Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Mulungu Zoo

Hello from Panda!

After an exciting last week in Namaacha with plenty of parties and 4 glorious days in the capitol for the swearing in ceremony and supervisor's conference (complete with HOT SHOWERS), I am now an official bona-fide, sworn-in Peace Corps Volunteer!

Our beloved festive bull skull!
We arrived at site on Friday afternoon after a 6 hour chapa ride. Panda is a super small, sandy village about two hours away from the coast. It reminds me of a little beach town...without the beach. Our house is a 3-room concrete house with attached bath house and storage area. We have a latrine which the previous volunteer took upon himself to splatter-paint pastel shades of the rainbow. Don't ask me why but we do have the most festive latrine in Mozambique...and heck probably all of Africa.

The school where we work is pretty much in our front yard. I'm already having visions of rolling out of bed 5 minutes before class starts. Our house is one in a row of other concrete and reed houses occupied by other professors and their families. The upside to this is that we have a very safe environment and people are always at our house, from the neighbor's girls playing jenga in our living room and swinging on our porch to our colleagues coming over to make sure we have everything we need. The downside to this is, well, people are always at our house.

Our front porch, complete with swing and pull up bar!
This morning, for example, I was awoken by one of the little girls peering into my bedroom window and yelling my name. That horror-film-worthy alarm brought me as close as I've come to wetting the bed in 15 years. Later today as I started on the hopelessly large pile of laundry I've been putting off, two of our fellow teachers walked over. One, whom I am afraid of because she speaks so bluntly and has a bad case of angry-face, exclaimed in surprise that I was washing my clothes.
-Yes, I am washing my clothes.
-You know how to wash clothes?!?
-Of course.
-You know how to wash clothes like this?? (makes scrubbing motions with her hands)
-Huh! Well where are you going to dry them? (now she's quizzing me)
-...On the clothes line out back.
Then they proceeded to watch me wash clothes for five minutes in silence before they left. Ten minutes later I had the same experience with one of my students.

My room
We're the Mulungu Zoo! Mulungus (which is Xitswa for white people) are inherently fascinating to Mozambicans and here we are doing all these fascinating things like laundry and cooking and reading...who could blame them for stopping by to sneak a peek? Part of this is also that routine daily tasks that we consider errands are much more social activities here. In the States we try to get things like shopping, cooking and cleaning done as quickly and efficiently as possible to make more time for the fun activities with our friends like eating, going to the movies, etc. But here, the chores and errands are the social activities. A trip to the market could take over an hour even though it's only a five minute walk because you have to take time to stop and talk to everyone there.

Yesterday I was feeling pretty sick--just tired and achy and all I wanted was to lay down. The previous day we had completed our obligatory introductions to our colleagues and community leaders, so I was surprised when the school director summoned us over to the school that morning. My roommate Emma and I walked over expecting to discuss class schedules or more awkward introductions but Senhor Director simply announced that the daily snack was ready. I tried my best to hide the you-seriously-just-got-me-out-of-bed-to-eat-an-egg-sandwich expression but my face has a knack for displaying my true feelings. My escape efforts after snacktime were also futile. The aforementioned colleague who strikes fear in my heart with her stink-eye caught whiff of our idea to return home. "No," she said before we even got up. "Sit and converse with us." Well, how could I argue with a direct order from Maleficent herself? So we sat there learning Xitswa words, teaching English words, and of course explaining why we don't have husbands or boyfriends or both.

All humor aside, I really do love Panda and our community here. Everyone is so unbelievably friendly and eager to help in any way they possibly can. These people would probably give me the shirt off their back and they've only just met me. That's the kind of community I was hoping for and I am so grateful to be here. I can't wait to spend the next two years in my new home!

Living Room