Saturday, February 24, 2007

I'll figure out the photo thing later....

Aclimatizing To The Heat

As I unstuck myself from the bed and peel off my drenched T-shirt, I refused to admit that the heat makes me lazy, for it's the jet-lag that made me sleep so much. Johnny and I have another day left here at the capital before we head six hours North to our school in Inhambane, where I do not expect to enjoy the same shower, refrigerator or other conveniences.

Although the sand sticks to my skin, I'm relieved that it's windy. Por fim esta vento. At last it's windy. When I say simple sentences like this in Portuguese, people tell me that I speak well. Such flattery makes me sympathize with the Japanese and Brazilians back in Massachusetts who struggle to make themselves correctly understood. There's so much more that I wish to say! Yet how surprising that rearranging a limited vocabulary allows me to express anything at all, and how pleasing it is to chat in another language. Yesterday I spoke more Portuguese than the whole time spent studying during the past six months combined.

Walking through the neighborhood along the sandy roads, past the kids riding oversized bicycles or dragging each other around inside a loop of cord, I glimpsed into the gardens and yards to notice the dirt well swept. The shady spot in the center of each dwelling seemed inviting but I pressed on to avoid staring at people.

I stumbled upon the same tree with the fallen green fruits at its base that I noticed a boy nibble on a few moments before. Peeling off the skin revealed a large stone surrounded by tart white flesh, so I pocketed a handful. The following morning I returned to the tree where I met two young women who pointed out the juicy ripe yellow ones. After they asked me about my hat, watch, shirt, necklace, ring, red skin and pimples (none of which I gave them) we strolled together for some way.

At roughly the same place the previous evening, I helped an older woman and her granddaughter push her overloaded wheelbarrow along after she conveniently dumped the contents near enough for me to gallantly offer my assistance, which amused them no end. Avoiding the pot holes, I navigated the wheelbarrow to the place grandma referred to as her "small" garden, which seemed quite large to me, and my hands remained stuck tight after releasing the load. Grandma looked at me intently to explain that her husband had died and that she managed her small garden all alone.

Further away across the busy street a large family worked together industriously mixing dirt cement by the roadside. When I paused to observe, the father jovially beckoned me over to work, and I gladly grabbed the shovel. Father knew of Humana People To People but never imagined a white female could carry a bucket. Inside the yard walls, his older sons made bricks, one of the older daughters cried into her lap, and the younger kids stared at me washing my hands. A robust woman sat in the shade of a tree with her youngest baby, only a few weeks old. As far as I could see she must have mothered a dozen children.

For the rest of the day I watched an artist named Manuel making his batik pictures. The technique he learned in school and now taught his younger brother Amando. While painting wax on the cloth, he explained how the nice house belonged to his eldest brother, that his father had died and that his mother worked on the small family garden in the neighboring province. Besides completing their general education, they both relied on the batiks for an income. Thousands of batiks and other crafts are pushed by hawkers on the city streets, on the beaches, in the restaurants. Not a moment passed that somebody didn't try to sell to us foreigners.

Foreigners look rich and therefore arouse attention. One man who took a fancy to Janine could relate our daily movements back to us, even knowing the location of Johnny's bedroom and for how long he slept! Such close observations made us somewhat uneasy. This attention extends to marriage proposals, for many Mozambicans want a ticket to America or Europe. Even though he fluttered his eyelids, I declined Manuel's invitation to become his benefactor. Instead I plan to give him photos of himself dying batiks so that he may fetch a better price among the anonymous hawkers. In our efforts to spread development, we volunteers cannot afford to keep on giving handouts, but will be constantly asked for loans in this land where even government workers go unpaid for a month or so. Since I receive $150 per month for living expenses, I wonder how will I spend it?

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