My director gave me my bata today, which is the white lab coat-looking things that teachers wear at most schools. Apparently they came out with new models though, because the one she gave me is much lighter and less starchy than the ones I have seen—much better. It was so exciting to receive! It kind of makes things seem more real. I still don’t know what I’m teaching, but the pedagogical director is back from holidays so hopefully I will meet him next week and find out. Emma, my sitemate who has been here for a year already and teaches English at the public high school in town, said that she didn’t know what grade she was teaching until two days before school began last year, but not to worry because most kids don’t show up for the first week of classes anyway.
I was sitting in the shade reading today when two men came up and started talking to me. Reading for leisure is a pretty foreign concept here and people have a hard time wrapping their minds around WHY in the world anyone would want to do that. One of the men asked if I was reading a dictionary. I said no, it was just a book for reading. “Just for reading?” he gave me a puzzled look, like what a strange idea. They talked to me for a while and asked why, if I wanted to learn Portuguese like I said, I was sitting here reading a book in English which I already know. I pulled out of my bag the book in Portuguese I am reading. Two books? That was too much for them. They were also asking me about language in America. In Mozambique Portuguese is the official language, but everyone (or at least all the African Mozambicans) speaks their local language as well and a lot of kids don’t even learn Portuguese until they start school. And there are over 20 Bantu languages spoken in Mozambique. In my town the language is Xichopi, in Maxixe and Inhambane about 80K north of here they speak Gitonga, in Namaacha my host family spoke Changana, etc. One thing that’s really hard for Mozambicans to understand is that there is no equivalent to this phenomenon in America.