We (four of us PCVs who administratively ran the REDES conference) arrived in Inhambane a day early to make sure everything was in order and to run last-minute errands. One thing we had to do was pick up many many gallons of water—enough for 100 people for 5 days. Inhambane is an incredible touristy town, so I hate walking into the bus and taxi area where everyone immediately assumes you’re a tourist, that you are going to Tofo beach, and that they can rip you off. We needed to hire a taxi in order to transport all the water we were buying, but hiring a taxi just kills me—it’s the ultimate sign of being a tourist and guarantees that people will try to rip you off. The first taxi driver who walked over showed us his price list to demonstrate that he wasn’t ripping us off, so we figured why not? He also spoke to us in Portuguese, rather than English which we appreciated. This taxi driver ended up being a godsend throughout the week. Since I had to run errands in Inhambane city almost every day, we called him often and he was a great resource. He knew where to go to get things, and made sure that I wasn’t ripped off. When I wanted to buy phone credits he only let me buy them from one boy he knows and told me to call him if they didn’t work. (Recently there have been a lot of cases of scams with these phone credits. People sell things that aren’t actually phone credits, so it’s best to stand there with the person and punch the code in before you pay them.)
On one ride back he was talking to me about where I lived and worked. He told me that his mother and sister live in Inharrime and his sister goes to my school. I asked what grade she is in. “Well. She was in…10th grade last year…and she passed. So I guess she has to be in 11th grade now.” I teach 11th grade, so I asked her name. He thought for a while and then finally admitted he couldn’t remember her name. “It’s hard, you see, because in house I always call her by her nickname” (It is very common here for someone to have a school name that they are called at school, and a house name that they are called by family and neighbors). “I’ll think of it…I just need a minute. It’s hard to keep track, you see, because I have 36 siblings.” When I told him that I have only one brother he was equally blown away. He explained that his mother alone had 13 kids. He did remember his sister’s name eventually.
Seeing all the spirited, animated girls at the REDES conference was such a treat. Not all the women here in Mozambique are like that. I think that a certain type of girl generally joins REDES, and then girls with leadership potential are chosen to go to the conference, so we definitely see the best and the brightest at the conferences. I get so frustrated sometimes by the way women are treated here, and the submissiveness they display in letting themselves be treated like that. But seeing the girls at the conference reminds me that little by little things are changing. And I know that these girls are going to be okay in life. As long as they don’t get pregnant. The thought terrifies me.