Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yep, no joke. I WOULD like a shovel.

So I had one of my most fulfilling and action-packed days during my time in Monapo. I woke up around 6:30 and did some exercises, working up a sweat and a sore body for the next two days. That´s what going from constant inaction to jumping jacks and lunges will do to you. My warning to all. Anyhoo, I went to the bank and Oasis, a store in town. As I was walking away from the ATM, a lady was approaching it and asked me as we passed each other "esta pagar?", which means "it´s paying?" It was my shining moment. She expected that I understood portuguese and I did, so I beamed at her and answered "sim!" I gave myself a pat on a sunburned shoulder and kept walking on my way to the store. When I got to the store, a Chinese guy was in there and seemed to be having communication problems with the store owner, which isn´t surprising because the store owner isn´t exactly sunshine and daffodils any time I´ve ever talked with him. The Chinese guy proceeded to ask me in English to ask the store owner what type of bread is better. This guy expected me to speak portugese as well...and lo and behold, I did. So I asked the store owner, getting a shoulder shrug and "I dunno." I relayed the status of the bread, made my purchase and walked out into the scorching Nampula street like Mary Tyler Moore on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. If my baseball cap hadn´t been dripping with sweat, I would have thrown it while spinning beneath it. I basked in the glory of my knowledge of a second language for the ten minutes it took to walk home and then reality set in of having to work on lesson plans.

It´s not that I don´t like lesson plans or that it´s difficult - it´s just boring. I talked with one of our colleagues at work and apparently we don´t find out what grades we´ll both be teaching until tomorrow. Friday. And school starts Monday. So our colleague told us to prepare three weeks worth of lesson plans for 8th to 10th grade. We really don´t understand the education system that well yet so these lesson plans are a total shot in the dark. Better than nothing.

As I sat at my desk, listening to music and scribbling away on lesson plans, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I went out into the kitchen area and there was something flying around. At first I thought it was a bird, but then when I walked to the screen door to our porch, I did in fact see a bat clinging to the screen. Instantly I flashed back to when I was little and saw something flying around in our upstairs. I was like "oh, a bird!" And it was a bat in that case too. My mom and dad responded quickly, grabbing a paper bag and a pair of tongs, beelining for the stairway. I had the opposite reaction. This is one way in which I am neither of my parents´daughters, as the term goes. Of course I freaked out and flung the door shut, trapping it between the door and the screen door, calling out to Nia so that we could freak out together. We went out front to catch a glimpse of it and to declare it to be "so disgusting." I worked up the courage to go inside and unlock and push open the screen door so it could fly away of its own volition but it still wouldn´t budge. So of course, what do you do if a bat won´t move? You throw rocks at it. The only result that got was that the bat wet itself on our screen out of fear. Very nice. We attracted a nice little crowd of children who had been shredding cardboard for no good reason in front of our house. Apparently, we became more interesting than cardboard when we started shrieking. "Uma cobra?" they asked. A snake? "Nao!" we called back, as they peered through our reed fence that they parted with their hands to watch our little performance. Nia flapped her arms like a bird, totally not getting the essence of a bat across, but we couldn´t think of the word.

Living in Mozambique has convinced me that I´d fail miserable if I ever took up competitive charades. For example, I later went to the market to buy a shovel to dig a trash pit in our yard. A shovel is "pa." Maybe I´m not nasal enough with some words but when I encounter a blank stare for 2 repetitions of the word or phrase, I launch into full-on mime mode. Flapping and ducking and pretending to eat with my hands. Hand signals here are different too, heightening the hurdle of cultural assimilation. The hand signal of cupping your hand to say "bye" in the U.S. for example, means "come here" in Moz. But back to the business of the shovel. I purchased the shovel to dig our super-awesome trash pit so that children will have to pull a mission impossible with a rope ladder to steal our garbage. I don´t want a mountain of garbage in our yard either, since I´ve taken up gardening and landscaping our yard. I finished a stone path to our bathroom this morning actually. So...I walked around the market a bit with my shovel after successfully getting the lady working the store to understand me and headed home. I have never gotten so many stares and questions since I´ve gotten here. And trust me. I have had plenty. "What are you going to do with that?" was the question of the hour, to which I responded "beat people with it." When that got a silent, awkward response, I continued with "dig a garbage thing," and then I´d get the smile. I´ve found that any word I can´t think of or I don´t know, I tend to replace with "thing", a list which now includes "pit."

As I walked home, casually swinging my shovel, I got offers to work for me and people who would nudge other people and look in my direction. Apparently they´ve never seen a white woman carrying a shovel. Whenever I got the offers for people to work for me, I would respond "no, this is for me. I love shovels," giving my new purchase a loving squeeze. That got a rise out of them. At least walking with it shows people I´m not afraid of work and that if anyone attenpts to rob us , I have yet another weapon in my arsenal of a machete and hoe to wield to scare them. Or maybe they could just steal the shovel too. Who knows. But it was such a good conversation topic. I should carry it around constantly.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

And so begins 2008...

I had a great time in Angoche for Christmas and I returned to Monapo for New Years because I didn't feel comfortable leaving our humble abode for that long. And lo and behold, someone had stolen our capulana tablecloth through a little hole that isn't covered with netting on our barred back windows. I'm actually fairly impressed, besides being disappointed at the loss of my capulana. They went fishing for that sucker and got it. With that much work, they can just have it. If I see someone walking around with that capulana on though, I'll know that they stole it or got it from someone who stole it because it's a capulana from Maputo and they seem to vary with regions.

I am in the city for the day and it's turned out well. At the beginning, not so much. I caught a chapa where the cobrador (the guy who takes the money) was practically sitting on my lap (he should have been paying me) and I was pushed up against a young mother who was continually breastfeeding her baby. Being from a non-public-breastfeeding country, I wasn't sure where to look. My knees weren't crammed against the seat in front of my though so I had little cause to complain. The real problem came when I got to the chapa stop and I was stopped. They claimed that my passport copy wasn't suitable and that they required the real deal. I assured them that it was an official copy from Maputo, pointing out the stamps and signatures. When they kept pressing me, I told them I could have them talk to my contact person in Nampula and he would sort it out. Then one of them said "so you have a lot of credit to talk?" So he was basically saying, you have a lot of money. To this, I said "no, I am going to have him call us." They didn't want to talk to him though (surprise, surprise) and after about 10 minutes, they let me walk away. It wasn't scary. Just an annoyance really because I definitely got the drift they were looking for money and I wasn't about to buckle. And when I got to the Peace Corps office, I found I'd gotten packages from the family and my next door neighbor in the states (thank you, thank you, thank you!). Using the internet to talk to everyone and pick up mail makes the cobrador's lap dance and the passport stop totally worth it. :)

I have been reading like a fiend at my house while I am waiting for life to become busy. I am also writing four pages in my journal pretty much everyday and going to the market, so I am not lacking in things to do. It is lonely but not that bad. My roommate should be coming back tomorrow or Monday from Angoche so I'll be able to speak in English again. Hallelujiah! :) I have been chatting with a tailor who has a sewing machine on the side of the main road in Monapo each day too and I told him I'd buy a capulana and have him make me a skirt out of it. At first when he started speaking to me, I thought he was talking in Macua but it was portuguese. I felt pretty stupid.

There is a little boy who comes by our house about once a day and yells out for my roommate and when he tires of her not responding (since she's not there and I'm too lazy to get up), he calls for me. Yesterday I told him I would play soccer with him after lunch but then it started to downpour. The rainy season is starting here but I'm excited because that means that more vegetables and fruit are coming down the line eventually. I have been eating a lot of garlic bread and egg sandwiches, which I must admit, are delicious. It seems like one out of three eggs is usually bad though so I always have to crack them open in a bowl first to make sure they're not going to make me use the bathroom at 2 am.

Here's my address for packages and mail now that I have moved north. It's in the city but I'll be coming here probably once every two to three weeks to check on mail and buy stuff.

Erin Lynum, PCV
Corpo da Paz
Rua dos Continuadores No. 24-A
C.P. 526
Cidade de Nampula, Nampula