Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Ramblings

I am the only female teacher that teaches in the morning, 10th, 11th, 12th grades. There are only 3 female teachers that teach afternoons, 8th and 9th grades, and two of whom will be leaving after the school year ends. This inevitably makes for some interesting dynamics at meetings. Most of the other teachers are un-creepy, so I really have no problem with it. But, it just gets me thinking how male-dominated the work force is. There is not really sexism here that says, “a woman isn’t capable of (insert whatever skill, profession, etc)” but there is a sexism that mandates women to be the primary, and really the sole, caretakers of the home, cleaning and cooking, and the kids. And because of the significantly long time it takes to complete any household chore by nature of no running water, pre-prepared foods or other niceties, this is a full-time unpaid job for most women. Those who do have a job (out of necessity or just education), usually have a younger sibling, niece, nephew, or other relative living with them to do most of these jobs around the house, since the wife/mother has less time to complete the tasks. It is very common for teachers to take in a family-member or two, pay for school and provide food and shelter in exchange for housework. Hence, the average Mozambican household has like 8 people or more in it. If you have any semblance of means, you are expected to spread the wealth to family, friends, and neighbors. In this sense, the great lengths and care families go to for each other is inspiring. But in the sense that you are supposed to turn up the volume of your music and TV so loud that everyone within a mile radius can hear it, because, naturally, that’s what it means to share, makes your neighbor (me!) not so thrilled. You win some…you lose some.

The other day, a boy wearing a shirt with my school’s emblem on it entered my house without asking. He sat on my couch and scared the shit out of me when I walked into the living room a few minutes later. He started talking about how he just wanted to talk to me, how he needed some help for a sick sister, how he wanted to namorar (hook up) with someone, and then he was just rambling. Aside from how him being in my house uninvited, the mention of namorar made me, as a teacher and him an ostensible student, rather uncomfortable and annoyed. I didn’t know this kid, but I told him if he needed money, I wouldn’t just give it to him. He could do some work for us, like getting water, and we could help him out. Then he incoherently rambled some more. Sometimes, I think I don’t understand people because they mumble their Portuguese, but this was different and I really had no idea what was going on. Finally, we apparently came to some sort of understanding because he left saying he was going to find his sister. My neighbor then came up to me, apparently eavesdropping the whole time (but not helping…), and said that the boy is mentally ill. I thanked my neighbor for explaining this, but it got me thinking. I know that the mental hospital (I believe there is one in all of the northern half of the country) is currently full and that there is nowhere else or nothing else that addresses the needs of the mentally ill.

There is a guy in Nampula city that thinks all white women are his girlfriend, so he sneaks up and kisses you and before you can even register what happened, he is off. Peace Corps knows about this guy because so many of us have been attacked by the kissing man (myself included), and tried to get him a space in the mental hospital, but alas, there is no room, and thus nothing, or so we are told, that we can do.

It really gets to me, the lack of medical care. You hear stories about seriously ill two-year olds that die, and it is almost a relief to the family, because the baby was a burden on the already burdened family. And I can’t blame them. There is no support for the mentally ill, the disabled, the gravely ill (or sometimes even just the moderately ill), etc, especially if you don’t have money, and many times even if you do have some. You can see a doctor for free but any services will cost you. If an HIV positive person wants it, all kinds of HIV/AIDS support in many capacities can be made available (though if they consistently stick with it is a whole other battle). But any other disease is simply just dealt with as best as possible, which often, with no one to blame, is not “best” at all. And beyond just happening to have an extra pair of glasses in my house to give to a kid with bad eyesight in my class, there is nothing I can do. Yes, I can be nice to the mentally ill kid who doesn’t understand the many social norms, since I’m sure many people are not, as mental illness is not always understood here. And yes, I can employ the kid across the street who has turrets (undiagnosed of course, as I am clearly no doctor and he has never been to one about it) to sweep my yard and clean my floors because I know many people wouldn’t want to employ him. But beyond that, I am helpless. Seeing warmhearted, loving, fun people with no running water, no electricity, a one-room mud house with sticks and leaves as a roof, makes me think and makes me upset a lot of the time. Having students sit on the floor with no desks and a cracked chalkboard, using notebook paper to erase chalk, breaks my heart. Many aspects of life in Mozambique make me think and wonder and downright angry much of the time, but this one, lack of medical care, is by far the worst. Yes, the roads here are horrendous. The state of education leaves much to be desired. The standard of living is pretty low. Water and electricity are not guarantees. Corruption in schools and the police are pretty routine occurrences. But the vast extent of the spirit and ingenuity of most people here should indicate that great things are just on the verge and will indeed manifest. Except all this propensity for goodness and greatness is stunted when even basic medical needs are not consistently being met.

Mozambique is hosting the 10th All-Africa Games (African Olympics) starting next week, and it has been big news about all the money foreign governments and other bodies have given to the games. And though I think hosting the games will be great for Mozambique, as far as tourism, potential revenue, and publicity, I believe the $250,000 donated by the government of Mauritius alone might have better uses. No, throwing money at a problem here will not fix it. And I’m not really sure what will. But, money, in the right hands, and in the right programs, probably can’t hurt. 

No comments:

Post a Comment