Saturday, October 9, 2010

My First Week in Namaacha

Well, it has been one week since I arrived in Namaacha, 45 miles outside Maputo. Today, we came back into Maputo to buy cell phones, and I got an internet phone so I will be able to email and eventually (once I figure it out), connect my phone to my computer and use the internet on my phone through my computer. Email me if you want my number so I don't have to post it! I only have like 20 minutes at an internet cafe so I will try my best to give a small, though probably scattered account of my experience thus far.

So, upon arriving in Namaacha, I met my host family. Briefly, they are a family of 5. Zilda Victoria is the mom and she is awesome: so nice, so helpful, so patient with my slowly developing Portuguese, and great at teaching me how to cook like a real Mozambican, mostly starchy food and a whole lot of it. I would say force feeding guests is a norm in Mozambique, and I will be a guest for the next ten weeks so needless to say, I am fed A LOT. Felipe is my host father, and he owns the bread shop at the market so needless to say, we eat a lot of bread in our house. They have three sons, Junior is 1 (so cute but probably the most slobbery baby I have ever met), Samito is 6 (a kid after my own heart who loves to play soccer monkey in the middle and suck his thumb) and Felix is 9 (he is the man of the house- he does so much to help out Victoria and is an awesome older brother).

Our house is actually pretty nice: typical in Mozambique, we have a TV and a huge stereo but no running water. But believe me, do they take advantage of that stereo. We, along with all Mozambican families blast the top 20 pop hits at all hours of the day. I go to sleep to the tune of Usher and wake up at 4am, 5am, and 6am to the sounds of the roosters and goats.

One thing I have noticed through my first week is how friendly everyone is. Mostly its just curiosity of who I am but everyone is always outside cooking, doing laundry or pumping water, and of course saying hello and having quick chats with all passersby. I went to a birthday party on Sunday (for my host-father's aunt) and it was pretty similar to one in the states- tons of family, food, and drink (beer from a home-made cooler keg thing that pumper beer but did not cool it at all. it was borderline hot in temperature), and really the only differences were that people don't smile in pictures (to show how they are taking the situation seriously), they feed cake to the birthday person (like an American wedding), the lady next to me was openly breast feeding her baby, boob out and all, a flock of turkeys barged through the middle of the tables. But other than that it felt like a typical backyard bbq.

We started language class on Monday as well as our teacher training. My language teacher is named Dinis and he is hilarious. He is helping me implement the Spanish I already know into the Portuguese I am learning. We have already gone to "see" Swaziland (we couldn't cross the border but we saw through it) and a waterfall. By waterfall, I mean 2 hour long trek downhill to see a big rock with water kinda dripping over it. Followed by a 2 hour long trek back uphill. But, it is "the site to see" in Namaacha so, we went.

I have learned so much this week about Portuguese, Mozambican culture, and teaching strategies, it feels like I have been here for a lifetime. I am definitely enjoying it so far, and I'm sure once my Portuguese comes up to speed, it will be even better.

Because of the language and cultural barrier there have been a plethora of ridiculous moments between me and my host family. To name a few:
1. My host family always asks if we have things in America: do you have onions in America, do you have soup in America, do you have rice, pasta, eggs, etc? And I say yes, but we cook them differently (I am teaching Victoria how to make pancakes tomorrow and she will teach me how to do my laundry...). But, when they asked me if we have covi or matapa (soupy green goop that looks like actual shit but tastes awesome that you eat over rice) they are shocked and cannot believe it. Once they asked if we have sweet potatoes and I said yes, we actually eat them for a holiday coming up in November. When asked how we make it I said it was sweet, like a dessert. All this was in Portuguese and apparently they thought I always eat sweet potatoes for dessert, and sure enough, that night after dinner, they served me like 5 sweet potatoes and said "dessert." Needless to say, I ate them. Just an example of how nice they are and how much they want me to feel at home. Too bad I hate sweet potatoes.
2. One day, my host mom told me I needed to learn how to pump water. So we trekked up to the water pump, and let me tell you, pumping water is HARD. She made me do 6 huge jugs of water and kept telling me I was going too slow. Then we carried them to the house and when we got there, when I could barely put my arms above my head, I was told I needed to take a bucket shower so we could eat lunch. We take bucket showers before every meal here so at least 2-3 times per day. It was actually the first thing I did after getting to my house (after she offered profusely to help me bathe, which I heartily declined). No running water means either scalding hot or freezing cold water to shower with.
3. I showed my family pictures of my family the other day. Apparently my sister should be a model or an actress. I will give myself a point for familial association.
4. I taught my family how to play Go Fish. HUGE LANGUAGE ACCOMPLISHMENT, or at least I thought. I was super proud of myself. They did, however keep calling me "espera," tricky or cunning, because I could remember when they asked each other for a card and then I would ask them for it and keep on winning.

I must go catch a chappa (van that is kinda like super shuttle that they just barrel and squish as many people as possible into) back to Namaacha. We can't be out after dark!

I love you all and can't wait to get my phone up and running to keep in contact!


  1. I am glad that I can help win you a point and even the score! Love and miss you!

  2. Thank you for the news, so chuck full of detail. Sounds as though you're becoming a vegetarian, like so much of the developing world. And that's a good thing, IMHO. --from Aunt Lynn

  3. HAHAHA I am sitting in my room by myself and just laughed out loud for a whole minute at your post. I MISS YOU. I'm going to email you right now. I don't have that many updates but I wanna get your number. - JLu/ Boots