Friday, July 22, 2011

Some Anecdotes & Observations

Here I am.

Ok. This time I come awfully prepared. I have topics for y’all pre-selected.

1. Toys. Kids make the darndest toys here. And it’s colonial era and modern mixed together. The old hoop and stick? Still quite popular! Only, it’s a metal bicycle hoop or rubber tire. Tops? Great fun! They spin them off string tied to stick. They use little blocks of wood as cell phones. Use soda cans and bend wire to make trucks, or put bottle caps on containers to make cars. Quite inventive. And they’re awfully unsupervised. You’ll see a 1 year old hanging off a 4 year olds’ back. Packs of the littlest kids, all it seems, taking care of each other. 5 and 6 year olds the babysitters. You see a 3 year old walking by himmself. Where? You don’t know. And kids work here. 4th graders, 5th graders, 6th graders...selling phone credit or pushing your canoe.

2. Status Symbols in Mozambique: the other teachers invest in such things as: motorbikes for tooling about town, big freezers, tvs, nice shoes, expensive phones, and maids to help cook and clean. I avoid most of those costs and save quite a bit of money as a result. It's wierd being surrounded by poverty and looking over the guy in front of you in some aluminum taxi can of death fingering a fancy blackberry phone.

3. Tried sugarcane. Bought a tall piece. Seeing me fumble with it, trying to tear with my teeth the thick rind, a grandmother stepped in and with expert incisors ripped into it like a professional panda. It hurt my teeth just watching her. Then she handed it to me laughing. It’s quite pulpy and sweet. I chomped and spat as we crossed by canoe, quite charmed at having been suddenly adopted.

4. One night I was pumping water under the usual domey sky. These two teenagers close by were giggling, huddled over a cell phone. Strange sounds carried. Yes, it sounded a lot like pornography. But they were laughing. Can they watch videos on their phones? Is it possible it is what it sounds like? They were just yucking it up! Kids. And technology! Remade the world's economic reality. And brought our vices to project on tiny screens. Look how crazy those white people are!

5. One day at the market a woman asked me about how I arrived in country. I told her how I stayed with a host family to learn Mozambican ways, such as washing clothes by hand. She asked: how do you do it in your country? I answered: ‘Oh, with machines to wash them! Then, we take them out and put them into another machine to dry!” I thought she'd be rather impressed. Instead, she answered incredulous: ‘You don’t have the sun there?”

6. Patrick protested when he saw our bike mechanic club a poor chameleon to death. “You know, in the States people will spend over 100.00 dollars to buy one of those,” he said. Confused, the mechanic asked: “To eat?”

7. I know I’ve spoken before about jogging, but not necessarily about scaring little kids. It’s almost better then when the kids cheer and run alongside me. They’re sitting there in the dirt, look up, and their reaction is priceless. I imagine their thought is something like. ‘Whoa.’ Before the tuck tail and run as fast as they can up the path and around their house to hide. I am finally the friendly monster I’d always hoped to be.

8. Sometimes I feel I’m in the (non existent) Mozambican postcard: for instance, taking a canoe ride across the river with a sky filled with stars. Then, I feel I’m clear on the other side the planet. Then, other times, feels I’m just around the block. Like when I see everyday, NY (Yankees) hats on everyone. Or I love NY. Or a CT little league baseball jersey. I told the clerk - I’m from there! She said: ‘Buy it.’ I said- it has a huge mustard stain on it! I’ve seen UCONN shirts and crass American humor: ‘Tis the season to get hammered.’ There’s hand made tshirts from summer camp, pep boys shirts, even a UPS shirt on one of my students. It’s like Mozambique is the little brother that inherited the clothes we grew out of .

9. I know I may well describe a real dearth of conditions here, but really, Mozambican laugh so much. Much more then Americans, Romanians, or any other people I’ve ever met. They sometimes get loud and shout. Like when I told them they had to take another test because everyone cheated on their final exam. They were ready to burn me in effigy. The next day, I see one of the most pissed of my students: “Hi Mr. Micah!” I’d like to think this is due to my irrepressible likeability, or maybe even begrudging respect for nailing their cheap attempts at duping me. But really, it’s just that Mozambicans don’t stay mad! It’s not in their national make up.

10. Last one. One of the best parts of travel is hearing the funny sounds different cultures make to show emphasis. This last anecdote you’ll have to hear. I can’t quite describe it. In Romania, ‘Hey Man!’ Is ‘BAH MUHHH!’ Here, when people wish to express incredulity, they say: ‘SHEE!’ They also like to say things are little: “Little, little, little!!!” and their voice gets as tiny as they can make it. What most of us grossly dislike however, is the unintelliglbe: ‘Uh.’ ‘Uh,’ depending on its’ inflection can me ‘Uuh’ (yes) or ‘Uh.’ (no). There’s also a lot of nose clearing that goes on, but I forgive them that. They are a Kleenex-less society. Not to mention a cheeseless society. I mentioned that before, I think.

So, there’s some anecdotes for you to masticate. (I mean chew on). Like cud!

Warm Regards,

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