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October 17, 2002

Q & A

I had the very good fortune of going home for my sisters wedding. But, while I was there I was asked a slew of questions. I figured that it may be a good idea to share them all! Hopefully my answers will be interesting!



What do you eat?
Have you gotten sick yet?
Can you drink the water?
What are your living conditions like?
What are the living conditions of the people in the community?
What do the people in the community think of you?
How is your Portuguese?
Are there many wild animals?
Are you an American African?
What do you miss about the States?
What has surprised you most?
What is a typical week like?
What do you do for fun?
Can I come and visit you?
Do you have photos of anyone?

What do you eat?

I eat loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. We are sure to eat very healthy foods since maintaining good health is very important here. I do not eat bugs of any sort. We do eat goat once a week. Goat day is always very special! It is pretty good. It has the texture of corned beef, but doesn't taste at all like that. We have fish once a week, too. The fish is prepared by dropping a whole fish, head, fins, bones, scales, and all, into oil to fry. It took me a long time to bring myself to eat it. But, now, I have come to enjoy it.

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Have you gotten sick yet?

I have been unbelievably lucky so far and have not been sick. BUT, I have only been here during the dry season so far. It is in the rainy season that all sorts of sicknesses come up. I can share with you a little list of the ailments of the 5 people I live with though.

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Can you drink the water?

Nope, no way. We get our water from a well with a time released bleach block in it. Then, the water gets boiled and sent through a ceramic filter. Then, we can drink it. When our clothes are washed, we have to iron them before wearing them just to kill everything in the water. We could, potentially, get bad rashes and funguses just from our clothes! We do have water that comes out of our tap. But, this is usually, at least, tinted brown as it comes from the river where people wash clothes and bathe. Can't drink it or cook with it. After washing dishes, we dip them in a bleach and water solution in order to kill off any remaining bugs.

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What are your living conditions like?

During my year here, I will live with anywhere from 2-7 other volunteers...some from the States, but also from Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, and Japan. We have 3 foreign directors, too, they are from the States, Puerto Rico, and Poland. We have quite an international community! Each of us, in our house, has our own rooms. We share the living room and the kitchen and dining room, and bathrooms, too. We actually have a wonderful woman, Emilia, who does the cooking, cleaning, and washes our clothes. She is a godsend! The idea is that if we had to do that work ourselves, we would have no time for our jobs! Which is true. It usually takes at least 2 full days just to wash all the clothes by hand! We do have electricity and running water.... although both are quite fickle. We have toilets that we bucket flush. We take bucket showers. All in all, I feel like I have adapted quite well. It does not seem like a hard life at all.... but then again, I know I am a fairly adaptable person!

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What are the living conditions of the people in the community?

The people in the community live quite simply. Just a handful (usually the teachers at our school) have electricity or water. Usually a few families share one latrine. Usually, each family has a small garden (although not always at their house) that provides the family food. One of the big problems that we face is in parents not sending their children to school. It is true that many parents just do not have the school fees. Also, many parents need their children to help in the garden or to actually sell little things in the market. Slowly, it is starting to change, though, as Moçambique becomes more and more developed. Most schools even offer night classes for children so that they can still work or help their parents, too.

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What do the people in the community think of you?

I am a novelty and a curiosity to say the very least. However, it seems that people's views change depending on their age. Babies and toddlers are usually terrified of me and burst into shrieks and tears at the sight of me. Those who can walk already, run away. Kids usually sit at a distance of 5 feet or more and just stare. If I do not scare them too much, they sometimes come a little closer and return my smile or my handshake. Kids also like to call out "MUSCULO! MUSCULO!! which is the local word for "WHITE PERSON! WHITE PERSON!!" I have likened it to the punch-bug game that we play during car rides. For the most part, they do not want me to come and talk to them, after all, I AM terribly scary. I think they just like to point me out to everyone. Announce my presence. People in markets think that I have a lot of money. Luckily, now, I know, for the most part, what things SHOULD cost. I can make a joke of it now, when someone DOES try to rip me off. Men on buses think that I am available to teach them ALL English, give them all books, and, of course, date them all. Many people think that I cannot understand or speak Portuguese and will say things that they, OBVIOUSLY, did not intend for my ears!

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How is your Portuguese?

My Portuguese is coming along. Luckily the students are wonderfully kind and understanding. I know that I am not learning the textbook, proper Portuguese. In fact, Amy, my housemate, thinks that the Portuguese we are learning here could be compared to the English someone would learn in Harlem. Don't know about THAT! However, everyone here in Moçambique speaks Portuguese as their second language, if at all. In this area, people speak Sena first. It is just when a child goes to school that he or she learns any more than a few words of Portuguese. If I was staying more than just a year, I would like very much to learn Sena. It is difficult when I have no way of communicating verbally with a child or with many women over the age of 25.

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Are there many wild animals?

Nope.... my stories about the wildlife are about cockroaches and mice. Not so exotic, but entertaining nevertheless. Actually, between the war for independence and the following civil war, which together lasted from 1965-1992, most indigenous animals to Moçambique were killed. There is an effort being made to repopulate, especially in the government run parks.

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Are you an American African?

Nope, I am just a white person. Doesn't matter where I am from so much.

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What do you miss about the States?

I miss Home Depot. Not the answer you were expecting, huh? But it is true. I have just started on this new project of renovating a community center. There would be nothing I would like more than to go to Home Depot and buy EVERYTHING that we need at a fair price. I have spent hours and hours just buying supplies!
I also miss chocolate ice cream and comfortable chairs.
Oh, yeah, I miss my family and friends, too. Of COURSE! I am just teasing.... really.

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What has surprised you most?

I was expecting to find toughness about the people here. After all, they DO live a hard life...filled with death, poverty, illness. I found quite completely the opposite. I found a lightness and a spirit that I have never seen before. I have been touched many many times by the generosity here. There is a motto that all people follow. It is "If you have a lot, you give a lot. If you have a little, you give a little." I think there is a lot to be learned from the Moçambican people.

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What is a typical week like?

There is barely such thing. However, I teach 3 English classes, 2 general knowledge classes, and supervise 5 agriculture practical lessons each week. It still takes me a long time to prepare lessons as I still pretty much translate everything from English to Portuguese first just so that I know that I know every verb and noun I will want to use. I go to 3 different meetings each week (2 with the students, one with the teachers). I play volleyball 3 times per week with the students. I watch their soccer game once a week. And, I just spend time with the students, too.... at their evening programs, culture nights, movie nights, whatever. It is a very filled week. It is a wonderful kind of busy, though. Not a stressed busy, but an active busy which I enjoy.

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What do you do for fun?

I was trying to explain my life here to someone at home. It was tough. The life here is so incredibly different than the life I lead at home that it is incomparable. We do not hesitate to watch sunsets or go out to look at the stars (especially when the electricity goes out...which is often...the first impulse is to go and look at the VERY dark night sky). We do not think twice about spending an evening sitting at the kitchen table JUST talking for hours on end.... with no distractions. It is a live I have come to love. But, for FUN, we go to watch the weekly soccer games...it is THE event of the week. All the village kids come for the day. When a goal is made, they all rush the field and perform cartwheels, scream, run around, and just generally flip out. It is quite an event.

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Can I come and visit you?

Of COURSE! Just tell me when!

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Do you have photos of anyone?

Of COURSE!

Brian and Ali Amy
Brian and Ali Amy
Fernanda Tomoko
Fernanda Tomoko
Emilia and Terishina My English Class
Emilia and Terishina My English Class