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March 21, 2003

My students are very preoccupied with the war in Iraq-"Operation Freedom Iraq".† It may be hard to imagine how war could possibly effect vocational-school students in rural Mozambique.† But it does, in more ways that might be imagined.

WFP Distribution at ADPPWe are recipients of food from the World Food Program.† They provide all of our cooking oil, corn, rice, and all the staples.† Every meal, every day, for over 130 students and teachers, has either rice or massa, made from corn flour.† Additionally, we just recently started a food distribution program for those who care for orphans.† Obviously, we rely heavily on the support.† We have already received a letter from the World Food Program stating that donations of food worldwide, including ours, are in jeopardy.† If the United Nations, which oversees the World Food Program, needs to cut their budget, perhaps because the US canít pay its dues, or reroute their money into refugee camps, peace-keeping troops, food programs, such as ours, would be one of the first to go.† There is no other feasible way in which we can feed our students.

President Chissano of Mozambique has publicly declared his opposition to the war.† His thoughts are related directly to his country.† Even ten years after the war here has ended, the people of Mozambique are still suffering.† The war in Mozambique was fought with low level technology: land mines produced for as little as $5 and machetes, for example.† Still, Mozambique is rebuilding.†† Rebuilding roads, reconstructing buildings, trying to repair water systems. Chissano expresses concern over the level, both the intensity and the technological level, at which the war in Iraq will be fought.† I have heard stories about a bomb that can melt all electrical systems and others that will destroy water systems.† How would this affect the people of Iraq?† This war is supposedly being fought FOR the people of Iraq, yet, it seems to me, the victims of bombs such as this would be civilians.†† Ten years later, Mozambique is still fighting their war.† Imagine how long it could take Iraq to recover.

I have heard $20 billion dollars, perhaps even more, as the quote for the cost of the war in Iraq.† Where will that money come from?† Already the education budget in the United States has been cut.† If the education of American youth is not seen as a priority for the US government, I wonder how long it will take for children all over the world to cease to be a priority.

I wonder about the recovery of a country such as Iraq.† There have been allegations in the past, in the Congo and throughout Central America for example, that the United States comes up with a grand scheme, that they know will fail miserably, to "develop the country".† The US loans massive amounts of money to fund the project.† But, the developing country must pay it back, debts and all!† In Mozambique, thanks to all of the "rebuilding" after the war, more is spend on debt repayment than on education or health projects.† This is in a country where only about 40% of the population can read and where only 12% of the rural population has access to clean water to drink.† In my mind this is unconscionable.

My students remember the war here. Remember it with each and every piece of their souls.† When I was riding my bike to the pool as a child, they were running, literally, for their lives through the bush.

One of my colleagues has a rather odd tattoo on his forearm.† I had noticed that many people here have tattoos in the same spot.† I asked Paulino about it.† He explained to me that entire extended families would tattoo each member with the same tattoo.† That way, if the family got separated during the war, or one member died, or someone found a misplaced child, it could be easily known to which family he belongs.† Paulino received his tattoo at the age of 6.† Now, 15 years later, he bears a constant reminder of the horrors of the war on his forearm.

Silva and I- A former child soldierI recently typed a resume for one of my students.† He is now 18 years old.† He wrote on his resume that he was kidnapped by RENAMO, the rebel group, at the age of 5.† Then, 2 years later, he was kidnapped from RENAMO by FRELIMO, the government group.† He was forced to fight at the age of 5, mind you, by both groups.† How can he forget?

MichequeOne of my friends here, Micheque, is now 21 years old and a teacher at a primary school.† He has taught me many lessons, about everything under the sun.† At first, I liked his company because, when I was struggling with my† Portuguese, he would just talk and talk and I would listen.† One day, he told me all about what he did and saw during the war.† He has permanent images of his father throwing him and his siblings out the window to run into the bush.† His father "disappeared" for ages and was almost given up for dead.† But, one day, he came back.† Visibly shaken, significantly skinnier, with a long beard, and in almost complete silence.† As the war progressed, Micheque saw a baby taken from his mothers back and put into†the pill„o, used to mash corn into flour, and literally pounded to death in front of his mother. †He saw children forced to watch, first, as their parents ears were cut off and, second, as they were forced to eat their own ear.

I think that for us, in the United States, war is a far away concept.† When is the last time a war was fought on US soil?† How much do we really know about war?† About living through a war?† Not much.† Even vets, who often times suffer gravely after returning home, had the opportunity to return home...to leave the physical site of the war behind them.† People in Mozambique and, surely, in Iraq do not have that luxury.† There are constant signs of the destruction of the war.† There are bombed out, rusted out †train cars on the side of the road.† There has never been money to remove them.† There is no running water in Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique, since during the war concrete was poured down all of the pipelines.† There are bullet holes in the sides of buildings.† There are land mines that are found and marked, but not removed, as there is no money for a $1000 project like that.

My students ask with wonder why the United States is proceeding in this way, without the approval of the United Nations and without the support of the general world population and without substantial, concrete PROOF.† I do not always know what to tell them. ††Do I tell them what I think?† That the US is forever putting profits, oil, diamonds, gold, above people?† Do I admit that THOSE are the morals of my country?† How do I explain that even though the US has so much, an unimaginable amount of resources and wealth, they still hunger for more?† They ask me how I feel about returning to the United States in such a short time.† They understand my apprehension and my fear.† I feel safer in Mozambique than I am sure I would feel in the United States.