Wednesday, January 11, 2012
This morning I left Maputo to head home to Namaacha. I went to a store on my way out to get a couple things you can only buy in Maputo, and then with these two shopping bags, my big duffle bag (I had left a few things at a friend’s house while I was in the states), and my over-sized purse, I headed to the chapa stop. When I got there nobody was in the front seat which is ideal when you have a lot of stuff because there is more leg room. Chapas, which are extended vans, have this front seat with a normal car door, and then a sliding door that opens to four rows of benches that seat people four across. The front seats are a bench seat, so there is the driver’s seat, the regular passenger seat, and then the small makeshift seat in between them which nobody was in yet. I settled into my seat, put my headphones in, pulled my book out and waited for the chapa to fill up so we could leave (the chapas here don’t run on schedules, but leave once all the seats are full). When the last person showed up, a man, the guy in charge of the chapa came over to my door and told me to move over so the guy could sit down. I said “no, the man can sit here in the middle.” He said “no, men don’t sit there. Move over.” I said “no, men can sit here in the middle too. Women have the right to sit in this seat.” He laughed as if what I said was actually funny and asked “in what country?” He told me if I wasn’t going to move over I would have to move to a different seat in the back. I said no. He said if I refused to move I would have to get out of the chapa. I said no. I told him I had the right to sit in that seat and I was going to sit in it. He left for a while and then came back and the argument repeated. He kept insisting that I either move other, move to a different seat, or get out of the car. I kept saying no. Eventually he turned back to the chapa full of people (mostly women) and started talking to them in Changana, probably telling them that I was the reason we hadn’t left yet. I turned around indignantly to defend myself: “he is saying that women don’t have the right to sit in this seat!” I could tell a couple of them were annoyed with me. But I recognized the looks on the rest of their faces—they wanted to help me but didn’t know how or didn’t think they could. Eventually an older woman who had come to drop off her teenage niece told her niece to climb up to the front middle seat and then the last passenger (the man) could sit in her seat. It was a compromise but the chapa guy and I were both pissed we hadn’t won the argument. When he came over to collect the money I said “you’re going to see that this world is changing, just wait.” “What am I going to see?” he asked bitterly. “That women have all the rights that men have.” He was too mad to even laugh at me. There are times when I get so angry at this world we live in.