Friday, May 30, 2008

There´s a bat in our basket, dear Liza.

If you ever decide you want/like sincere criticism, you should come to visit me. Mozambicans will tell you exactly what is wrong with you. Student will stare directly at your acne and openly question it. They´ll say "teacha, you´re fat today!" And you are supposed to take it as a compliment. "Teacha, you can´t speak portuguese!" It´s so hard as an American to not take it personally and say "oh yeah? Well, I wouldn´t exactly consider you as fluent in English with your meager ´hello, how are you? I am fine and you?" They just call it like it is. I had one colleague tell me that people are scared of me because I´m big. I´m SO tall in comparison with everyone here and I have meat on my bones - so yes, that qualifies me as big. It´s not like I glower at everyone or make slicing motions across my throat at people with a maniacial grin. It´s a real blow to your ego as you´re trying to settle into a new culture. I´ve just had to realize that yes, I occasionally get acne (but tell people "ai, those mosquitos really love me!"); yes, I am bigger than most people here but I´m not fat; and yes, I´m still learning my way with portuguese. I had students laugh at me during class the other day when I said something wrong in portuguese and I usually take it in stride but I couldn´t handle it that day. So when they said something wrong in English, I hooted and hollered at them. They got the point.

You do get those rock star moments too. "Teacha! You´re pretty today!" (A+ for you, my friend) "You speak portuguese really well. Are you from Brazil?" Or it´s great when I hold a lengthy conversation with someone and totally get the jist of the entire conversation. That´s what really fuels me. Not the flattery but the language comprehension. But flattery doesn´t hurt. On a side note, I was talking to one of my students about how often people take baths here and she said she takes 3 a day. I told her Americans only take one a day. She looked horrified, like I had just smeared mud all over myself and eaten off the ground. I didn´t have the heart to tell her that sometimes I only bathe every other day. Scandalous. But then again, I, and the majority of Americans in general, use deoderant (in case you all wanted to know that).

We´re having embrigada issues again. We´re fairly certain she stole about 200 mt from Nia´s purse sitting in the kitchen. There´s just no way of proving it so we´re considering setting her up and seeing if she takes the bait. This whole thing makes me quite disappointed in and annoyed by her because we are nice to her. I just gave her a phone and reading glasses. Her job is not that difficult. She comes four days a week and only works for a couple of hours. Other embrigadas have to come all day, every day and cook for their employer. We are respectful and not demanding in comparison with how I have seen other people treat their embrigadas. I abhor sticky fingers and people who steal with a smile on their face seem even worse. We can´t have someone in our house who steals, even if she is a hard worker. We don´t want to feel uncomfortable in our own house so we will see where this leads.

Everything is running smoothly at school. We have been having our future business leaders meetings each weekend. We have our five groups and their ideas (a couple snack stands, a papelaria, a meat vendor). Now it´s just a matter of getting them to try to turn up on time. I am working on writing a grant for our school library as well. It´s in tough shape. The desks are all delapidated and the books are all textbooks. Students can´t check books out from the library because they can´t be trusted to return them, much less return them in the condition they left in. I want to build more bookshelves and more tables and chairs. The kids are in sore need of better reading material so I would like to get them non-fiction, fiction and geography materials (maps and globes). They don´t have any quality books for research. No encyclopedias. All english dictionaries are english dictionaries. There is no portuguese in them. What´s the point then? They don´t know what they are reading if it is all in English. So I have to check into prices and numbers and see if I can help them out at all. It would be great to get my girls group involved and Nia´s art group to do a mural on a wall of the building. My girls group is going to start an embroidering project this saturday and I am looking into getting them active in the community somehow, maybe a big sister program.

The other night Nia and I were eating in kitchen and I got up to get something from our fruit basket on the wall. I reached out my hand and almost touched what I thought was a rotten banana peel. But last I checked, rotten banana peels didn´t have hair and lack the ability to voluntarily move. So we screamed and ran into my bedroom (her bedroom was closer to the moving, hairy banana peel). I gathered the courage to nudge it with a broom handle and yep, it was a bat. So Nia stayed in my bedroom with the door closed while I got it to cling to the broom handle and set it outside. I think it was stunned and that´s why it didn´t fly away. But flying rodents are disgusting all the same.

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