Saturday, October 10, 2009
Today was our first day of school, though we didn’t begin our language or cross-cultural lessons, it was mostly introductions (in Portuguese—didn’t understand much), and overviews. We began the morning by sharing our funny stories, awkward moments, and concerns since we hadn’t all been together since we were dropped off with our homestay families two days ago. Some very funny stories, some incredibly awkward moments, and unfortunately a few concerns. My host family experience has been pretty mild so far compared to others’ (though my host grandmother told me today that she wants to get me fat). A long and scary lecture in the afternoon on many aspects of health including diseases/parasites and food and water preparation. Many of us have questions and concerns about where our water comes from and the water with which dishes/vegetables/fruits are washed. Even without the huge language barrier that is a difficult topic to approach. How do you tell someone who has graciously taken you in as a guest that the way they (and their mothers and grandmothers) have been doing things are wrong? Especially in my case, I feel my host mom would think “I just taught you how to do your laundry yesterday and now you’re going to tell me how to operate my kitchen?” In many ways the homestay program forces us to try to improve the hygiene and health of our host families by encouraging things like washing hands, soaking vegetables/fruits in a bleach solution, boiling and filtering water, etc which is a potentially good thing but puts a lot of pressure on us. It’s also hard because many of us are not allowed to help with things like food preparation and dishwashing because we are guests and even modest houses have a maid. Also, I am quite adept at making myself useful in any kitchen in the U.S.—in Mozambique everything is an entirely different system that renders us practically helpless.