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Africa » Mozambique » Southern » Inhambane
July 4th 2015
Published: July 4th 2015
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Chapa stop 1Chapa stop 1Chapa stop 1

Waiting for the chapa by the hospital
28 Jun – 4 Jul

Sunday, slow day. I spent the day on the computer working and was “forced” to go into town in the afternoon since I had eaten everything consumable in the kitchen as a result of not leaving CoH for a few days. Café food and grocery store accomplished, I headed back to CoH. When we were waiting for the chapa to leave I sat there listening as the cobrador for the chapa next to us as he changed the destination of his chapa and started telling people his was going the same place ours was (Nhamaxaxa, which is further than Chicuque, but on the same route). A few women got into the other chapa, and then as it became evident that the chapa I was in was going where they wanted to and that it would leave before their chapa they started to get out and the cobrador was trying to get them back in, as in – had his arms spread wide and trying to corral them into the vehicle. One older lady went off on him for lying to them about what chapa was going where. (If you remember from the other
Chapa stop 2Chapa stop 2Chapa stop 2

more waiting for the chapa
day, there was an argument between chapa drivers and the same thing happened to me) Every night. Everyyyyyy night. So dumb.

Monday came too early. Between the rooster outside my window and Manuel and Mario (whose name isn’t Mario, but I can’t remember the name Rose said the other day) deciding to have a loud conversation outside my window, I was up and not going back to sleep. Meh. Bad case of the Mondays. I get up, go to do my morning thing and start to work, then after a little while I notice no one is here. (It’s only 10:00) Apparently it’s Arlindo’s birthday so no work today.

In light of the fact that every person I’ve met here has pointed out that there is no motivating force to perform at work in this country, I don’t feel like I’m talking bad of anyone when I describe how things work and/or why I would never work or donate to a religious organization operating here. (Though this applies to most other jobs as well I’m told) You get hired, you don’t get fired. There is no annual review. There are no raises. You come to work and faff
Train StationTrain StationTrain Station

The defunct train station in inhambane. There are no trains anymore, but the station.
about for an hour or two, do some stuff, have lunch, maybe do some actual work, and then leave by 3 at the very latest. The concept of time doesn’t factor into anything other than when you can leave work each day. It’s about how many people are below you on the food chain, and that is largely determined by education, not ability. By education, I don’t mean relevant education. You can have a masters in anything and get paid more money for it. For example, you’re a government administrator in education and get a masters in theology so you get more money for the masters, it doesn’t matter that it has nothing to do with your field.

People are more concerned with the self-perpetuation of their organization than they are with actually doing whatever their “real” goals are. I know I’m a newcomer in the world of global healthcare, but to see the number of vehicles driving around with the logo of this-health-NGO or that-health-NGO or some government department, and then seeing the general state of everything before you is appalling. With so much money being thrown at the “problem” there should be more results. Then I see
Transportation LogoTransportation LogoTransportation Logo

The logo for the transportation dept
what actually happens in the “workplace” and understand how nothing ever changes – there’s no sense of responsibility or accountability in anyone.

Again, this isn’t commentary on one organization. This is how things have been generalized for me from the people who live here. In any event, large amounts of money are wasted on buying expensive things for a select few and far too little actually goes to doing the work that is supposed to be done.

The rest of my day, after realizing there was no one here, consisted of me going into town for shopping and food, then hurrying back to CoH for a skype call with faculty from the SOM. Super helpful as far as resources go. I wish I had time to better plan this whole experience so that I could have gotten more out of it. It would have been nice to have interviewed in the fall for a summer placement and had a semester to plan for things. Meh, something for the suggestion box I suppose.

Tuesday, Manuel and Mario-not-Mario have a similar conversation outside my window as yesterday and provide for my wake up call. Work. Coffee. Work. Coffee. At
This week's Grocery store find!This week's Grocery store find!This week's Grocery store find!

I wonder if this is like the Black Death?
some point I have to wash cups for group meeting and gather supplies, so I do that. Chapa to town to run errands. Indian superstore, Taurus, padaria, pastelaria to kill time. There’s a definite routine to all of this that developed independently somehow. I sat in the pastelaria and had water, soup, and what I had hoped were going to be two decent pastéis de nata. (Custard tarts) I was so depressingly disappointed. Nothing beats the pastéis from Pastéis de Belém ( in Lisbon, although the ones I had in Montreal were decent replications.

We had group meeting and focused on finishing the materials that we already heve since this week marks 6 weeks of me being here and for the next 6 weeks I want to focus on making 3 more tools for the toolkit. These can then be combined and modified to make other materials. (e.g. pictures from the booklets blown up to make posters) We finished three sets of the card games and I gave them to people to test drive with the community to see if they worked well as tools or not. Next week I’ll get a report about how they faired. After group

The moon was absolutely awesome on Wednesday, but I couldn't get a good picture of it.
we walked back to the chapa stand together as a group and all caught the same chapa. It’s strange to say, but it was nice to crowd into a vehicle of people you know and listen to everyone laugh and generally be pleasant despite being crammed in somewhere. I got off with Lucia, who I found out last week lives right by me. (I can’t remember if I wrote about her or not)

As we walked down the darkened road she was explaining to me that last week she dropped her money on the ground on her way home… … … Of course, I could see where this was going, but what to do? I gave her another 20 meticais. This is something I don’t do - I don’t give money to people – so why did I do it this time? Yes, it’s true that as a Westerner I have more money and potential earnings than she does, but then again, I am in that same position over the majority of people in this country. Should I give away all my money because I will always and forever be in that position of greater wealth? Carried to an
Finishing cardsFinishing cardsFinishing cards

We're finishing off the cards and putting together three pilot sets.
extreme, I would be just as poor as everyone here if I were to do this automatically. Not to mention that, sure, in Africa I have more money than most, but in August I return to the US, where I’m at the bottom of the economic food chain right now. (Y’all, I hit the federal poverty line and I’m jobless – I gotta start working when I get back. Keep that in mind if you want to hire me *wink wink* ) At least she waited until we were alone to do it, and if she needs 20 meticais right now, so be it. I won’t do it all the time, but in the face of someone you know and want to help it’s hard to say no when they are trying to ask for a dollar and don’t want to outright beg. Everyone is entitled to a little dignity… … That’s not to say that she didn’t just think that she was gonna be slick and get one over on me, but I’d like to be the optimist here and say she needed the money and was trying not to outright ask for it rather than trying to be
Card setsCard setsCard sets

The idea is to pilot them in the community and see how they work as a game and as an educational tool.
slick and scheming me.

Wednesday started with a lonely hello. The last dream I had before I woke was of myself, Megan, Dakota, Cheyenne, David, Richard – all of us as kids. I can’t even tell you what we were doing besides playing, but it was fun in the kind of way that fun is when you’re a kid – simple and uncomplicated. As I woke up the dream became more lucid and I became a third-person viewer of the activity, smiling at the scene. Then I woke up and realized that it was a dream and that my sister was gone. Loneliness is a terrible thing and a really crappy way to start the day.

No one was here on Wednesday either. I worked in my room for most of the morning and at some point ventured out to find Maria and Manuel in the hut outside preparing lunch. They invited me to sit with them and eat, so I did. We talked about the differences and similarities between here and SC. Manuel laughed when I told him white people fish in the states and go crabbing and shrimping. He said only black people do it here,
Finished cardsFinished cardsFinished cards

I took pictures of the symbols and then pasted them into a template in Word so we can print them off and make playing cards out of them. While this isn't what I wanted in the beginning, the do-it-yourself threshold is super low at this point and it's not getting done if I don't print them.
except for the South Africans with their huge boats who go out to the resorts. I went back to my room and got my computer to show them pictures of Beaufort and the marsh, the water, the bridges, etc. It was good to talk to them, but did little to help how I had woken up. I went back to my room, took a nap, woke up a little later and worked more, then headed to bed around 10 with hopes that I could get up at 6 to go running. I’m seriously turning into a potato on this diet of carbohydrates and fat I‘m on here.

No run on Thursday. The alarm went off and I just turned it off lazily and slept til 7:50. In between the time the alarm went off and when I woke up, I had another dream of Megan and myself as kids. Same empty start to the day. Standard morning routine, coffee, cereal, writing. Manuel brought me the sleeping mat that he said he would get me earlier in the week so that I have something to sleep on when I go to Mukambe feha next week. I put it away, grabbed my stuff, and headed for Inhambane for the afternoon. Post office foray complete, I headed for Bistro Pescador for wifi and food.

Not to go on a total tangent, but I recognize that I’m facing some sort of internal cultural pushback at this point. I haven’t been out of the CoH for days at a time and when I do I head for places that are as Western as possible – e.g. the bistro. I don’t even like the stereotypical person that frequents there (wealthy South Africans), but it’s a place where I don’t have to worry about being charged a different price than everyone else, getting stared at like a freak of nature, fending off peddlers, literally being taken for a ride, etc. The staff are friendly and there is free wifi. This could turn into a whole other post (as some private conversations can attest to), but suffice it to say that I recognize it and am working on it. Still, after so much travel, why is it that I’m being driven crazy here, now?

Boat, Taurus, chapa, back to CoH, lock myself in for the night. Up til 2 working and talking to friends in the US. Bed. Ugh.

Friday was a meeting day. I spent the morning working on digitizing the cards to be printed off before we go to Mukambe feha on Monday since No one would be here to print things off for me before then. I got the template done and all the symbols pasted into them, but the words only got placed into some of them. I wanted to quickly print off a version to be able to show people, but the margins need reformatting and some other stuff so I just taped the entire mis-printed page into the books to be able to show people. It’s getting there.

I went to the pastelaria for a quick bite to eat and a skype call, but I forgot it was a holiday and so we cancelled the call. That was good, because I had to run errands before group meeting and left to do that. Bread, then water, then off to the school. I cut up apples while waiting, and then sat there. It was 5 and there were only two activists. Then 5:15, still only two. We waited til 5:25 and then a few more showed up so we went into a room. Six total for the night, but that’s ok. In keeping with the idea of finishing this set of materials, we looked at the Donde Vem booklet again and confirmed the pictures that most people said should go into it. We also broke out the playing cards again and talked through that as well. Julia even brought a comic that she had developed on her own – and it was great. I taped it into the book and hope to be able to use some of the ideas in it at some point.

We finished early and had snack. As we were sitting there Lucia and others started asking questions and talking about random stuff. I answered, but I felt like most were negative answers – Are you evangelical? No. Are you married? No. Do you own a house? No. They asked about where I was from and I told them about Beaufort. I had a few photos on my phone of me as a kid from Megan’s funeral and I showed them, then they started asking about my family. They asked how many kids my mom had and I said five, but my sister just died in March, and then they just carried on with the conversation as if nothing had been said. (Though the clarified and confirmed with each other that that was, indeed, what I had said) At that point I was irritated and a little hurt. I wasn’t expecting a pity party, but some acknowledgment of what I had lost and the recentness of it was in order I felt. I asked if it was normal for a woman to have many kids and several of them die here and they said in a “yes, of course, silly” kind of way that it was normal. I felt the cultural gap widen. I also understood better why, in the words of Isabel, “women know that they should take their kids to the hospital when they have malaria, but they don’t care”.

So what do you do with a population that is indifferent to the loss of life? They’ve normalized a life expectancy in the high 40s, low 50s. They expect to have kids die on them. I just have to question whether we’re pushing an agenda (longer human life) that has more to do with our own feelings of fragility and an inability to control the fact that yes, we eventually die, than with what the people here want. I think about all the articles I’ve read about how many millions of dollars we spend on healthcare in the US versus other countries and the little return on investment that we get out of it. Why? Why do we launch such an epic battle (why does it have to be described in terms of war?) against human fragility instead of accepting it? I feel like the desire to “elevate” the health and wellbeing of people here is rooted in feelings not altruistic in the least. Guilt (as in we have and they don’t, so that’s wrong), greed (as in, we can make a business out of NGOs and turn a profit), and politics (cultural imperialism), but ask an average person what they want here and it probably isn’t a measles vaccination or motorcycle helmet. I’m not going to get into the paternalistic “I know better than you, it’s for your own good” arguments of public health policy, because that conversation ends in the same questions for the same reasons – whyyyyy is it so important to us?

Somewhat tangential, and completely not a topic able to be discussed with most people here due to the crazy influence of religion, but why is it that man thinks he is special and is somehow better than the rest of the animals on the planet? What is so special about the life of humans (collectively)?

All of this gets back to that conversation I had with myself at the beginning of this journey – why am I in Africa doing what I could be doing in West Philly? This continent is the cradle of humankind, yet is still eking out life in the dirt for the most part, why? (That’s a rhetorical question, btw)

Ugh. This post is too long. I’m going to stop rambling for now and get on with my Saturday.

Next week: Mukambe feha on Monday and then I stay for two nights and come back on Thursday. I’ll be camping out in the maternity hut without electricity or running water for a bit. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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