“Life has so many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once.” –Paulo Coelho
This year is an exciting year to be in Mozambique. Not only did FRELIMO, the ruling political party, and RENAMO, the opposing party, sign peace accords and finally stop the fighting and raids on each other, but it is also the year of elections in Mozambique, which will take place on October 15th. There are 3 parties with presidential candidates: FRELIMO, RENAMO, and MDM, a breakoff party of RENAMO. On August 30th, the campaigning started.
Even in the states, I’m not a huge fan of campaigning. I believe the goal there has become to humiliate the other party and expose lies or false promises more than to present one’s views. This campaign of negativity—and really the whole political atmosphere in the states—frustrates me to no end. It is equally as frustrating here, but for different reasons. Whereas in the states we have many opportunities to watch debates, look online, and participate in discussions about the views of the political candidates, here the information is rarely available, and mostly lies when it is. I asked my students how we can find out more information on the political parties. They said there are some ways, but everything is a lie anyways, so it’s better to just vote for who you like best (though I’m not sure how they figure it out). Our students are required to campaign for the ruling party and told to vote for them. I’m not sure if it’s legal or not here, but it’s definitely an order that restricts their freedom of voting/thinking. I’m sure this isn’t representative of all Mozambique, but it frustrates me to see such restriction of thoughts and ideas in a political atmosphere.
Politics aside, teaching here has been going well. Caitlin and I taught our students about co-teaching (planning and teaching with another person) and had our students teach lessons in small groups. Some groups were really good and had a great dialogue. Others not so much. The other day I taught how to read aloud. While it may seem a simple skill, it’s a lot harder when you don’t have access to books for a young age and have not had the example of read alouds in school. I read The Little Engine that Could, and my students loved it. After, we played follow the leader to learn about prepositions and they pretended to be a train. Who says adults don’t like to act like children?
We also did a unit where we talked about gender roles in Mozambique. It was definitely interesting. The students, divided into men and women, drew a poster showing the stereotypes of the opposite gender and acted out a short skit to show behavior. The women’s poster just said, “Mozambican men like to drink.” Their skit was about a group of men who were smoking and drinking and womanizing. The men’s poster depicted a woman in a capulana, traditional wear for women, but their skit was about a woman sitting and ordering her husband around. Interestingly enough, some men arrived at the house and began to tell the husband that he wasn’t being a good man. It’s ironic that the men’s skit about what a woman does turned into a commentary on what makes a man. I think it tells a lot about how Mozambican men think.
We discussed why it was harder to be a man/woman in Mozambique. The men thought it was harder to be a man because you are expected to work and be the sole earner in the family, so if you can’t find work or provide for your family you are looked down on. The women thought it was harder to be a woman because you are doing manual labor all day: cooking, cleaning, hauling water, taking care of children, laundry, etc. It was also interesting to see the intense stereotypes that they all had. One boy in my class, for example, said that men and women could never be equal because women will always spend a lot more money than men because they need makeup and hair products and clothes and will expect the man to provide for them. Women thought that men only cared about sex. The majority of my class, at least, was optimistic about men and women being equal in society in the future. Hopefully this taught them something about their own stereotypes…
I’m also planning on talking about HIV/AIDS in both my IFP classes and in JUNTOS. It turns out kids have huge misconceptions about HIV and have often been receiving conflicting information from different sources. Their schools tend to focus on things such as that tripping and falling on a knife that an infected person cut themselves on being a strong transmitter for HIV when in reality less than 10% of cases in Africa are caused from blood getting into a cut/wound. I’m hoping to dispel some of these myths and further educate these kids…
The big change in my life recently has been a lack of electricity, and therefore water. It’s definitely been a difficult 3 weeks. I was sitting at our table on my computer a bit over 3 weeks ago when I heard a noise like an explosion and the power went out. Turns out the transformer blew up. Because this is Mozambique and things take a long time, we need to order a new one from another country and go through all the paperwork to import it first. The rumor is that we won’t have power until January. In addition, because the water pump runs off electricity, we no longer have running water in the house. My life just dropped down from posh corps to not-quite-mato. Luckily, the school has a generator. This means that I can go to the guardhouse at night and recharge my laptop/phone. This also means that the water tank/reserve can be at least partially refilled at night so we can get water on the IFP campus itself. Even though we have to haul water, we often don’t have to haul it far—maybe 200 yards. It has made us a lot more conscious about how we use water.
Our life now has become thus. Sometimes we wake up early to get water before it runs out. Sometimes we can get it in the afternoon or at night. In the morning we’ll wash dishes from the night before (since it’s harder to see at night, we leave them to soak). If we have to do laundry (maybe once every week or every other week), we use as little water as possible and only rinse once instead of twice. We use the dirty laundry water as toilet-flushing water. We’ve got a bucket in the kitchen for washing water, 2 buckets in the living room for cooking and boiling/drinking water, a bucket in the bathroom for washing water, and a dirty water bucket in the bathroom for toilet-flushing water. When we bathe, we use as little water as possible. If I am washing my feet, I often use water we used for cooking, such as drained water from pasta. Believe it or not, we use A LOT less water than the other Mozambican trainers here.
At night, we cook over a coal stove. I’ve surprised myself by having a lot of success in general lighting the stove. It takes a while to heat up and to boil water and all, so I usually light it around 5pm when we won’t eat until 7 or 8pm. I’ve had a lot of success making things though, such as sweet potato curry, pasta with garlic sauce, scrambled eggs, soup, and fried rice. Around 5:45pm when it gets dark we light candles in our house so we can see. My headlamp has also come in VERY handy with the coal. Rich and I have taken to watching our way through the office, so we’ll usually watch an episode or two after dinner. Sometimes I go to the guardhouse and let my students use my computer. Sometimes we go to bed before 8pm. It’s definitely been a complete change in environment.
I’m hoping that the situation will, in fact, be resolved soon, but it seems nothing will happen until after the elections next month because our director is so “busy” campaigning. There have been a few times that the reserve tank has become empty, or the generator has run out of fuel. Word now is that the nearest well may have dried up. We can only hope that something will change soon. It’s definitely been a low point in my service the past few weeks, but now that I’m getting used to it and I’ve got hope for the future, I’m finding my positivity again!
And because cuteness…
Portuguese word of the day: Bomba (pump)
Macua word of the day: Wipa (to sing)
French word of the day: L’eau qui coule (running water. I need to figure out how to say this in Portuguese!)