality set in. We were going to be sleeping under a circular structure that was about 12 feel high and maybe about 20 feet across. In the middle was a pidegon coop that was raised about 5 and a half feet off the ground, and carrie and I were going to be sleeping on the edge of this structure, that’s right no walls, just a grass roof… and let me tell you it gets cold, at least cold enough that at 7am I could still see my breath. I slept about a total of 3 hours because carrie being the darling that she is said that I could have the inside closer to the fire, but little did either of us know that closer to the fire is where all of the goats and dogs like to gather and night, and the fire caused their shadows to look like a cougar( ya I know they don’t exist here) and needless to say, I didn’t sleep much….at about 5.30 we were woken by roosters crowing and turkeys gobbling. Definatly not the best night sleep that I have ever had, but it was certainly worth the experience. As we were getting ready to leave his family presented us with a gift of a turkey to say thank you for visiting. We really didn’t want to accecpt it, because it clearly would have been of more use to a household that has to feed 27 mouths, but it is particularly rude not to accept gifts here.
And that’s about it (hahaha…I know is really long…sorry) for now. Maybe a couple more funny( at least in my mind) stories. One of my over achieving students is reading a copy of Alice in Wonderland, and the other day he asked me how to saw tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum in Portuguese, because he couldn’t find it in the dictionary. I was writing on the board today and all of the sudden all of my students started laughing and I asked what the problem was and one of the girls told me that one of my students was crazy for me…isn’t that every teacher wants to hear. I then had to students named Koudra and Claudio who asked me if I could start calling them Stephan and Klauss in English class….strange little kids. Love and miss you all! Less than 6 Months until I am done!!!
Linds :)