Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury

I was sitting on my front veranda, relaxing after an afternoon of teaching, when my peaceful silence was upset by a ruckus. That's right. A ruckus. The primary school children won't give a moment's peace; particularly when Timba is outside. They tend to bark at him, throw rocks at him and generally taunt him with their presence. They yell "succa!" at him, meaning "go away," but in a rude manner, even though he is clearly in the boundaries of the fence and they would likely prefer that he stay in the fence, given their ungodly fear of all canines. Well, I looked up and saw a gaggle of children taunting him and then running back to the school. They were repeating this over and over again, like those little birds who have nothing better to do but come out of cuckoo clocks. Except these little birds were like the Pauly Shore birds of the cuckoo clock world. Don't get me wrong though. I loved Son-in-Law.

I had enough. I picked up my things, got my bag and keys and headed out the front door to the fence. I looked around in my bag for a moment, like I was prepping for a market run. My acting skills worked. I didn't look at all on a mission as I walked leisurely toward the school. I might have swung my arms more to look to be walking leisurely, now that I think about it. As I walked toward the group of children, the jig was up and they fled like Godzilla was clomping down the dirt path after them. It was that running-while-looking-over-the-shoulder-with-fear-in-your-eyes type of flight. And I'll admit - it was kind of satisfying. I tracked a couple of the fugitives to their hiding place in a classroom, where they were trying to casually blend in with the innocents. Au contraire. If you choose to harass a neighbor's dog, make sure you aren't the only ones wearing non-uniform clothing. They just sat there by their bookbags, as if they had been sitting there, casually chatting up their classmates and discussing the turning point in the economic climates of the United States and Japan.

As soon as I entered the classroom, which unsurprisingly was unchaperoned by a teacher, the kids started screaming. I am fairly certain that the two girls didn't think I would recognize them. I spotted them and grabbed their arms to take them outside. Immediately, one of the girls goes Helen Keller, pre-Ann Sullivan, on me, flipping out and crying and flailing her free arm. An almost immediate sign of guilt and angry denial. I took them outside, followed by every child in the classroom and we were quickly surrounded by what appeared to be every child in the school. There were no classes being held as a result of teachers not showing up, so I, the white girl about three feet taller than everyone within 100 meters, was the main source of entertainment. I think the girls thought I was leading them to the jail that is right next door because they started to drift in that direction. I corrected them and steered them toward the school office. For a moment though, I thought it would have been very interesting. I should make friends with a jailer and then lead the children to the jail to have them sit in a cell for ten minutes. Give them some time to think about what they've done. Deny them their one phone call.

The amazing part is that the girls actually came with me and didn't put up too big of a fight as I marched them out of their classroom and to the school office. If I were a horrible child, I would have laid down and had to have been dragged out, suffragette style. We were surrounded by a swarm of children. One little boy I know said "Irene! What did they do?" But he didn't say it in an "Ah, eegats, Senhora Professora, what did these innocent young whippersnappers do? It couldn't have possibly been that dreadful. You going to the clam bake next weekend?" kind of way. It was a teeth-gnashing, eyes red with the desire for blood kind of "sick 'em" you might see in lynch mobs. When I got to the office, it was closed and no one was there. I looked around and there was only one teacher in school and they weren't even teaching. Again, no surprise. So I turned the girls over to the proper authorities at the school, asked them to inform their students to leave our house alone, and then bid him a stern adieu. It was all very classy. Very Anne of Green Gables "your cow got loose in my pasture."

I never got so many respectful "boa tardes" in my life though as I walked past the school again on my way back from the market. There were groups of children standing around and as they saw me, pointed at me and continued talking in hushed whispers. Ah yes. All of Monapo probably knew about the episode within the hour. But at least now the children at the primary school know that if you mess with the bull, you get the horns. Or at least you run a high risk of me recognizing you and dragging you to the director's office to be given the punishment of cleaning out the school latrines. Personally, I'd much rather get the horns.

I was walking down the street the other day and a drunk man walked up to me. "Hello! You need to get your dog vaccinated! And you have to marry a Mozambican." I'm guessing in that order. This scholar and gentleman was referring to my dog's booster rabies shot. He is due for it in March. I think that the only way this man knew about my dog's vaccination history was that he is friends with the creepiest veterinarian alive. I went last year to get Timba his rabies shot and I had to talk my way out of getting beers with the vet with my own money. And that was before he called me his pita in front of a large group of people.

I will remind you, faithful readers, that a pita, here in Mozambique, is not a delicious sandwich bread that you stuff with an assortment of meats and salads. It is someone you have sex with at your leisure - a quasi-lady of the night, if you will. At that time, I just walked away quickly and ignored the comment. As of late, I have been unable to ignore this comment. Men around here just seem to think that it's a name you can shout out like Bingo on a Tuesday night. I was walking home from school the other day and a guy shouted "pita" at me as if he was calling for his lost dog. And yes, he did whistle. I wasn't appealing in any way, shape or form. I was wearing a bata, the equivalent of a white lab coat, hadn't showered in 48 hours, and was sweating so much, you could have set pots under my forehead to save water for the next dry spell. The next day, I'd had it. I walked past a carpenter's shop and a man called out the magic name. I promptly turned around and flicked him off. I have never flicked anyone off out of anger before and to be honest, it was exhilarating. There's only so much harassment one can take.

I just bought a sewing machine for my girls group and we are going to begin sewing lessons next week. I am becoming more and more busy as the year is progressing. I am starting a school newspaper and between that, juggling my girls group, planning the girls' conference in the city and my library project, I am beginning to talk to myself. That may be the first sign of insanity but hey, at least I'm never lonely. Everything moves at an anvil's pace here. For example, my counterpart for the library project has had to make three separate trips into the city to get the right documents so she can open a joint bank account with me. She had documentation before but the bank informed us that the documents were only good enough to open an individual account. This is an anvil with a heck of a lot of red tape on it. Some people get used to it. I, however, still complain bitterly about it in private every few days.


Anonymous said...

Erin, I read your posts on a regular basis and get many laughs. My daughter, Joy Miedema, is one of your group and I am getting a picture of life in Mozambique from you. Thank you for the great laughs.

Heather said...

You should figure out how to say "burro" or "sabao" in Macua and say that when they call you pita. It will make them laugh, and it will make you laugh too- because at least what you said is true. There are some real burros out there.

Erin said...

Thanks! Joy is one of my favorite peace corps people.

And good idea, Heather. The vila is cheio of burros someday. I tried to get my students to teach me insults in Macua but I think I freaked them out with my enthusiasm to learn insults, which I noticed when they wanted to teach me how to say "me offendeste."