Friday, August 14, 2009

Family Trees and Earring Beads

And…I’m back for the last trimester of teaching in Monapo. I admit that it was really nice coming “home” to Monapo. I missed seeing my students and eating pasta sauce made from market cans of tomato paste. And I missed my dog, who Fabiao did an excellent job of feeding while I was gone. I might start making him chubby so that he tires easier. Is that inhumane? I don’t think so. He has so much energy. I take him for a walk and two minutes later, he is still biting my ankles as I try to walk to the bathroom. I am planning to give Timba to one of my students. She brought her dog to my house one day last trimester. Her dog is fatter and she is richer, so I asked her:

Me: Enia, would you be interested in taking my dog when I leave?
Enia: (Immediately answers) Yes, my dog needs a husband.

Haha! Now that is a very Mozambican thing to say. No one can be alone. Not even dogs. I’m not so sure she is aware of Timba’s character or she might say no. He is a slightly flawed factory model. My sister got to see his personality firsthand when she came to visit. One of the days she spent in Monapo, Timba lured a goat in the yard to have it chase him around out of pure boredom. I’m sure he thought he’d found a friend but the goat was probably thinking something along the lines of “I am going to kill you.” There is footage of it somewhere.

I’m trying to come up with creative lesson plans to end teaching with a bang. Right now we are working on family names. My students love talking about themselves, so I thought that making family trees would grab their interest and it has. I thought it might be difficult but it is even more so than I’d imagined. “Teacha, my father has three wives. How do I draw that?” “Carlitos, how many siblings do you have?” Counts in his head for a literal minute. “19.” “Wow, your mother must be tired.” Shrugs his shoulders. “Yes.” There are some sequoias being drawn in student homes as I write this. That’s the only way they’d fit their whole complex family histories into tree form.

It’s interesting to see my students’ families and their lives up close and personal though. While Kara was here, we went and visited two of my best students. They live in Monapo Rio, on the other side of the river. To walk to school each day takes about an hour and they have to leave around 5:30 every morning. And then they have to walk home after school for lunch. Then they have to walk back for physical education in the afternoon some days of the week (and even then, the teacher might not show up). They could take a chapa but that’s expensive.

Mozambicans are extremely inviting when you visit their homes. As soon as you set foot in their yard, they send a child to get you a plastic chair and place it under the shade of a tree. One of my students’ mothers gave us a plastic bag of soda cans and another gave us a full meal. You don’t want them to extend such effort but to turn down their food or hospitality is rude. It’s like when you are seven and don’t want to eat your beans and your mom has you sit at the table until you finish them for your own health. In this case, I don’t want to take beans that could be going into someone else’s mouth. But when you visit Mozambicans, you best clean your plate to show your satisfaction and as a mark of respect.

I’ve grown to really love Mozambican cooking. Xima (pronounced she-ma), which is the main staple in Mozambique and in most countries in Africa, has grown on me. It’s like doughy cornmeal. The traditional way of eating it is to ball it up in your right hand (after you wash your hands and you use your right hand because your left hand is considered unclean) and dip it into a sauce made of tomatoes and onions. It’s like manna from heaven when made by Mozambicans. I have yet to perfect it. It’s not exactly something you see Rachel Ray tackle on the Food Network.

Now that I have a functioning camera again, I really have to start taking more pictures of everything. I want to show everyone the market experience in Monapo so I am going to try and film what an average market trip looks like and attempt to post it on here. While she was here, Kara said it reminded her of the hectic market in Aladdin. And if you’re lucky, you might catch someone donning genie pants. I’ve seen it. That and people wearing witch hats, santa hats, bath robes, men wearing women’s tank tops and capris, Packers jerseys, etc. It’s a great place to people-watch AND be stared at yourself at the same time.

Next week, we have our COS conference in Inhambane province on the beach. COS is Peace Corps lingo for Close of Service. It’s when Peace Corps tells us about health insurance, life after Peace Corps and stuff like that. But most importantly, we get to see everyone in our group one last time before we begin trickling out of the country November 5th. While I’m in Maputo, I think I’ll buy some more books for the library project., which will hopefully be completed or close to being completed in a month’s time.

My proposal for my girls group got passed for buying more sewing supplies, a visit to Ilha de Mocambique and the HIV awareness fashion show. I now just need to wait longer than the average goldfish’s life to get the money. Three to four weeks. Time is getting shorter now and I am feeling the pinch in regard to my girls’ group and what type of impact I want to make on them before I board that flight on November 20th. They have really started to grasp the sewing machine but there is so much more to learn. Like how to apply zippers and how to make earrings that aren’t ugly. It’s hard to think of how to praise them when they string together fake pearls with sea shells and clear beads. They are some of the most god-awful earrings you’ve ever set your eyes on. Like something you’d find at a 90-year old chain-smoker’s garage sale. I just tell them to leave them and I’ll put the earring hook on them, but then I just take them out back (my room) and put them out of their misery (back into the bead containers) and hope the girls don’t notice.

I have about three months left in Monapo. The countdown has begun and until then, I will try to update once a week. That and teach my dog to be the gentleman and scholar I know he can be.

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