Today was the big REDES (Rapariga em Desenvolvimento, Educação e Saúde—Girls in Development, Education and Health) Inter-group Exchange between my secondary school group, Shannon’s group and Naomi’s group (two other PCVs). For the Exchange, Naomi’s group and my group traveled to Chidenguele, Shannon’s site, to meet up with her group and to paint a mural on a wall in the soccer stadium there. We were scheduled to leave at 6am. At about 6:15am the bus showed and most of the girls had assembled at the meeting point. We had to wait a few minutes and send two girls to the houses of other girls to retrieve them, but we had everyone by 6:35am. Then we set off for the other meeting point (since my school is about 3 miles out of town, some of the girls live here near the school and some of the girls live in town). Everyone was there already! Except for one girl. Nobody had seen that girl yet, but somebody said that she lives near my school, so we went back out there and sent someone to her house, but they were told that she had gone home to the bush for the weekend. I tried calling the guardian who had signed her permission form, but either the person’s phone died right when I called, or they hung up on me and ignored my calls. So at 7am we hit the road, only one person short. This is actually the third time since being here that someone just hasn’t showed up the morning of a trip. And I really don’t understand it because these trips are literally once-in-a-lifetime events for these kids (some of my girls had only been through the towns we passed once or twice before, and this is significant since we were going south, ie toward Maputo). Last year one girl didn’t show up to go to the REDES conference and one girl didn’t show up to go to English Theater.
About 20 minutes out of town the driver pulled over to get “gas.” We have gas stations in this country. But another common form of filling your tank is at little makeshift places along the side of the road. When the large trucks carrying gas drive by on the highway, people bribe the drivers to stop and let them siphon gas out. Then they display this gas on the side of the road in old water or cooking oil containers. I had asked a male colleague of mine to arrange the bus we rented for this day, since he had arranged the one for our English Theater competition last year. He asked if he could come along, not to hang out with us, but to just spend the day in the town of Chidenguele, and then to be let off in Quissico on the way home, where there was a large festival going on. I let him come and he turned out to be a huge help all day. He yelled at the driver for me when he made this stop he should have done before picking us up. And when the driver demanded the second half of the payment in the morning (rather than at the end of the day) and I refused, my colleague called the bus owner and sorted things out.
The day went really well, and it taught me a lot about what we need to do to prepare for our next two mural paintings. We had 52 people there and I believe everyone got to do some painting, and the girls had a great time painting, painting themselves and each other, dancing, and spending the day together. We had lunch at a small place there (one of two restaurants in town) and—wait for it—they actually had all the food ready when we showed up! Two of Naomi’s girls gave a talk about having good relationships with other people, and then we got back to painting. We didn’t quite finish everything on Saturday, but Shannon and her girls will finish it up for us.
On the way home, late and in the dusk/dark, the driver pulled over to pee on the side of the road. All of the girls suddenly had to pee so I reluctantly let them off. Another bus coincidentally pulled up beside us for a pee stop too. Since all 15 of my girls had gone into the grass on the side of the road in front of the bus, I walked around to the driver’s side and turned off his headlights. Then I heard squeals. Turns out that one of the disgusting guys from the other bus had taken a picture of all of my girls peeing. I wasn’t too worried because it was far too dark for any picture to come out on a good camera, much less a phone camera, so I reminded the men what revolting dogs they are and herded the girls back onto the bus.