Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Spiritual Side of Namaacha and Other Interesting Thoughts...

Hi everyone!  Here are some more updates about daily life in Mozambique.  Miss you all!

My host-dad’s mom has been visiting this past week or so, and I don’t
think she knows what to make of me. At first I thought she only spoke
Shingana (the local language) but I soon learned that this is not the
case. As usual, I am just this weird guest in the house and she
doesn’t really get why I am there. Also possible, however, is that I
didn’t greet her appropriately or failed to perform another cultural
norm and thus it is my fault our relationship has not gone anywhere.
But nonetheless, and I think its only because she is here, the whole
family up and went to church on Sunday. And like the good Catholic
that Bishop O’Dowd High School taught me to be, I was partly told to
go and partly just went along with the flow. They had asked me the
first day at my home-stay if I went to church and seeing as I was so
overwhelmed, I don’t really remember, or perhaps I never even knew,
the answer I conveyed. But seeing as they don’t seem to go all the
time, I was sure I could handle the occasional Sunday morning mass,
that is, as would be expected, solely presented in Shingana. A few
things about the service: the music is beautiful- tons of a capella
singing throughout the service; the men and women sit on different
sides; and people totally get down and party in church in Mozambique.
People were dancing and singing and parading down the aisles, what
would be times of silent praying becomes a cacophony of everyone’s
shouted prayers, the preacher was obviously very passionate about
whatever he was absolutely yelling about in Shingana as I think the
whole neighborhood could hear him; some women were blatantly crying,
so overcome with the emotion of the service; and a host of “Amens”
could be expected at any time at any volume, from anyone. Overall, it
was quite the spectacle. My host-mom kept nudging me to present myself
when they asked for new people to the church to stand up and I am
afraid I insulted her by trying to politely decline. At one point,
however, the preacher was saying something (positive or negative I
have no idea) about Americans, and he made all of us (there were like
7 volunteers there) stand up, say our name, where we are from and the
name of our church. Here I had come upon a roadblock: Do I lie and say
a random name of a church? Do I say I am not Christian? Or do I say
something vague that is not exactly lying but not necessarily the
whole truth? I went with the latter and said, “My name is Ana (as I
will probably be for the next two years). I am from California, and I
do not have a church, but I like to learn about all types of
churches.” All were true statements and It all seemed to go over ok,
and if only they knew I was Jewish, or even what that was…

Random Sidenotes:

-In Mozambique, they drive on the left-hand side of the road: yes, it
is not that weird- plenty of countries do. But think about this: when
you are walking down the street, you automatically move right when
someone is walking towards you, and they go to the right as well, thus
you avoid each other. This is because we drive on the right side of
the road. So here, you have to move left when about to run into
someone, because if you instead, go right, you will hit them, because
they are going left. It is confusing and for me, counterintuitive, and
leads to many an accidental bump.

-Contrary to popular belief and American children’s book, roosters do
not just crow once when the sun comes up. In fact, they crow for about
three hours in the morning, starting at about 4am, and at random
intervals throughout the day.

-You are allowed to show your boobs in public in Mozambique, whether
to breastfeed your baby, because you aren’t wearing a bra, or because
they are so big that they are apparently unable to stay in your shirt.
But, showing skin above the knee in public is practically prohibited.

-I have had 4 marriage proposals thus far. Not bad for just three
weeks work. And all have been from married members of my host-family’s
extended family.

-I got a terrible allergy attack today, and no amount of Claritin
could ameliorate it. After sneezing about 75 times in a row, Mama
Victoria told me that when I get home from school tomorrow, we will go
to church so I can get a prayer said for me so I don’t get sick. I’m
now thinking that going to that church service means I will be back
many a time over the next two months.

-Similarly, my brother Felix pretty badly burned his leg attempting to
transport some very hot water. Despite some trips to the local
hospital and a bandaged wrapped leg (I gave him some stickers to
decorate it, though), he will eventually be ok. The night that it
happened, however, the church house-visit committee paid us a call,
and as would be expected, there was some beautiful singing in
conjunction with an impassioned, shouted Shingana blessing on Felix’s
head. But it was cool to see the support of the community at this
level. And after the service, one of the ladies was attempting to chat
with me. She said quite frankly, “I am very fat, no? (I didn’t
respond). But your mom is not. Who is prettier?” Pretend I am pausing
here for dramatic effect. Needless to say I was speechless, but
managed to squeak out something about everyone being beautiful.

-If you do not take your malaria medications in the Peace Corps, they
can fire you. So, therefore, I take mine. Aside from vivid dreams, one
of the side effects is that you go from feeling normal one second, to
absolutely about to pee your pants a second later. No warning at all,
because on the “I have to pee” scale, you jump from 0-10 in an
instant. Me and my friends always joke about peeing ourselves, and the
other day, I thought it had finally happened. But nope, I was holding
the baby in my lap, and because they rarely put the one-year old in
diapers (I’m guessing they are expensive), it was him who peed on my
lap. All over my freshly washed only pair of jeans.

-In the town of Namaacha, there are thunderstorms. And they have tin
roofs, which significantly amplifies the sounds to a deafening roar.
But, when it really gets raining, I look forward to when the power
will go out because then, the blasting music from the neighborhood
bars will have to stop. And all I have to worry about is the next
day’s muddy walk to school. And by mud, I mean, the roads magically
turn from dirt roads into clay. Your shoes may get stuck in it every
other step, but don’t worry, they will wash your shoes when you get
home. The brand new running shoes I brought here are still sparkling

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