6 Things I Learned during my First 2 Weeks in Mozambique

Our new pet chicken!

(This was posted in my original blog from when I was living in Mozambique – I’ve decided to consolidate the two blogs.)

1. It is impossible to sleep-in in Mozambique. If you are still in bed after 6 am you’re crazy. By that time it seems as if the entire village is outside my window singing songs, banging pipes together, and killing chickens. Not to mention that my window is just a screen with bars in front of it, so there is really no privacy. Even when we slept over at the beach on our day off I couldn’t sleep in. We rented a hut on the beach for five dollars. I couldn’t wait to get some extra sleep, but then at 6 on the dot the men in town started constructing a new hut right next door to us. No one should be hammering at 6 in the morning on a Sunday. That’s just ungodly.

Some of my students - only an hour late for class.

2. There are two ways you can behave here: Really really stressed out, or really really relaxed. Fortunately I have gone for the later. There is no such thing as a schedule here or a time frame, or even a clock. I have never seen such an absence of clocks in my life. If you want things to be done at a certain time, or if you like to make plans, Mozambique is not the place for you. Flavia was supposed to teach a course on Exell three months ago for the teachers here. She runs around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get all the teachers together for the course, but they always say tomorrow. I need to stay at the school from 8 am to 9pm, but I only have a class for the first and last hour. I usually sit under a tree for those hours studying Portuguese and all the students will come to me to ask questions about English and America. It’s very informal, but for now there is not much more I can do.

3. They really know how to throw a party here. Our neighbors, who we rent our house from, were celebrating their birthdays, anniversary and their car all in one party. They never had a party before so they wanted it to be a big deal. For the week leading up to it there were about twenty women working in our backyard. When I’d go out for a shower at 6:30 they would already be butchering a pig, plucking chickens and shelling beans. They would work until midnight doing this and then pass out on our kitchen floor. The night before the real party they threw an extra party for all the people who were helping. I was walking to the outhouse late at night and when I turned the corner and there were more than fifty people silently sitting in front of a fourteen inch t.v. watching a Jean Claude Van Dam movie with no subtitles. It was quite a sight. The next day the actual party started. Everyone in town was there. They paraded up and down the road singing a song with more harmonies than a Shoenberg 12-tone composition. Then they feasted on every kind of animal possible for the next few hours. Every important person from the community gave a speech congratulating the family, even the mayor spoke. Next the dancing broke out, and this is serious dancing. Even the eighty your old women were getting their grooves on. The party lasted until the last person passed out, which was around three in the morning.

I'm not actually smoking - I just found this floppy cigarette and thought it was funny.

4. They love to have meetings. Especially if nothing is decided during those meetings. They will go on for hours, last Friday we had a meeting from 8 am to 3 pm and the only thing we could decide on was that we should continue the meeting next week. I think they only do this because we get free coca-cola if the meetings last longer than three hours. That said:

5. There is nothing better than Coca-Cola. Nothing.

6. Different cultures have very different ideas of what’s appropriate. It’s pretty distracting when my students pick their noses during class. Apparently that’s a very common and accepted past time here. It’s also appropriate for someone to groom you while you are talking. I’ll never get used to a stranger brushing dirt off my chest, or another teacher wiping off my butt. During our last meeting my director asked me if I was pregnant in front of all the other teachers. I couldn’t believe he did that, but then he said he was joking because I was wearing a kind of shirt that only pregnant women wear.