Friday, November 30, 2007

SITE PLACEMENT and local language

Correction, the local language here is Ndau, because Mambone falls under the sphere of influence of Beira to the north. Any towns further south speak chitswa. This means that the self-study language book that peace corps gave me will not be of much use! I'm currently looking for a teacher and hope to study Ndau with the same guy who taught the priest and several others before me.
I received my site placement! I will be in Nove Mambone in the far north of Inhambane province next to the Save river and the beach. The river separates Inhambane province from Sofala province. Relatively isolated though there are other PCVs across the river and down the beach a ways. I’ll be the first PCV at the site. I will live with the school director for the first couple months while they build my house.
I will write more about it when I get there. I’m very excited about this site it sounds like just what I wanted, minus the mountains. As a consolation I’ll be able to continue my fishing habit developed in the Everglades and on the reservoir in NJ. Just need to make sure I stay out of the fresh water because there’s lots of NASTY parasites that live in there.
PC gave me a self study book to help me learn the local language, Chitswa (Shit-swuh). My favorite word is “kanimambo” which means thanks.

The freshman 15 and something funny

So we were warned that women tend to gain weight during training and that the men tend to lose weight during training. PC and I have varying takes on this phenomenon. I think it demonstrates the amazing resilience of the female body, which can doggedly continue to gain weight even under the most adverse of conditions. PC would probably say that it is due to the diet being so heavy on carbs (think french fry sandwich on white rice or perhaps pasta sandwich, no joke, Angie was served a pasta sandwich). The bread is really good, by the way, my capacity for eating bread and butter is higher than it has ever been.

So during a demonstration on how to use condoms, the health lady used an empty soda bottle as the penis and when she was putting on the condom some of the leftover soda spilled out and while everyone was shocked by this I said "It's OK... really It's OK" which I made me stand out as a minute man but it was worth it because the people who got the joke, including myself, found it very funny.

The Chefe

The chefe [chef-ee] is a very common role here in Moz and something I originally found strange but have gotten used to. In each classroom, there is a chefe de classe who is the representative of all students. There is also a chefe do cuadro who erases he chalkboard (cuadro) and a chefe de limpeza who rallies students to clean the classroom when the admin orders them to clean.
In each development of houses, there is a chefe do barrio (neighborhood) who mediates neighborhood affairs and serves as a representative for the people living in the area. I guess it just seems excessively bureaucratic.

Host family dynamics, including a bait and switch

Without getting into too much detail, I'd like to address the group dynamics within my host family. Sheila is my host Mom, she is 24 like me and is a wonderful person. She takes her responsibilities seriously and likewise with partying she takes it seriously, goes to church regularly and is a fun sociable well educated person. She takes good care of me and is responsive when I express my likes/dislikes. She is a professor, she teaches 3rd grade. She has a 3 year old son with her fiance who is far away at med school. She is helping to pay his med school and after that he will help to pay for her higher education. I really hope he doesn't do her dirty by cutting out on his obligations or giving her AIDS, but this situation is not unreasonable here since women are so submissive in this culture.
Also in my house now is my aunt Lourde, who was empregada (maid) of Sheila's aunt. I'll tell what I know of the story, mostly related to me by Sheila. Years ago, the Lourde the empregada got pregnant by a man who was already married to someone else and the family said she was a disgrace and she lost her job, but one of Sheila's other relatives took the empregada in. When this relative had to move to Maputo for her job, she entrusted Lourde with looking after the house (the one where I live now). The empregada spent the electricity money on other things and now the house doesn't have electricity (why would the owner pay for electricity when she's not living there, I don't know, but Sheila blames our lack of electricity in the house on Lourde, the power company cut the power connection to the house). Sheila's aunt asked Sheila to live in the house and look after it since Lourde was not doing a good job. At some point the empregada had Carmen, this child is the one and same who gave me scabies. Carmen has a chronic problem with pilfering food and small amounts of money from both her Mom and Sheila, which angers Sheila greatly, especially when Carmen ate a whole bunch of homemade cookies that were a gift from one of Sheila's friend. I've tried to help Sheila explain to Carmen why stealing is bad. Carmen recently got bad burns on her head when she knocked over a soup pot while trying to see what was inside, i hope her hair will grow back. Carmen is what we call "indisciplinada" she is defiant even though she's only maybe 4 years old at most and fights back or laughs when being punished, and suffers no consequence for this.
Lourde also has a 2nd baby with the same deadbeat dad i think, and this baby stays up in the swaddling cloth on the current empregada's back most of the day. The baby has separation anxiety and cries as soon as it leaves the cloth, Sheila criticizes Lourde's child rearing tactics here too and i agree with her. The current empregada is about 11 years old and just failed 3rd grade for the second time. I think she considers Lourde to be her mom. How does one fail 3rd grade, you might ask? Lourde prevented her from going to the exams because she had to stay home with Lourde's baby when Lourde got called in to work in the kitchen at a bar.
Across the street is Lourde's Mom, Laurinda. Laurinda was the first person I met here, apparently Sheila wasn't there to sign the paperwork and this unsociable old lady across the street became the official caretaker. Laurinda also received the money from Peace Corps, and Sheila was always in a situation of asking the money from her. Surely Laurinda was pocketing some of it.
During the scabies outbreak in the house (around week 5), I told Sheila that she and everyone in the house would have to be treated at the same time. Sheila refused (but "I don't have scabies"), argued, and eventually I resorted to asking the PC homestay coordinator, Agueda, to talk with her to see if she couldn't convince Sheila. Agueda told me that I would have to move houses because she spoke with my Mom and my Mom refused to budge, but it later turned out that she only spoke with Lourde. The fact that I was to move houses was to be kept secret from the family until I actually moved. I explained to Agueda that she spoke with the wrong person, that Sheila was my Mom and that Sheila runs the house and makes decisions about who does what in that house. The next day the mean lady from across the street, who never invited me in nor said more than hello and took no interest in me other than to skim off the money from PC, she came over for lunch and told me that I was mistaken and that Lourde was my Mom. Why did Laurinda come into the house and make such a stupid assertion? I kept my calm throughout the conversation and explained that this all sounded very strange, and essentially that I wasn't born yesterday and to this day I'm perplexed did she really think I was that weak or stupid, or that I would cave under her seniority and just change Moms and start calling Lourde my Mom and I guess Lourde can make decisions about my well being? It didn't even matter at this point, since I was meant to leave anyway thanks to Lourde's refusal to cooperate with Agueda, I only wanted Sheila to have a chance to make things right. I kept using Socratic questions to lead Laurinda time and again to the conclusion, what she was saying was a lie, it was incredibly stupid, and that she was making no sense, but she wouldn't budge and just held to her assertions. The conversation was riduculous and I hope that I don't have to have many more conversations like this, where assertions mean more than reason in the argument. But then again I get the feeling that this will happen again, chalk it up to cultural differences.
In the end Sheila agreed to treat everyone, and finally the PC money went direct to Sheila so we are all happy now.

My new NGO and "Peel Out" is it's Name-O

Thoreauvian amblers beware if you visit Mozambique! We are all aware of the risk posed by landmines leftover from the civil war, but this problem has been largely resolved through the work of de-mining NGO’s like Halo (Grant Salisbury, Davidson alum, travelled through here with Halo and debreifed me by email on this situation) and many of the mines are no longer functional due to corrosion. Stick to the well established footpaths and you’ll have no problem with mines.
I’m more concerned about a risk that is present on the footpaths and jeep-paths and roads themselves: spent banana peels. This risk becomes epidemic during banana season, though it is a year round threat. It’s as though Bowser from Mario Kart had joined forces with some slapstick cartoon character, the streets are littered with peels and I find it apalling and patently unsafe.
Once I get to site I will work on some grant applications to start my NGO, which will be called “Peel Out”

The Chichi [shee-shee] (pee pee) Bucket

Since the bathroom is outside, I was given a bucket to pee in in the event that I need to take care of minor necessities during the night. It is a wonderful thing. I can also spit my toothpaste in the bucket so after dinner I can retire into my room if it’s been a long day and don’t need to worry about coming in and out of the room. Other PCTs turned down the chichi bucket and are sorry they did.

Slaughtering a young dejected chicken and later, Thanksgiving Turkey

I killed my first chicken on Oct. 13th, quite a while ago, and subsequently killed my first turkey on the Friday after Thanksgiving so that us volunteers could eat turkey on that Saturday. We worked on Thursday, since we could not afford to take a day off during model school.
I was distressed by the way this chicken glared around, as though it were morbidly depressed, with eyes that reminded me of the kid that gets picked on in grade school. This was a pure white chicken for market, raised for meat. It hardly struggled for its life because its life had been so meaningless. I’d much rather it were one of the free roaming chickens that walk around Namaacha scratching where they please trying to stir up something nice for their chicks.
I had seen a couple of chickens slaughtered in the days before and so I had a pretty good idea of how it works:
1. grab young chook by the shoulders and pin wings together, can be carried like his with one hand
2. when ready to slaughter, other hand holds feet together
3. lay chook on its side and stand on its feet with one foot
4. other foot on chook’s wings
5. one hand holds back the head so as to expose the neck well, other hand saws with dull knife
6. once you’re through the air canal and the neck is snapped and nerves are severed, you can either take head off completely or let the rest hang there.
7. after the first bunch of blood comes out, hold chook upside down by feet and let the rest of the blood drain out.
8. give it to mom so that she can do the dirty work, which involves
a. soaking the bird in hot water so that the feathers can be pulled out easily
b. cutting a hole in birds abdomen just above anus to drag out entrails, including heart, stomach (which can be eaten after the contents are removed), intestines (whose contents are removed by pinching and squeezing out one end), liver (figaro), lungs
c. cut out and remove anus
d. wash bird again inside and out
e. we eat the chicken feet relatively often, you take off the leathery outer skin and cook what remains, the meaty part of the palm is delicious

As for the Thanksgiving turkey, there was a mishap as while I was sawing someone in the small crowd of other PCTs said they could still hear the turkey screaming even though I was sure I was through the airway and already heard the neck snap, so I took the whole head off. Just picture how long a turkey neck is. Once the head was off, the neck recoiled and started shooting the blood over its back instead of out straight. The PCT who I’ve had a crush on for a while was helping by standing on the wings, she got sprayed with turkey blood from the knee down, it was ugly. We have pictures of it, which I hope to share eventually.
The next day, the family we entrusted the birds to told us that they had moved them from the fridge to a freezer about 1/3 a mile away. WHY!!?!?! So Thanksgiving was delayed a few hours while we soaked the birds but eventually one of them made it into the oven while another made it into a stew and everyone at the party, 35-40 people, really liked the turkey. Everyone brought food, it was a great time and reminded me of Thanksgivings at home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

VISIT in 2009 or World Cup 2010 (here's when I'm free)

If you're planning to visit me in Mozambique, try to make it next year (2009) when I have more freedom from PC obligations. Or lets talk about going to see the World CupThese are the dates when I’m free..
School breaks for:
1 week in April, TBD
2 weeks in June TBD
1 week in September, TBD
1 month Summer recess mid-December to late January (I'm currently planning to come home to NJ during Christmas 2008)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My home-stay back-yard and bathroom

In the background is the casa de banho, to the right, and the latrine, to the left. As you may notice, the door to the latrine is a black plastic sheet which i lift from the bottom right corner when entering. The door to the bathhouse is a light cloth which sometimes comes unfastened and blows open in the breeze. In the foreground is the pool which is an old cistern that is no longer used, and troublingly it still collects some stagnant water. It is common to sweep the dirt in the yard of all litter, rather than mowing the lawn. lawns are undesireable as that would create habitat for snakes and other crawly things. Theres a mango tree and lychee tree in the yard, and the season is in December!
This is me and a couple of good friends on our way to the "Cascatas" that is, the falls. sorry no photo of that yet, it's waayyy slow to upload

Thursday, November 1, 2007

new flickr photo

also, i manaed to post one photo to flickr, hope more to come

Rhymes with Rabies

Hey all, so this will be unfortunately a skimpy post but it's what i have time for.
The most recent news is that I got scabies. It went like this: So I had this intense itch and later rash on my hand and later on less conspicuous places. At the time when the rash first became more noticeable and migrating, I also noticed that my little sister was scratching herself vigorously every night. With that in mind I contacted the medical officer and they said it sounded like scabies. The whole family would have to be treated at the same time because if someone else still has scabies it will come right back to me. One catch, though, Peace Corps can only pay for my medication. This will begin to sound more familiar as the years go by. So now I was in the position of telling my family that they had to all go out and spend money for something which they did not consider to be a very big deal. They also considered that hydrocortisone and anti-septic would be enough for some members of the family (that is not the case as far as I’m concerned). This has been a source of conflict in the house, since I am not an easy going person when my health is involved. I finally got the medication and just put it on for the first time today, it burned and my crotch was left smoldering for at least an hour afterward.
The rest of this entry will be in the style of Moby Dick:
"Some people see half a glass of water and say: 'that glass is half empty.'" A PCV looks at that same glass of water and says, "Hey, I could bath in that!" - courtesy of my friend Hans from my language group. Portugues is going very well, btw
I felt pretty awkward squatting naked in the tin roofed, reed walled, cement floored 5x5 foot bathhouse splashing myself with handfulls of water that afternoon when i first got to site with my host family. the doorway is a semi-transparent thin offwhite cloth that would blow open in the breeze. iºve since purchased a plastic mug to use istead of my hands, and iºve figured out how to lock the 'door'.
The routine:
1. have mom or cinderella girl get up hearly to heat water in a large pot.
2. watch as mom or cinderella girl pours hot water into large plastic washbasin then mixes in cold water until its good bathwater
3. add 2 drops of bleach per liter of water and let stand 15 min.s if possible
4. Bring bar of soap in carrying cup, towel, and perhaps a change of clothes to the bathhouse, put clothes on clothesline inside bathhouse.
5. wet and lather naked body. shiver if a cold breeze comes by. perhaps wear a wool hat.
6. pour water onto right shoulder using right hand and wash under arm with left hand. switch. wash rest of body and dry
7. to put dry pants on in a room with a wet floor, bunch bottom of pant legs with the belt loops of the pants so that each pant is creased at the knee. balance on one leg while putting wet foot into leg of trousers at a 45 degree angle
8. change from crocs to flip flops at the door of the house so as not to track in mud.

will include 'slaughtering a dejected young chicken'
elephant man of maputo/ if i were mayor
my new NGO and 'peel out' is itºs nam-o