Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Salaama, salaama sana

Heading out
My badge of honour of getting a matakenya (the mango worm that declared squatter's rights on my baby toe) did not stop me from finally getting into the field and on Wednesday afternoon, we were on our crowded way in the Foundation truck for the 3 hour drive to Macomia district.  We changed from a coastal landscape to a more inland setting with thicker trees and brush and mountains in the distance.  With the sun setting rapidly behind us, fires began dotting the night as houses began preparing dinner.       

Although it was pitch black, you could still see outlines of houses in the light of the fires and I finally was part of what I had seen on maps as Nancy explained that the forks in the road could take you south to Maputo or north to Tanzania.  Tima also answered the stupid question I was afraid to ask about elephants and lions roaming in the bush as we were in Quirimbas National Park.  Finally out of Pemba... 
Take away with galinha Makua
We wove through the small villages of houses constructed with carefully thatched stick frames, mud bricks to fill in the holes, and woven grass roofs.  Along the road, giant bags of charcoal were for sale as all cooking is done in outdoor cooking fires in front of the house.  When we got to the lights of the big city of Macomia, we headed straight for the Foundation guesthouse and then to the one takeaway spot where I had my first taste of galinha Makua or the local free range chicken with xima (Mozambique's version of pap which is the maize based polenta-esque staple) and a tomato chutney.  An early bedtime in anticipation of our early morning and still more driving into Guludo village. 

Guesthouse camping

Breakfast - fried dough is delicious anywhere in the world
The next morning broke bright and early for the first of two days of training.  Getting ready involved me learning the intricate system of which bucket of water was meant for what, whether for flushing the toilet, washing yourself in the tub, or rinsing yourself after.  At one point, I wasn’t sure if it I would be cleaner to wash myself in this water or just take a hiatus from showering!  At 6am, Senor Alfandiga and Nancy came in with a thermos of tea and bag of steaming apas, which are layers of fried dough that were so fresh and hot that I burned my fingers and tongue while stuffing my face.
Which bucket do I use?

Containers for bathing, toilets, rinsing food, washing cars...

Guludo village
Back in the truck and this road was much rougher but in daylight I got to see more of the houses and life around them with their machambas (home gardens) and rows of drying corn racks.  I was impressed with Senhor Alfandiga’s driving.  Although the terrain changed, his speed of 110km/hour did not which meant many moments of flying completely off the seat (I was in the middle) and head smashing on the ceiling.  Maybe I should have been scared, but it just made me giggle as we caught eyes in the rearview mirror and I tried to stop laughing.

We navigated the busy roads and passed rundown trucks absolutely packed with people and goods as well as bicycles.  I could not believe the number of bicycles and what people could carry on them.  For example, try carrying a 20 kilo bag of rice on your bike or what about a family of four all on one bike through sand?  We hit the end of the road and were on deeper sand to Guludo village where Associação Unidade is based, an artisan group working in pottery and weaving. 

Training venue with Ashlea, Nancy, and Tima

When we arrived, there was no one at the centre where Tima (a crafts facilitator) would hold the trainings.  It was still Ramadan and women were busy with chores like collecting firewood and water, but we waited patiently until women began to slowly trickle in, with babies and baskets in hand.  The training was two parts; to hold an election for positions in the artisan group and a refresher course in each person’s role and responsibilities so as to shake up the current leadership style. 

They're here! Salaama, salaama sana
Our presence drew attention (especially when recess started and we were swarmed by young children) and we quickly learned the various words for white person in a handful of languages; branca in Portuguese, mzungu in kiMwani, and kunya in eMakua.  But we also learned salaama, salaaama sana as the greeting of hello which I probably said 500 times although, as usual, it caused laughs and some sense of acceptance.  The trainings were a mixture of Portuguese and kiMwani  so I caught bits and pieces but I was fixated on the layers of fabrics on the women, all of the babies and children that were also in the meeting, and what daily life looks like in rural Mozambique.  

The new leadership-
only one male member in the
group of 30 women artisans
and he's president
Throughout the solemn proceedings of elections, babies were crying and breastfed, a few peed on the ground and it was refreshing to see how plans must adapt to the daily life.  I also found it quite telling about levels of literacy when many of those nominated for positions for the open voting process were selected mainly because they could read or write.  For some, writing and signing their names on the attendance register was done with their finger and an ink pad. 

Macacu - local pest

We also learned about universal causes for laughter.  When someone is explaining the responsibilities of a treasurer and monkeys start falling out of trees and hooting, people laugh. When someone is explaining how to fill out a sales record and someone in the crowd lets out two loud farts, people laugh. Especially when the sound comes from near the strange white woman and I’m quite sure Guludo village is still convinced I let one rip during their meeting!  

The training was short and there was no lunch as the village was fasting for Ramadan, so while we were in the meting, Senhor Alfandiga bought two rows of fresh fish which he asked a woman from the village to cook.  We pulled up to her home and snuck in through the bamboo fence where we were greeted with two large woven mats and the invitation to sit down.  A bowl and pitcher of water were passed around and I learned the etiquette of washing your hands before a meal.  The food was served; whole fried fish, boiled fish with tomato and onion and mango, a giant platter of arroz coco (coconut rice), and tomato and onion chutney.  I knew that you typically ate with your hands and I thought it would not be a problem.  I forgot the part about how the right hand is meant for eating and the left hand is meant for other activities (like cleaning yourself after using the washroom).  So, while I had used my left hand the night before with the chicken, I thought I would suck it up and try using my right hand.  Do you know what a left handed Canadian woman looks like eating rice and fish stew with her right hand?  It is what I imagine a baby getting a spoon for the first time looks like.  I think more food would have ended up in my mouth if I had just tied my hands behind my back and stuck my whole face in the bowl.  The hens pecking around us got a solid meal from the sheer amount of food that was flying around me. 
With full stomachs, we drove back to the main village to do some work but also walk around and get stared at a bit more!  The next morning to close up the training was even earlier, but this time the women brought out some of their products so I came home with a big clay cooking bowl and a woven necklace (in addition to the new Tanzanian capulana from the market).

One example of how many people
you can fit in the back of a truck

Centre of Macomia village - bundles of cassava
Our trip back to Pemba was even more eventful than the way there.  We passed by a group of hunter and their dogs with a dead bloody monkey on the ground and one on a hunter's head. It’s disconcerting when a grown man has a monkey tail dangling by the side of his ear, but we were more interested in knowing if it is legal to kill monkeys (which are Mozambique’s raccoon equivalent and ravage the crops) in Quirimbas National Park. We asked a similar question when we were stopped by a man selling a large skinned animal leg. You would think maybe a cow or big goat?  What about an impala? Just an African antelope leg for sale, just another Thursday afternoon.
We stopped at every roadside stand and market and by the time we were dropped off, the back of the truck carried 2 people, a flipchart, 5 duffel bags, 3 woven mats (one was mine!), an industrial sized bag of charcoal, a 20 kilo sack of rice, 2 bundles of cassava, bags of vegetables, and 2 live chickens.  Like the 12 Days of Christmas.  
The trip was a great introduction to another side of Mozambique and something I had been looking forward to since arriving.  It was a chance to see what the projects are actually doing in the communities and what the daily challenges and successes as well as to spend more time with people I work with and practice Portuguese.  I hope it is just one of many trips I am able to be part of.
Associação Unidade

The newly elected secretary
(with the cutest baby in the room)

Associação Unidade
Learning how to register sales
(I was more than happy to be the prospective client)

Recap of the meeting

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