The first word they made sure to teach us in Portuguese was “chega.” It roughly translates to “I am full” or “I’ve had enough.” They make sure we know this because Mozambicans eat a TON of food. These people can take out a pot of rice big enough to feed a village in one sitting, and they expect you to eat this much as well.
Week Three is apparently hell week according to previous volunteers and I can’t help but agree. Maybe the new wore off or maybe the reality of how long we are staying here set in but yesterday everyone was one more handful of xima away from a trip to the nut house. I know I had had enough…enough class, enough homework, enough of every kid in the village shouting Ola 50,678 times on my morning walk, enough of no one understanding me when I speak…CHEGA!
Xima, by the way, is a sticky mix of corn flour and water that is a staple here in Moz. Also, it tastes like nothing. Grits and cream of wheat have 10 times more flavor than xima. I am seriously chega of xima.
After Portuguese class yesterday we had to run around Namaacha in search for ingredients for the cooking exchange today even though all any of us wanted was to go home and pass out, or in my case dip into my Reese’s pumpkin stash. On the way home I tripped over a rock and should have caught myself but instead I just kind of gave up halfway down. Some days there just aren’t enough rocks, but this day there were too many. I fell flat on my butt onto a protruding stone in the ground and now I have a bruise on my backside the size of Texas.
On the bright side, today was a great day. The cooking exchange was just what I needed. Within our language group we picked food to make for our maes and they cooked food for us. My mae cooked arroz com mboa, which is rice with pumpkin greens, coconut, peanuts and onions…very delish! Sorry to say though it couldn’t hold a candle to the meal we made for them. We fried up a chicken (after killing and cleaning it of course) and made buffalo sauce with some Frank’s that Mark had brought from home. Then we made real mashed potatoes with butter and milk and garlic, and fried green tomatoes using some ranch seasoning I had packed (thanks Kathryn!).
Who knew I would be having fried green tomatoes in Africa? Certainly not me, but you won’t hear me complain about it. As I was eating I could just close my eyes and easily feel just like I was back home. There is nothing like some comfort food to fix all your problems. This philosophy is probably why I will eventually weigh 300 lbs or so.The best part was that our maes loved our food! Mine even had seconds and told me she wanted to make fried tomatoes and buffalo chicken again.
So there are good days and bad ones. Sometimes I miss home but sometimes I am overwhelmed by the amazing culture here. Connecting with people over things like music, dance and food is a beautiful thing, especially with a language barrier. It never ceases to surprise me how similar we all are even with such different ways of life.