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


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