Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My journey home (back to Mozambique)-- 5 days long

We left Friday Harbor on Friday, Christmas Eve. Late that night, in a hotel south of Seattle, I realized I had no idea where my tickets were. There was quite a saga of bag-searching, brain-wracking, favor-asking (Thank you Mo and Sue!!), and stress -- and the timing didn't help -- but eventually they were found and flown to Seattle where we got them on Sunday and got to SeaTac with an hour and a half to spare, or rather spend in the very long line. First the self-service machine wouldn't let me check my bags all the way to Mozambique (apparently it had never heard of Maputo), and then the agent didn't want to let me go at all. Apparently you must have a return flight. But I showed her my new fancy-dancy DIRE (my resident visa which looks like a passport) and that eventually convinced her that Mozambique really wouldn't mind if I showed up.

After that, things went pretty smoothly, considering the rocky start. I even got my bag in Maputo, which I figured I might not ever see again. And it didn't even fall apart until I pulled it off the conveyor belt. When I got home I opened it to see that someone had definitely gone through my bag. I didn't think this would be a problem, because all I was carrying was a bunch of books and chocolate chips and stuff like that. They luckily missed the significance of the 3rd season of West Wing DVDs that I splurged on, and as far as I know all that was missing was a small tin of Almond Joy 'Scoops' that I got in my stocking. And oddly enough, I gained a Leatherman. Yeah. And I was even wanting a Leatherman, and Paul (who knows about such things) says it looks new, too. So I came out ahead in the whole affair. Except for the bag which was my fault.

It's good to be home. (It was good to be home at the other home too. All my 'homes', in fact, up and down the Pacific Northwest. Thank you all who hung out with me.) It's hot here. So not much has changed."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Coming Home. To sleep.

So the time for going home for Christmas has finally arrived. Almost. Oddly, 3 separate people have referred to the time left as "sleeps". ie, "Oh, you have only 1 sleep left in Guija!" My response: "That's pretty optimistic." In the past month or two, I can count the number of sleeps on one hand. Yesterday I woke up later than usual (6:30) after 3 hours of sleep that felt so good that I bounced around all morning. I said to every expat at least twice-- "hey, I slept!" I have some theories on why I haven't been able to sleep, but none that make sense. But here's hoping that I'll be able to sleep at home, though I'm worried about the combination of factors-- time zones, adjustment to new surroundings, excitement, and sheer exhaustion.

Things on sticks. And other humorous road stories.

I've never forgotten the question of what do I find humorous here. I think it's a good one just because I like to find humor in everything. Even things I'm not supposed to find any humor in, which makes me irreverent I guess, but oh well. Anyway, I think of things and then have been horribly remiss at writing them down for you. But here's one I think of every time I drive between our home and Maputo.

It's amazing the number and the variety of things sticking up in the air. Just on the side of the road, paying attention for a bit, a person can see the following, randomly stuck on sticks: old gas cans, tires, cashews, and plastic lawn chairs (and some look almost sittable). For no explainable reason and with nothing else around. Road, grass, stick in the ground with a jerry can. Or four sticks with a lawn chair suspended between, 6 feet in the air. All I have to say is: ????

Which reminds me of another travelling laugh: the road sign "!". Apparently this sign is in other places besides South Africa (Moz doesn't really have road signs), but we have to ask ourselves, "what does this MEAN?" No one really knows, but whatever it is they must mean it pretty strongly, is all I can figure. I have a habit of randomly walking up to a person and stamping my foot, which I feel is the physical equivalent to that road sign.

And while I'm at it, here's one more funny thing about Mozambican travelling, though this time I'm the one on the side of the road. Every once in a while, I am caught watching a chapa as I wait for it to pass and make eye contact with the person hanging out the window. And without fail, they swivel their head to watch me as they go by, which can't help but remind me of the way dogs stick their heads out windows. The first several times this happened I thought they (and it's always a young male) had stuck their head out the window just to gawk at me. But then I started to figure they couldn't possibly have wriggled out that fast (although I do stand out from quite a long distance, so who knows).

I started to then conclude that the 'out the window' spot (which is an extra 'seat,' in addition to the window seat) is probably preferable to any of the other 20 seats in the chapa. Maybe even despite the flies, dust and possbile branches. Maybe (I hope) they know better than to stick out on the right side of the chapa, meeting oncoming traffic-- that would definitely be a hazard to one's health. Or at least the head. But anyway, here I am rambling about heads and chapas, how odd. Maybe that's what happens when one is deprived of sleep for too long. But at least it's not more chickens, you say.

But I do have a story somewhat related to chickens. And roads yet again, come to think of it. The other day Paul and I were commenting on the heat (47 degrees C in the sun), using the common expression. And then it occurred to both of us that we should just see. So we got an egg, and cracked it on the road. My biggest question: why have I never done this before? Why do we always talk about it, and never take action? An egg is only what, 30 cents? Amazingly, no chapas came for quite a while, and we stood there staring at the road and one very uncomfortable egg, drawing no little amount of bemused attention-- 'those crazy mulungus.' The egg got very runny, and eventually did congeal some, but the sun had gone behind a cloud just as we cracked it. We'll try it some other day, a hotter day and maybe at noon.

So long for now. and maybe I'll be seeing you soon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Holidays and Home

It sure does not feel like the holiday season. Last Thursday (Thanksgiving, the American one) was spent in transit to Guija and then cramming a week's worth of work in a few hours. I had been thinking of it, but gave up on the idea of preparing anything remotely Thanksgiving-y. The next morning we left for a 3-day weekend at a beach resort in Inhambane, 5 hours to the north. It was wonderful and very beautiful. But not very associated with Thanksgiving or fall. This week I just about pulled out a Christmas CD, but I just couldn't do it. It doesn't at all feel like Christmas. And I think going home will be like stepping through the wardrobe, especially since it's a fairy-land I have to return from a few weeks later, stepping back through the wardrobe to my considerably warmer, currently more real life here in Mozambique. But it's kind of odd that all my family and friends live in the fairy-land.


I was just reading my friend Sara's weblog this morning and her thoughts on being called 'farang,' Thai for white person, made me think of my own experience. I guess I'm glad to find out I'm not alone. 'Mulungu' is the term for white person here in southern Mozambique, and boy is it used widely. I think of it kind of like a second name, since I respond to it just the same (sort of like in a crowded room you can hear your name over any other conversation). I haven't written about it so far I think because it troubles me so greatly, but also perhaps because I know that in the grand scheme of race relations I have no right to complain. It bothers me to be so conspicuous, and 'mulungu' just does not seem like a friendly name, especially when it is spoken by someone who does in fact know my name.

April and I have various fantasies, occasionally lived out, of confronting this issue: "My name is not Mulungu. You can call me Jenn/April." Mostly it's just murmurs as we walk by or ride the crowded boats across the river, which is more bearable than when people we know or kids talk about us that way. Last week, though, took the cake: I was crossing the street and this girl actually addressed me directly, "Lishile, Mulungu." Good morning, whitey!

The Everyday

Speaking of crossing the street, I was thinking the other day as I just happened to look down as I crossed the street between our house and the office, for the umpteenth time that day-- 'When I go home, I might miss this street, and the crossing of it.'

I may not be aware of it, but I bet I have the pavement of those 100 square meters memorized. Although I'm not always looking down-- a lot of the times I'm continually looking back and forth to make sure I'm not run over by a chapa barreling down a half-mile away-- but its the texture of the rocks and tar, and the mud on the side by our house, and the smell of the trees I walk under while looking up for snakes, and the sound of my name being yelled from across the street and sometimes 100 metres away-- "ZhenEEEEEEfare!", and the exact place the kids usually catch up to me asking for balloons and sweets and chewing gum.

love jenn