Monday, November 12, 2012

I like to spend some time in Mozambique

We’re more than halfway through training and time is actually going by really quickly.  Training is going well.  There are definitely going to be some issues here that I did not face in Cape Verde.  For example, the role of women here is still very much that of the submissive wife.  The culture IS changing and people are working to protect the rights of women, but the fact is that most women do not work outside the home or machamba (farm), so they depend on their husbands for everything.  Which unfortunately means that husbands can take advantage of their wives.  Polygamy is common and most men have more than one woman or family.  Additionally, domestic violence is a huge issue.
Another serious problem that I didn’t face in Cape Verde is HIV/AIDS.  The rate in Mozambique is extremely high – I think it’s 14% nation-wide, but estimates for urban zones and especially zones close to the borders are upwards of 30%.  Almost 1 in 3 people!  Here in the south people claim it’s high because many men work in the mines in South Africa, where there are a lot of prostitution rings.  They get infected there and then come home to their Mozambican families on leave and spread it here.  It’s an extremely sad reality, but fortunately there are a lot of programs in place to combat the disease and the myths/misconceptions/stigmas that come along with it. I’m excited to be able to get involved in that kind of work.  I think the number one problem is female empowerment.  It’s really all linked: if a woman doesn’t work and can’t provide for herself, what power does she have over her husband? It becomes much more difficult for her to leave him if he’s cheating or even to ask him to use a condom.  Who’s going to put food on the table?  But of course it’s much more complicated than that and I’m sure the more time I spend here the better I’ll come to understand the issue.
I did get a wonderful opportunity to visit this organization called AMODEFA (Asosiação Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Familia).  They provide services on reproductive health, family planning, and even do house visits for people living with HIV/AIDS.  But the COOLEST thing they do is run this group of youth activists who are so wonderfully awesome.  One of the girls spoke with us – she was 16 and had been an activist for 3 years.  She talked about how she used to be shy and had trouble talking to her peers, but after a time in the program she gained confidence and now isn’t afraid to advise her peers on issues of safe sex and healthy relationships and even to confront them is she feels it is necessary. It was so touching to see a young girl with such conviction, self-confidence, and passion!  The activists meet twice a week and share stories and debate important issues, as well as planning different assemblies and activities in the community.  I am hoping to be able to go to one of their meetings this next week because I was just so inspired by their energy and intelligence.

the road to my house

my room

my little sister, Felizmina, helping me wash clothes

the local market, held twice a week

visiting the cascatas

me and some other V's on ilha
As for the other aspects of training, I’m loving Portuguese and getting closer to my host family, as well as the other volunteers.  Some guys from my first language group and I formed a rap group – Gato Preto – that’s been performing for some of the “fun times” during our HUB days (when we all get together for sessions).  We’ve been requested to write a special rap for the Homestay Celebration during the last weekend of training. What’s that? You say you didn’t know I could rap? Well…there may be a lot you don’t know about me… ;)
I’ve been playing a lot of guitar, too.  Yesterday I sat outside under a tree and some kids came over to listen, so I taught them the one song that I can sing in Portuguese – “Eu não sou da sua rua.” Fortunately it’s really simple and they LOVED it! I guess I’ll have to learn some more. I want to get a little drum too that I can cart around and bang on while waiting for rides and whatnot.
Last week we went on site visits.  I went to one of the northern provinces, Nampula, and stayed in a little village called Carapira.  It was wonderful! The volunteer I stayed with is really chill and nice and lives close to a bunch of other wonderful volunteers.  We actually got to visit 3 sites, all of different sizes, different living situations, different school situations, etc.  The 3rd was Ilha de Moçambique, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and supposedly a “must-see” for anyone that comes to Mozambique! It really was beautiful – just a little sleepy island with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.  And oddly it didn’t seem too touristy at all.  Plus I got to eat some delicious shrimp curry with coconut rice.  The north itself is very different from where we are here.  It seems a bit poorer, and definitely more rural.  They also seem to speak less Portuguese.  Where I was, the local language was Macwa and many of the people who lived there spoke very little Portuguese.  I’m actually really excited for the possible challenge of having to learn some of the local language!  There is also a lot of Muslim influence up north.
Anyway, that was a nice break from training/homestay, but now I’m back and feeling refreshed and really valuing the time I have left with my host family.  I realized I’ve learned a lot from them and just in general life doesn’t seem so difficult this time around.  Before leaving for site visits, we did a “practical” exam, where we had to prove to our professors that we knew how to ralar coco (shave out the insides of the coconut), pilar e pinear amendoim (crush peanuts, and then sort out the remaining “flour”), wash clothes by hand, light charcoal, and iron our clothing using a charcoal-heated iron.  It was so bizarre and so fun, especially since the test was interrupted by one of the craziest rain/wind storms I’ve ever been in! I only started taking my camera out this last week, so I’ll put up a couple pictures, but more are soon to come! 
Well…that’s more than enough for an update on my life.  We find out our site placements on Wednesday, so I’ll try to post something then and let everyone know where I’m headed!
Até já!

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