Tomorrow is the last day of training. We arrived in Namaacha on a Saturday morning almost nine weeks ago. That weekend, where I didn’t see any other Americans, that first 48 hours here at training, were probably the worst of my life. I didn’t speak the language, had no idea what was ever going on, but since then have learned a great deal. Overall, training has been an awesome experience, but I am ready for it to end, and am ready to start doing what I came here to do, teach (and also, to a lesser degree, to be in control of my own eating habits and bathing schedule). And though most of what I have learned has been the hard skills, like Portuguese and educational technical training, but I have also learned some cultural differences and a few idiosyncrasies of living here in Mozambique. Below I tried to highlight some of the ones that have made me laugh since I arrived here, and they are in no means to speak badly of my host-family or host-community during training, they are only meant to demonstrate the occasional “is this for real?” feeling that Pre-Service Training inevitably presents.
What Training Has Taught Me:
1. If you cannot find your shoes, your host-mom has probably hijacked them from your room in order to clean off the clay/mud that resulted from yesterday’s rainstorm.
2. If you find said shoes before they have actually been cleaned by your host-mom, it is a good idea to try to convince her you are indeed capable of cleaning them yourself. But, be warned that she will intently watch you do it, and also, explaining that it is not important to you to take out the laces WILL NOT work, and similarly, explaining that you do not want to dunk them in a bucket of water since you want them to dry quickly does not mean that you will not then be made to scrub them fiercely with a sopping wet towel (aka, old shirt), essentially getting the shoes just as soaked as if you had dunked it into a bucket of water. So just giving in and cleaning your shoes more than you ever wanted to (don’t dare forget to scrub the bottoms…) is probably the best option, and you WILL in fact feel good about wearing shoes that look almost as good as new, even though they took a week to dry and will just get dirty again the moment you step outside.
MOZAMBIQUE: 4. ANNIE: 6.
3. If your house has a toilet that is manually flushed by pouring a bucket of water into it (the other option is a latrine, meaning a seemingly endless hole in the ground that may or may have a chimney like seat on it), always check to see if there is a bucket full of water in the bathroom before using it, or else, an awkward situation WILL ensue.
MOZAMBIQUE: 5. ANNIE: 6
4. If you are offered food, EAT IT, unless you are prepared for an extremely long conversation about why you aren’t hungry that will probably end with you eating the food anyway. Saying you have diarrhea WILL NOT always get you off the hook, so it is better to only use that excuse if it is really true.
5. Lying about the American boyfriend or husband you do not actually have may help to avert some, but definitely not all, creepy men and marriage offers.
6. Saying hi to random strangers is a MUST. You may not know who they are, but, let me tell you, they know who you are (and will report back to your host-mom about how your interaction went).
7. ALWAYS peel tomatoes before cooking them here. Actually, let’s just extend that to pretty much any seemingly peel-able vegetable.
8. If you are not comfortable cutting vegetables in your hand like the majority of women here, take a flat pot top and cut them the way you are used to. It is guaranteed your host-mom will have an “Aha” moment when she realizes that yes, her houseguest is not actually totally incapable of cooking as she had appeared to be for the seven weeks prior to this momentous occasion.
MOZAMBIQUE: 5. ANNIE: 7
9. Rats like to eat soap. They will burrow into your suitcase to find it, or also somehow pry open your plastic soap carrying/shower case and nibble at it bit by bit every day.
MOZAMBIQUE: 6. ANNIE: 7
10. Before classes begin everyday, the students and the teachers face off and sing the national anthem. The students line up on one side, and the teachers face them (dressed of course in their batas: med student jacket meets chef coat meets lab coat that all Mozambican teachers must wear). You MUST sing and you MUST NOT smile or at all seem like you are enjoying yourself, because, after all, you need to show that you are taking the situation seriously.
11. Even half-way across the world from the site of the first Thanksgiving, somehow, 70 Peace Corps Trainees can pull off a rather successful Thanksgiving potluck. It was clear that the foods were not made in the exact manner or with the same ingredients that they would have been in the states, and of course no Grandma Ruth stuffing was to be found, but we cornered all our ingenuity and somehow made it work, even though it took bribing my host-dad’s bakery to use their oven (apparently the only workable one in town) to cook the turkeys.
MOZAMBIQUE: 6. ANNIE: 8
And, because they have been amazingly gracious hosts, here is a little tribute to some people I will most definitely miss:
1. My host-mom: I am pretty much in awe of her. Although it seems like I give her crap for all the things she makes me do, she only wants me to be happy (aka, well-fed and impeccably clean). But honestly, I know she really cared about me, and I definitely care about her as well. Most of the time, we have an understanding, that I just don’t know how to do things they way they should appropriately be done in Mozambique but am not totally incompetent, and for the most part, she was an involved and compassionate teacher. She has expressed interest in going to night school and getting her high school diploma, which I have been promoting super hard core with her so I hope she follows this dream, or her other dream of raising chickens to sell as an income generation project. She is incredibly smart, and a wonderful wife and mother, and I hope to remain friends with here even though I will be a multi-day chappah ride away.
2. My host-dad: Though he worked ridiculous 14 hour days, the time I did get to spend with him involved watching the news, and he would patiently explain what was happening, and normally, an interesting conversation would ensue. He is a real family man, and I admire him for that.
3. My host-brothers: My host-mom has told me on many occasions that I “understand” babies very well, which I take as a compliment since sometimes I think that she thinks I am a bad woman since I don’t have a family and apparently do not know how to cook, clean, or wash clothes. But she said I should take the 1 year old to my site to keep me company. If he hadn’t taken a shit on the floor of the kitchen a few times, I might have taken her up on the offer since he is so freaking cute. And to the two older boys, I loved drawing with them, playing cards, and being absolutely goofy with them (making me the weirdest adult ever in their minds…). They are awesome kids, and I know they have big futures ahead of them if they can stay in school.
That is all. Happy World AIDS Day, and now I must go back to handing out condoms. Obviously…