Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mozambican Theatre & Who is the MOST mato?

Hello citizens of the Western World! It's your far flung alien Micah Carbonneau checking in. My flesh and blood is still walking this strange landscape on the globe's far side.

But! Not to walk this side of the globe much longer! I end 5 years in the Peace Corps Dec. 6th. If you pass by any streetside fortune tellers, throw a penny in their hat and ask'em my future and you'll have a better chance then I of forcasting the future's great beyond. I've my own tea leaves to consult, but the way the light plays makes me doubt my future reading abilities.

I've one last blog to aid you in imagining Mozambique's culture landscape. It pertains to theatre and a trip I took with some youngsters to a sister school some 3 hours away. It's a little on the long side, but it'll likely be the last I send out from Africa, so get up, touch your toes, do 1-2 minutes of brisk walking around the room, come back and sit down to life in Mozambique.

Thanks as always for reading, and please don't hesitate for me to take you off the email list if you tire of my inanity.

Panguira Goes to Estaquinha

I typically hate to write these things before sending them out. I have a hard time trusting that my words will sound fresh if I let them sit for more then a day or two. But, I must put down a description of this weekend while it's memory is fresh.

This weekend I took my Panguira Group (Which means 'Counsel' in local language) to have a Theatre exchange with a sister school some three hours away. Anywhere three hours away is close here.

I was afraid 15 for a pick up truck would have been pushing it. I had memories from the weekend past of us all squeezed in upon our return from English Theatre. But, it seems 15 isn't too bad! This I observed from the relative spaciousness of the front seat, a King I!

Theatre in Mozamibque

Theatre here is quite vaudville in its stock characters, simple story plots, and physical humor. And like Vaudville, for all it misogyny and humor at the expense of adultery, illiteracy, and AIDS, it can really be quite charming.

For example the costumes. We volunteers joke that we should play bingo cards with the plays. Squares to mark off would include: chalk beards, Boss pot belly (bellies denoting stature), classroom scenes, sweeping the yard scenes, witch doctor scenes, hospital scenes. The costumes are always meant to be as random and hilarious as possible. Shoes are inexplicably put on the wrong feet, pants are worn inside out, giant sunglasses, wigs, walking sticks, might all be used. Their costumes are any clothes that are not what they typically wear, and because their collection of clothes is limited (I recognize kids this second year by the tshirts they wore last), the clothes that make it into the plays are usually quite odd or ripped. Once I saw them wear a straw that that had a giant hole in the top and the brim all torn up. Another time a guy wore lycra ski bottoms with suspender tops and flared pant legs. He was playing a gigilo. My face hurt from laughing at this character.

The plays our students make are usually recreating the struggle for independence or deal with domestic violence or AIDS. They're usually heavy handed in the message and sometimes model too much of the negative behavior we're trying to dispel.

Also, these plays are done in the school courtyard. There will be some 100-200 people gathered around, with vetrans in their caramel colored military dress in seats marked off on one side. Only the people in the front can see as it's always a tight circle around the action. Maybe there is one microphone that they hold in hand, or there is none. More often there's none. One of these times, I looked up to see kids filling the branches over me. I was sure a branch was going to break and children would rain down. I always feel I'm the only one with such fears for safety in public gatherings and transport.

The plays are all loosely improvised in a mixture of Portuguese and Xindau.

Despite the lack of training in anything resembling formal theatre: no (proper) costumes, exposure to play formats from the world without, and despite reliance on stock characters, talent still bears out.

Some of the kids make you want to watch them. They are fully immersed in character and have great physical humor.


This is our sister Mission School where we brought the students. It's parched in a different color then Machanga. Machanga is parched brown. Estaquinha is parched white, which somehow made it seem more desolate and dry. But the nice landscaping helped to counteract that impression.

We have an informal competition in Peace Corps. Well, two. The first is: 'Who is more Mato?' Mato is 'Bush' or 'Outback.' All of us like to believe we're the most isolated, most deprived of amenities, the furthest 'out there.'

The other competition between we volunteers in the ESMABAMA mission circut (there's 4 of us) is which mission gets the most love from the central office? Which mission is daddy's favorite?

I got some good ammunition this weekend against Estaquinha. It seems they boast, a fancy 800 dollar Panasonic Projector AND, it's rumored, a 3D projector. Good God! Compare this to the TV that stayed broken for half the year last, waiting to be taken across the river to the repairman here in Machanga. Also, they have (I understand agonizingly slow Internet) while the Internet promised here ready in two weeks time has after two years yet to materialize (despite my signing a contract!). Did I mention there's no land lines in Machanga or postal addresses? Have I conviced you Machanga is THE MOST mato?

Also, Estaquinha has three tractors, two of them new, to our one tractor.

So, Dylan and Ian show movies to their kids. This weekend they showed Glee and High School Musical. What a contrast onscreen to our weekend! But, I think the joy, enthusiasm, and I'll even go out on a limb and say talent and looks, are comparable to what flashed across the screen.

The kids had a great time and as we returned, as always they stood up in the back singing songs as conquering heros returned. Their happiness is certainly valid. One time, they took a capalana (bright local fabric), and tied it to a stick to use as a flag. Their joy is so over the top, that it makes you wonder how such a little thing as a weekend getaway to sleep on mats and eat beans and corn meal can mean to a kid.

But, now I see it's also a bit of showing off to the kids who didn't get to travel. It's: Look at us! We traveled and you didn't!

It was a colorful weekend.

Oh! Also! My lodging included a stand up shower and a fresh towel! Believe it or not, a bucket shower can be a very pleasant thing. But when you're dusty from two months of no rain blowing at you after a three hour ride, water shooting out of the wall and a fluffy towel seem like quite a luxury.

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