Yesterday Anna sent me an excited text: she has just witnessed a man give up his seat on a bus for a woman with a baby! She was clearly shocked enough to send a text about it and I was shocked reading the text. One doesn’t often see here what we might call “acts of chivalry” in America—a man letting a woman walk first, holding the door for a woman, giving up his seat for a woman. Whenever I do see these kind gestures I am always overwhelmed by the desire to praise them or express how much I appreciate them! But I haven’t figured out a way to do this yet that isn’t a little strange, creepy, and disarming.
This morning when I left the house to walk to the office Amendoim, our dog, started to whine and bark, as he does every single time we leave. When I was almost out of earshot I heard our neighbor directly in front of our house call out to him, “quiet Amendoim, your mommy will be back soon!”
Last year I had one REDES (Rapariga em Desenvolvimento, Educação e Saúde—Girls in Development, Education and Health) girl in twelfth grade who had taken on a leadership role within the group, so I encouraged her to start her own group in the primary school and helped her facilitate it. She is a really fantastic girl. She was set to graduate in December 2011 and when I left for my home leave in America her plans were to attend the teacher formation institute a few hours north of Inharrime. When I returned last weekend I asked the girls from the REDES group about her: where was she, what was she doing, how could I get a hold of her. I found out that she was still at home, rather than studying as I had expected, and nobody knew how to get a hold of her. A few hours later that afternoon I got a phone beep (where they call you and let it ring once before hanging up, so they don’t use any phone credit. Then you are expected to call them) from one of my REDES girls. She said that there had been reported sightings of Marcia in the tiny village a few kilometers north where they live. I asked her to put the word out that Marcia should contact me or come to the school to see me. I have no idea what the process was, but someone eventually found Marcia and passed along the message, and a few hours later a girl from the orphanage found me to say a girl was waiting at my old house to speak to me. After a big, happy hug she updated me on her life. Her grade average had been 11, not the 12 required to enter into teacher formation institutes, so now she was exploring other options. She wanted to attend police school to become a policewoman, but when she had met with people from there, they had informed her she was too short. “What?!” I exclaimed, thinking of Inharrime’s police chief who might be pushing 5’1” if she’s lucky. “No,” Marcia explained to me, “it’s just a manner of speaking. It means they want more money.” I.e. a bribe, the popular currency of Mozambique. The police chief in Inharrime is a wonderful woman; she spoke to my REDES group during a celebration on Mozambican Women’s Day last year and she has always made sure I knew that I could call her if I ever needed anything. I instructed Marcia to go to her office on Monday morning to ask if she could help her with this process. I told her to be clear that I had sent her and that I would personally vouch for her if she needed and that the police chief could also contact any of Marcia’s former teachers at the secondary school who would agree that Marcia is a dedicated, hardworking student. The police chief is notoriously hard to get a hold of, so I instructed her to go prepared with a piece of paper and pen so she could leave a letter and contact information in case the police chief wasn’t there. I gave her money to cover her chapa ride that day to come find me in the school, and for Monday to get to the town of Inharrime and back and wished her luck. Cross your fingers.