Tuesday, March 28, 2006

lesson learned

He was the third vistor that day, "Acença" rousing myself from myn afternoon routine that I was trying, invain, to begin. "Acença" this time a little louder. "Um momento" retying the knot of my capulana, I have taken to changing out of my work clothes immediatly upon returning home. Whne I pushed open the screen door I was greate4d by the wide toothed smile of Davis, he looked like a sweet toothed diabetic in a candy store, gratifying a guilty satisfactrion. Davis is one of my favorite students, amibtions, intelligent, kind, most accurately likene d to a sponge - not the kind that is pilled and disengrated after one too many uses on stubbor pots and pans, but rather freshly unwrapped from its protective covering ready to absoard everything and take on the world. Offcourse his boyhood innocence, as I would have hoped, did not prevent the seeminly inevitable destination of all my friendships with men here. (I've tried to explain the meaning of platonic realtionships but the result leads me to believe that I am a complete failure as a teacher) Anyway, the story of Davis.

Two weeks ago I received a letter, slid under my front door, that had my name eloborately written on the front, the style of writing was foreshadowing for its fantasticaly dramãtic contents, confessions of undying love, and better yet a desire to present me to his parents as his esposa. While the formaily of the courtship was briefly flattering. His 'heartfelt' words only seemed to emphasize our cultural differences, further cementing my identity as Muzungo. I mean he doesn't even know my last name!

After a grueling conversation where he sate endearingly naive, his dark tear stained skin gleaming, as I explianed, in suprising clear portuguese, my idea of a student-teacher relationships, which is at most friendship. Then I had to dissuade him from switching schools and ensure him that he was not a disgrace to his parents.. (sounds like a plot to a spanish soap oprea) I couldnot help but take a bit of hpity on this boy, so fI left my hardline approach that has piereced the parade of pompous illintenioned suitors in the past, instead I found a honey coated tone to coax this impressionable student to understand the value of frindship. The whole ordeal was so dramatic, I had to stifile my laughter, it was as if i was breaking up with a long term boyfriend, but inforn t of me sat a 19 year old boy who i have known for 3 weeks... a bit absurd but i asure ~you this is just one of countlessstories female PCVs can recant.

So yes two weeks later was at my doorstep, per my request (as we had settled in to a comfortable friendship) to h~elp teach me portuguese. We began the lesson, but w~hen conversation lulled, and his material had run out, I accepted an invitation to visit a friend of his. The day was crisp reminscient of Vermont o fall, uincharistic for Moz, >I half expected to see mpale trees abalze and hear the whistle of a soccer refferee. (Instead I saw Mozambiquan~s bundled up in jackets, sporting varios types of hats, mind you it was a crisp 70 degrees!) Davis leading the way we turned lefot out of my house, with Zua in toe. We exchange the usual compliments with Donna Arminda, a sugar plum woman whoswe breast sag close to her belly button, the left starp of her dress is perpetually sliding down her thick arm, giving her a disheveled but matrinely look. Shem beamed and tried out her newly aprendou English greating, "good morning" Although it was afternoon I liet is slide, allowing my admiration to take precent over 'the grammar stickler in me' I am utterly impressed with this woman, rearing 4 children, working during the day, and continuing school at night ( I often see her studying by candle light) The womans day starts at 5 and ends at 11. Her situation is not unique the woman here have a resolute strength that I can only hope ot emulate after 2 years.

Next David and I passed a line of corn- every avaliobale space is untilized for subsistence farming, imagine suburban houses whose property is defined by corn husks and rice patties. The joys of practicality! Follwing the road out of Barro Seish exchanging compliments iun Portuguese and sena, we vered right at a small caminho, so small i had nver noticed it before, weaving are way through backyards as we buired deeper into this unchartered territory. Cement houses grew scarce, there is no order here, mud and caniço houses built in the same system that defines chaos. We arrive unbeknowest to me, at a 2 room half wood half cement house, a porch supported by discarded timber and covered with scraps of metal. Strangely radiated a homely feeling...

We were greatred timidly, I could tell they were wondeing what a whie girl was doing at their humble home, by a young mother laying on an esteara with her 3 children, the oldest was playing with the baby. Behind runing loses were goats, ducks, and chickens, my first thoug was this family is well off to have such an array of livestalk. An older woman, her face creased with lines thast indicated years of hard work and laughter. She sat akwardly upon a rickidy chair- waring a praire style dress, 2 sizes too big, with a rip in the seam that exposed her powerful upper arm. Her smile was mischevous, maybe it ws the missing front teeth? We began bater popa in portugeues- asking if Nelso was there... Then allof of a sudden with a gleam in her eye, the old woman belts out.
"He has gone to the neighbors to get medicine" in PERFECT English! I was bewildered, stunned, all i could do was whisper "?Como?" Did I just hear english from a woman who i was suprised she s~poke portugues.

She was born in MOz- but her husband was killed by RENAMO during the war. She fled with her children to zimbabe, they live hand to mouth, literaly eating what they had the capacity to grow. But this woman was more than a survivor she quickly7 learned English and got a job ina small bar, making enough to suport her family. She returned to MOçcambique becasue she recieved a small piece of land (how remains unclear) anbd now is staying with her borthers first wifes family, (families homes are an open door, no questions aske, no matter how distant the relations~)

We sat and chit chatted, a mixture of English Portuguese and Shona, dialect of descended from Bantu tribes near zimbabwae. (Well i only partcipated in the English portuguese part).-

I walked away from that conversation awe struck. I have only a cliche to offer... never judge a book by its cover.


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