Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cultural Mishaps Happen

So last week the to-do's of Dondo-Beira district came to visit my school. During 1st period I received a very official looking letter stamped and sealed declaring everyones presence was requested during the interval maior. So my lessons carried on, and in typical fashion my 4th period class ran a little late. So i rushed out of the classroom to see the majority of the students and the entirety of the staff organized. I slipped through the lines of student as about discretly as a Pagan at a Morman mass. I made it to the line of teachers and ofcourse im one of four people not wearing my Bata, the mandatory uniform of teachers, that out of principal I refuse to wear. Forgot to mention the other three not in uniform were decked out in 3 piece suits.... ooopppss. There was only room at the front of the line which meant I was closests to the Big bosses, and consequently blocking half of the doorway to the teachers room, which has been claeaned adn the red table cloth laid out for their arrival. So I sand in polite attention while each person in introduced and the Hohays for FRELIMO and Education are done. Normally political talk, nice words strung together but not really saying anything.

I wonder if they even looked into the salas- took note of the condition in which the school is in. Here its all about show and presentation, the Chefes roll up in nice cars, suits, and body guards (i mean really who would try to kill the dondo minister of education?) Gleaming smiles they ask Tudo bem? I wanted to say.. Nao! Em realidade nos salas sao horivel. O chao tem couvas muinto fundo, tudos os dias eu quasi torco meu tornozelo, esta perigoso... But of course i kept my mouth shut and smiled. But i was quite pleased when a girl in 12th grade spoke up- to complain about the conditions of the salas. She received the robotoic response of next year we will start improving the school. I found out afterward this cerimony and dialouge has been going on the same way for years, with no changes!

So after they all said their unmoving words they turned towards the line of teachers, and dumb old me standign at the front of the line thought they were going to enter the sal do preofessors again. So I turned to allow them more space, as they were not men who only subsisted on xima, but in acutlaity they were coming to compliment all the teachers. It apperaed as if I was turning my back to one of the most respected members in my community, hencing thouroughly embarrassing myself and disgracing the school... . My director snapped at me, and when I turned back I only had to shake the big mans hand, so my actions went without explanation. My bad... I'm just an American trying to teach in Mozambique don't equate my ignorance with disrespect.

Because in this society demonstration of respect and presentation are weighted above everything here... it doesnt matter that I show up everyday, on time, with a well prepared lesson. I will continue to be referred to, atleast in a light joking manner by my collegues, as the white girl who snubbed her chefe.


Blogger DavidSchramm said...

Chelsea, keep posting, I'm enjoying following along, I think what you're doing is terrific.

7:39 PM  

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