Tuesday, November 1, 2011

29/10/11--English Theater

Today was the Inhambane province English theater competition. We, my group and Erin’s, were supposed to leave at 4:30am but when the chapa still hadn’t arrived at 4:45am I called him. Obviously just awoken he asked “am I supposed to come now?” “You were supposed to come ten minutes ago!” I yelled. But amazingly he was there within 5 minutes. A few of our students showed up a little late (this is Mozambique, after all), but by the time the driver arrived everyone was there and we set off for Massinga, where the competition would be.
Most of the buses and cars in this country originally came from Japan and they have vestiges of their history like stickers or stickers, in Japanese, explaining how to open the door or the maximum capacity. The chapa driver turned on the tape in the player and suddenly I perked up—it was Hikaru Utada’s hit album “Automatic” album from 1999! In other words, it was the hit album by a Japanese pop star the year I lived in Japan with my family when I was 12 years old, an album that I still have and listen to. This tape clearly came with the bus and had been in the player, maybe stuck in there, for 13 years. I rocked out the whole ride; I don’t think anyone else enjoyed the music quite as much as I did.
There were 15 different English theater groups from around Inhambane province at the competition. Each group had between 5-10 students and it was such a pleasure to see so many students excited about speaking English. Throughout the day the students spoke predominantly English, excited to be around other speakers and proud to show off their proficiency. One group was actually a REDES group that decided that they wanted to form their own all-girls English skit.
Anytime a bunch of teenage boys (sadly most groups were about 70% boys) are writing a skit you would expect it to be pretty goofy. This is no surprise and it’s not a bad thing either. But one thing that bothered me today was how light and goofy the plays were at times when they were discussing and portraying very profound and serious topics, such as rape. And perhaps what bothered me even more was the audience’s ability to forget that they were watching the portrayal of a rape and laugh at the actors’ antics during the scene.
My group didn’t win any prizes, but I was incredibly proud of them. The performance they gave today was one of the best ones they have ever given. My colleague and counterpart had come with us, but he had an event with his wife’s family mid-morning, so we had requested the first time slot and planned for him to leave after our group performed. But unfortunately, in true Mozambican fashion, many of the groups were late and we started about 1.5 hours behind schedule, so he wasn’t able to see our group perform.
On our drive home a young man about my age was standing right on the yellow line on the left side of the road. He looked to his left, didn’t see anything, and took the first step of a sprint into the road, right where our chapa would be in a second. At the last moment (and after he had already started to move) he looked right, saw our chapa, and stopped. Our chapa missed him by feet and the mirror on the side of the bus missed him by inches. Everyone in the first two rows (all PCVs) screamed and the driver looked like his heart stopped—mine certainly had.

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