No work today because it’s the presidential election!!!
Sam sent me this article in the NY Times about it: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/world/africa/27mozambique.html?_r=2&hp
Even with all the shortfalls as an honest democratic process, it is expected to be a very calm day. No worries
For most of my first week at work I observed a 5 day training session for 19 women who represent the weaving communities in the area. The training focussed on production quality, the distribution plan, and discussing what it means to have business integrity (ie. fulfilling orders but also the benefits of being honest about how long it might take to fill them) and a few other topics.
One of the interesting aspects of the training was teaching to women how to take orders from potential wholesale buyers. Since most of the women are illiterate, we’re working on a system that uses symbols and images on an spreadsheet. For example, if a weaver cannot write her name but she is to be paid and given credit for her basket she will have a specific shape that is her own (like a star or a triangle). The symbol will be drawn on a tag on her basket and the community promoter will have it on a list. Something like that.
Of course, the training was all in Xitswe (pronounced sheets-weh) so I didn’t understand it, but every so often one of the CARE employees would translate what what going on. It was really wonderful to observe the group dynamic and watch from the sideline. Plus it gave me plenty of time to sketch and hold their babies.
watercolor sketch from my journal
My favorite part of each day was lunch. Since I wasn’t really interacting too much with the women during the training sessions, I would sit with them and eat whatever they were having – be it grilled chicken and rice or a whole fish shima (kind of like a thick pile of grits or cream of wheat eaten with your fingers). After finishing up with my meal the first day, I noticed that several of the women were eye-ing the fish bones and fish head that I had left on the plate. Finally the oldest woman got the nerves to gesture if I was done. I quickly offered my plate to her with a big “oh yeah!” which got everyone laughing and cheering. So everyday, after I was done I would wait for someone to start staring, then I’d pass the rest on to a roar of giggles and exclamations.
I know it sounds silly, but I started looking forward to that opportunity when I would finally have something to contribute and the language barrier only helped to improve the moment.
I don’t even know where to start.
Firstly, I’m reeling by the fact that this website actually loaded and let me loggin. I probably shouldn’t try my luck too long because I’m sure to get disconnected any minute. How about bullet points? Yes:
- After spending a week in Maputo, I finally arrived in my new home, Vilankulo.
- My cabana has lived up to and surpassed my hopes. It’s very open to air, bugs, lizards and sand, but my trusty mosquito net keeps me safe. (Aparently the people in my compound refer to it as the “James Bond House” because it looks like it’s from a movie set!)
- The sun rises right in my windows at 5 AM ! It’s really the most perfect way to wake up.
- Cold showers are refreshing, or at least that’s what I have to convince myself of.
- I have 2 really nice Peace Corps volunteers who live in the hut behind mine. Courtney and Sarah have been really helpful and have taught me most of the essential skills, like where to shop in the market, how to turn my power on, where to and not to walk, who to get rides with to work, and perhaps most importantly where to get chocolate.
- I haven’t started my Portuguese classes, but I’m told that a toutor will be calling me by next week. This is Africa, so we’ll see when I actually get that set up. I’m giving it 2 weeks more before I hear a word.
- The hardest part about being here is probably filling the time-gap between when I get home from work around 5:30 and when I go to bed around 10PM. I don’t have a computer, definitely no TV, no pets, no one really to hang out with. That’s a lot of time to fill alone. I’ve figured out that teaching my self to cook with minimal supplies can really take a big chunk of the evening, then I draw or write in my journal, listen to music, make tea and OH, time to get in bed.
- Every so often I have to remind myself that all this alone-time is a grand adventure and fun or else it could threaten loneliness.
I don’t really have time to go into any details about work or the training conference I’ve been observing. But it will all have to wait ‘till next time.
Okay. Off I go.
*reads: Day 10 – Friday, Oct 16th: The tide has gone out and there are sandbars and shallow waters out to the horizon. I wish I could take the day off to go explore the beach and have a sandy picnic. I’d bring cucumber sandwiches- because that’s all I have to offer right now.
I committed 2 cardinal sins of traveling within the first 2 hours of my arrival in Africa:
1. I drank a soda with ice (you just don’t know where that water came from)
2. I ate a salad (you just don’t know if or how that lettuce was washed)
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, but almost 2 weeks in and still feeling good. Knock on wood….
To my surprise and to my relief someone from VSO actually met me at the airport in Maputo. Phew!
We went strait to the office, was introducted to the staff, and ran some errands like getting my phone working, registered at the US Embassy, etc, etc. In the evening I was dropped of at the guest apartment, and had the place to myself. Luckily I was too tired to care that I had no money, no food, no phone and no sense of direction.
Turns out, the next day, what I thought was a 10 minute car ride to the office was really just a two block walk down the street. I’ve spent the last few days trying to fill the time with appointments and “training” sessions. I say “training” loosely since the actually greetings and learning sessions have been a bit of a joke. Mostly they are brief conversations where we review a paper that’s already been given to us, or someone sits down to tell us about who else is responsible for one thing or another. I don’t know if that makes sense; basically, it’s an inglorious introduction to the slow and beaurocratic African process.
As for the city itself, it seems like it is pretty great. It’s a bit of a combination of Accra and Caribbean style buildings. Neglected architecture, but the city was planned by the Portuguese so it’s a grid and easy and safe to walk around (most of the areas). It’s right on the ocean, but I haven’t gotten a chance to go see the beach yet. Hopefully this weekend I’ll get a chance to explore more of the neighborhoods and eat local food.
I had three flight starting from Atlanta to London, then London to Johanesberg, then from Joberg to Maputo. Luckily all three flights went well, but the best layover was in London.
On Tuesday morning, Sam came to Heathrow and picked me up, and then we took the tube into the city. He showed me the outside of Central Saint Martins and his little window where he had an exhibit last year. We had a coffee then met Heidi for a delicious lunch. It was SO so so so wonderful to see them. After lunch we went to a pub and had a very authentic British pub experience, including getting to know the drunk older men next to us, the entire divorce story of another couple that was there, and a review of why the economy is in the pooper and whose to blame. In fact, one ole’chap even made an indecent proposal to Heidi. Pretty funny. My layover was only 8 hours or so, but somehow in the 4 and a half hours I was in London we covered a lot of ground and got sufficiently drunk.
I hadn’t seen either of them since last January, and even though I was hoping to spend a few days with them on an extended layover, we really made the most of the limitted time.
Then it was back to Heathrow and on to Joberg.