I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up in the wonderful world of Maputo, Mozambique. Forgetting my old routine and relearning the spicy, Mozambican way of things.
I was on my first placement in Brazil when I found out I would be going to Mozambique. I began to eagerly dream about my future life in Africa, a new continent for me. My initial worries were practical: Would they understand my Brazilian Portuguese accent? What kind of clothes do Mozambicans wear? Will my vegetarian eating habits be accepted? What do 20-something year old Mozambicans do for fun? I read everything I could about Mozambique. I consulted guidebooks, I went online and read tourist testimonials, I compared country statistical reports. I thought I knew it all when I boarded a plane in February and headed to Maputo. And after just a few weeks here, I took everything I “knew” and I threw it away. There are some things that need to be breathed, tasted, seen, touched and experienced first hand to be fully understood. Mozambique is no exception.
While I have lived and traveled abroad before, I soon realized that it was counterproductive to draw comparisons between countries. Every day in Mozambique, I am surprised by a new cultural nuance I learn. The unique gender roles and chivalrous expectations between girlfriends and boyfriends (women typically get a monthly allowance from their boyfriends). Referring to service workers and venders as “Mom” and “Dad” as a sign of respect for their work. The cacophony of Changana, the local language of the Maputo providence, prominent in the streets and marketplaces and knowing the appropriate situations to practice what I’ve learned, “Lichile!” I must lose my pride and adopt the catch phrase, “this might be a stupid question but…” trying to dive into a new way of seeing life, the Mozambican way.
So I’m ignoring the guidebook tips, the tourist testimonials and the country data, finding that they can’t convey daily life in Mozambique. It is through living with the people of this fascinating country that I am beginning to see the threads connecting us. I’m shifting my thinking to a more human level; to appreciate the sameness found at the core of humankind throughout the world while appreciating a distinct way of living.
Over the next four months, I will undoubtedly experience the range of emotions that comes with living in a foreign land. I look forward to working with our new partner iDE Mozambique, while observing and absorbing as much of the culture as possible along the way. Até!