Monday, September 17, 2012

17/09/12--WARNING: Graphic Images Below!

Growing up, my dad always said that the worst temperature is 33oFarenheit and raining. It obviously hasn’t been that cold here, but the mid-50s temperatures, combined with the rain, fog, and general dampness the past few days have caused a pervading discomfort that is so much more than the number on a thermometer. Call me a wimp, but it’s been freezing. Sure, some of it has to do with the fact that it’s been 3.5 years since I lived in Maine, where I went to college, and my body has fully acclimated to the climate here. But it also has a lot to do with the living conditions here. Our house, like most buildings here, is leaky and drafty. When it rains we have to be careful not to leave electronics in a few specific spots where the roof leaks. The condensation on the walls causes my pictures to come unstuck, and we have to pick things up off the floor of Anna bedroom, which has been known to flood. And everything is just a little bit damp, so you never quite feel completely warm. Perhaps the worst side-effect of this weather is the stupid drivers. People whose driving would be called stupid in good cars and good conditions are driving heaps of junk metal through six-inch puddles and over tire-sized potholes.

Now for the part with the graphic images. A few weeks ago was Timbila music festival in Zavala, Inhambane province (42km south of Inharrime, where I lived during my first two years). Timbila is a native wooden xylophone-like instrument, and every year Zavala district hosts a festival consisting of timbila music, dancing, and cultural events. Last year JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency—called the Japanese equivalent of Peace Corps by many) had an incredibly popular booth at the festival showcasing some of Japanese culture and their activities in Mozambique. Angela, the PCV in Zavala, wanted Peace Corps and American culture to be represented this year too, so she helped organized a booth that showcased Japanese-American-Mozambican culture. About 20 PCVs from the southern region of Mozambique and Custodio, the Peace Corps Director of Programming and Training, came to help out. We made smoothies to be our “American” thing (we opted for that over hot dogs or biscuits and gravy), but we also included Moringa, a plant endemic to Mozambique with many medicinal properties. We had printed pictures and descriptions of many PCVs conducting all of the activities we do during our service, from teaching to giving health talks to working with our youth groups. We also sold merchandise made by PCV-facilitated youth groups from all over the country, including earrings, bags, and jam. It was a wonderful festival and day and I think we did some positive cultural-exchange!

To feed the thousands of people who came for the festival, food stalls had been constructed all up and down the road. This picture was taken from where I was standing in our booth. I’ve been here long enough to hardly even notice the pig carcasses hanging in the middle of all the crowds of people walking around. But as some point in my life it would have shocked me, maybe even made me queasy. If you want some grilled pork, just walk up and point to which piece—they’ve already got the coals in the grill hot and waiting.

(Look directly to the right of the blue truck)

Later in the day a man pulled up with this newly-dead, four-foot shark in the back of his pickup. He was honking his horn for attention, trying to sell the shark. He pulled up in front of our booths, probably thinking that surely the foreigners would want to buy a shark. “You know,” I remarked sarcastically, “I’ve been totally meaning to buy a shark.” Not surprisingly none of us were interested, so eventually he drove off slowly, honking his horn.

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