My life includes all these funny habits and my routine is strangely more consistent than I had expected to have here. Even on the other side of the hemisphere, in a Mozambican beach town, office work seems to dictate most of my day. I sit here at my desk, in a little office shared with 3 to 5 people. The room is messy with too many tables, no trash can, piles and stacks of baskets, broken drawers, crossing wires and plugs, holes in the cement, a crooked portrait hung on the wall, and paper that flutters around whenever the wind decides to blow. This is my office, and I’ve claimed the desk that faces the door – I can watch and wave to anyone who comes by.
I do take an occasional trip to the field. Last week I stayed in Mabote for 4 days. It’s a small town about three hours inland from Vilankulo. We work with several rural weaving groups in the region and were there to lead training lessons and observe our Extensionists. The town is really small, not quite a village but certainly not a metropolis. In fact it looks a bit like a cement and African interpretation of an old western frontier town. There are no white people that live in Mabote- at least none that I actually saw. My presence was not shocking, but it certainly aroused lots of attention and many random shouts of “Mulungu, Mulungu!” or “white person, white person!” This blunt acknowledgement of my skin color is nothing new. In fact, I get it all the time from almost every child while I walk to and from work in Vilankulo. But In Mabote it was not just kids, even an occasional 60 year old man would come out running from his hut to have a good look at my odd red hair and freckles.
Anyway, on my last day there I was wondering around the small market, tucked behind a cantina-esque building, perusing the second hand clothing and trying to find fashionable gems amongst the piles of polyester and worn cotton t-shirts. By the time I started walking back to the small guest house where the other CARE staff were waiting, I had a variable crowd of 10 people, giggling and talking in hushed voices, following in my wake. There is certainly a quality of novelty and flattery to be given such attention, but it’s also a keen reminder that I am an outsider.
In all honesty I kind of anticipated that my experience in Mozambique would be more like this one in Mabote; a random, rural village where I would be the obvious foreigner, but with time and a big smile, I would find my way into the hearts and daily lives of my community.
In Vilankulo I get a mixed bag – I still get called Mulungu when i walk down the street, but because there is a relatively large expat community of white Africaners, Zimbabweans and tourist passing through I am not the only Mulungu walking around town. This certainly has it’s pros and cons. My life here is a bit of a combination of some western convinces and many African quirks. It has it’s challenges and frustrations, but really I feel like I’m learning quite a lot – especially about myself.