Friday, October 18, 2013

Nao Me Tocas

So a couple of posts ago I mentioned how surprised I was that Africa wasn’t as different as I expected it to be. There are a lot of differences, though and I think the best way to showcase them is to outline how my mãe and her friends came to the assumption that I am pregnant.

The events happened as follows:

1.       My family and my neighbor Matt’s family have been pining for us to get married and have children since we arrived, as they tell me almost daily. Any time we are walking together/hanging out is a big deal and basically considered a date according to Mozambican standards. Also, we both have teenage sisters who egg on the situation.

2.       Having switched Malaria prophy to Doxycycline recently, I had a bout of losing my breakfast Tuesday morning, which Mãe witnessed and shared with her friends. These friends just so happen to be the host mothers of the PCTs in my language group and so this info was shared at our cooking exchange the same day.

3.       Somewhere between explaining how to cook buffalo chicken and talk about how much I love Mozambican babies I accidentally agreed with something they said in Changana that caused the whole group of mães to laugh aloud for about five minutes. I tried to back track and say I didn’t understand but they just continued laughing at me.

And BOOM. I’m pregnant according to the Namaacha rumor mill, and now Mark’s mãe won’t stop touching my boobs every time she sees me. She doesn’t even make an attempt at being subtle, either because it’s totally socially acceptable. Along that note, privacy and personal space just aren’t the same here. People will seriously violate the typical American “bubble” and not even consider the fact that it would bother you. Everyone wants to touch your skin and hair because it’s different, and they won’t hesitate to pinch you and tell you to eat more. Sometimes this is annoying, like when my neighbor Hans (I call him this because of his handsy-ness and because I can never remember his real name) stays only two inches from my face when talking about music or proposing marriage, and gets increasingly closer as I try to subtly move away. Sometimes, though, it makes my day, like when I’m walking to class and a group of kids just bombard me with hugs or walk with me holding my hand and asking to try on my glasses.

Yesterday on our walk to class, Matt and I came upon a group of three little boys on their way to school. The first one said “Bom dia” to me and touched my butt, which I figured was an accident. The second one did the same, which made me think it was not accidental and when the third one reached his hand out I swatted him and said “Não não! Indiciplinados!” And they all laughed and ran away. The whole thing just made me think of the “he touched the butt” scene from Finding Nemo, except I am the large foreign thing everyone wants to touch.

So there is definitely a different culture here, and with that comes the awkward and often confusing integration period. One thing that I love though is that once a week we have Ngoma Time during which we share a little bit of American culture and get to experience some Moz culture as well. Yesterday we saw an awesome singing/step dance group perform, and one of our groups sang Sweet Caroline and Wagon Wheel which gave me flashbacks to Auburn (who broke the AP Top 25…what up!) and was a nice taste of home. My group explained the rules of Red Rover and then we all played a massive game of it in the school yard. It was so much fun, mostly because of how into it the Mozambicans got.

Today is the end of Week 3, and while it was off to a rough start it has ended sweetly. Our visiting volunteers Yuri and Anneke have had some really insightful information and tips for teaching large classrooms, which is much needed considering we will very likely have classes of 80+ students. My language group has a new professor due to complications with our old one and there is such a stark difference in our Portuguese class now. I feel like I’m learning so much more now even after just one class and I’m no longer dreading language hours. The only downside of today is that I REALLY needed to do laundry but it’s cold and rainy…not very conducive to line drying. I have enough clean underwear to last a couple more days though so here’s hoping we see some sunshine soon!

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