Today I needed to go to Barclays bank (which we don’t have in Inharrime) and Ann had to go to the ICAP office in Inhambane, so last night the two of us headed up to Chicuque, a small town outside out Maxixe. Becky, a third year extendee (who I visited on my site visit as a trainee, 16 months—or a lifetime—ago) just moved into her fourth house as a PCV and fifth house in 3 years, if you count her homestay during training. Her first house, which I visited on my site visit, was robbed three times, to Peace Corps told her and Stephanie (her roommate) that they had to move. They found another house in the city of Maxixe (a 7.5 Meticais chapa ride from Chicuque, where they teach). This house was nice, but they lived with the woman who owned the house and she was an incredibly unpleasant person. And then one day she surprised them—she was selling the house and moving to Maputo. So Becky and Stephanie found another house, the house that Donna, another PCV, had lived in before she moved out of Maxixe. Their little house at the back of the landlady’s property wasn’t great, but it was only for a few months and the deal was that after Vic (another PCV) left, Becky would move into his upstairs apartment in the main house. When this time came, Becky’s school approached the landlady about moving Becky’s things. Her response: “oh bad news, I rented it to another guy.” So Becky was stuck in a small house that, by its nature, had no privacy and wasn’t very nice or convenient. Becky was eventually able to find another house back in Chicuque near her school and convinced Peace Corps to allow her to move back. So last weekend she moved in and last night Ann and I were her first guests in a very nice house that is finally back in a real neighborhood in the town she should have been living in.
In the morning, after a wonderful breakfast of apple cinnamon crepes (last night I made delicious Thai green curry and Becky baked banana-chocolate muffins for dessert), Ann and I set out for Inhambane city. We caught a Chicuque-Maxixe chapa, but after about 5 minutes they pulled over and started inspecting the wheel. We were only about a 10 minute walk from Maxixe as that point, so Ann and I just got out to walk the rest of the way. Before catching the boat across the bay to Inhambane city, we stopped at a restaurant to use the restroom. There was a young woman standing outside the bathroom who said I would need to pay 5 Meticais to use it. We have never had to pay before, but our malaria medications are a diuretic, so I just ran by her and said “sure, whatever!” But Ann, waiting outside, said, “when did they start this, because we have never had to pay before.” “You must pay 5 Meticais to use the bathroom” the lady responded. “You aren’t answering my question. We live here and have never had to pay to use the bathroom before, when did this system start?” “Everybody has to pay 5 Meticais to use the bathroom.” This conversation repeated a few times until the lady just said we wouldn’t have to pay. We weren’t trying to get out of paying, we just wanted to know when this had started! We concluded that either it was a scam and the restaurant doesn’t know the lady is there charging people, or she just isn’t too bright.
We took the boat across the bay from Inhambane to Maxixe. A man tried pushing in front of me so I channeled my inner Mozambican and pushed him back behind me. When we arrived in Inhambane city we split up to run our errands. I went to the Mcel (one of two cell phone service providers in the country) to buy phone credits. I walked in, asked for what I wanted, he printed them out, I paid, I left. Whenever something like that happens here—something so smooth and painless—it leaves me feeling uneasy, did I forget something I was supposed to do?
Afterwards I went to Barclays Bank to do some REDES banking stuff. Banks in this country are always an experience. The aspect that a westerner might find most frustrating is the difference in the concept of what a line is and how they work. In America you fill everything out, then you go stand in line where each person is behind the next. In Mozambique, you walk up and ask who the last person is. When they respond, you say “I am behind them” and then you are the last person. And then you can go fill out your forms, you can go chat on your phone, you can even go grab lunch! And when the person you are behind is up, then you are the next one. So the first couple times you go to a bank here, imagine the frustration as it appears you are nearing the teller (the one teller at a bank in the provincial capital) when suddenly people appear out of nowhere and step in front of you—because it’s their spot. But I have the system down now and I also have a lot more patience than before. And I had my GMAT vocab flashcards. When I got to the window I found out that the people at Barclay’s not only know my phone number and voice, but also my face, where I teach, and where I live. As I was waiting, two boys walked in who looked like they had just walked off the set of “The Jersey Shore”—spiked and highlighted hair, shiny sunglasses, an eyebrow ring, popped collars, big chains around their necks, brightly colored bracelets and rings, the whole shebang. It was strange.
Next I had to go to Millenium BIM, a different bank to make deposits. I had finally found my place in the very long “line,” when one of the tellers (that bank had two!!) stood up and explained that the system was down and they didn’t know when it would be back up. After seeing a couple people do this, I snaked my way to the front (I have no shame about some things anymore, in America I would have been afraid people would have thought I was being rude and trying to cut them). Since all I had to do was make deposits, I smiled and convinced the guy to take my money and sign my forms, and just enter the information in when system was back up.
Afterwards, Ann and I met up for a snack where they had tables and chairs outside. There were some men nearby being rude and crude in the way that Mozambican men can be, but we tried to ignore them. At one point one of them even took a picture of us on his phone, thinking we wouldn’t notice. Seriously, some of the men in this country are awful.
We met a Venezuelan nun who has lived in Mozambique for 11 years now. Like many Spanish speakers I have met since being here, she was hard to understand because she basically just spoke Spanish, but she was very nice and gave us a ride to another market area. In this market they have lots of used clothing—quite literally all of the clothes you gave to Goodwill 10 years ago. Every once in a while Ann and I would exclaim, “hey I used to have this shirt!” it had rained earlier that day, so to walk down the narrow alley between stalls everyone had to straddle puddles, cling to the posts of stalls on either side, and jump from one side to the other. At one stall I asked how much the shirts in the back were and she told me 10 Meticais each, so we went in. A boy across the alley yelled over to the woman in Bitonga, the local language in Inhambane city. The thing about communication is that in some cases, the words aren’t actually that important. The boy yelled something mulungo 50. The woman responded no, 10. He had clearly said “make sure you charge the mulungos 50 for those” and she had responded “but I already told her 10.” I turned back to the lady and said “you know I am hearing all of this right?” She smiled sheepishly and told me the boy was foolish.
We got a ride part of the way back with an upper-class Mozambican man who had studied in Fargo, ND at some point. Talk about an adjustment. He told us that Americans should travel more, because they tend to have no concept whatsoever of the greater world. And I totally agree with him. But then when he found out we live in Inharrime, he started hating on Inharrime, saying things like “what can you do in Inharrime, you must be so bored, there is NOTHING to do there!” Ann and I got really defensive—don’t bash on our town! And we have a great time in Inharrime actually.
Afterwards we met an Israeli guy who is here working as a consultant for Mcel (phone company) who is actually staying in Inharrime. He usually just hangs out alone in his hotel room, so he was overjoyed to have the three of us join him for dinner and show him the hot spots in town (that was sarcasm, there are only a couple places you can get food here).
Today was Inharrime day, so it was a district holiday. So there were some people at the restaurant who had very clearly been drunk since Friday night—and had no intention of stopping. There was also a group of about eight girls around 10 years old. And sure, the restaurant is one of the only places in town with a television or to socialize, it always upsets me when I see things like that. I wonder where their parents are and why they don’t care that their young daughters are hanging out in a bar on a school night. And I also remember that in females in Mozambique, the HIV/AIDS rate starts to increase at age ten—because that is often the age of sexual debut—and it gives me the chills.