Aparna in Mozambique

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Constant Fascination with People...

Well my loved ones,

I have arrived in Maputo. Actually at this point, I've been here for a week. The day after I arrived, I took a bus across the border to South Africa just to have my passport stamped. On the way back, I met two ladies from Michigan who had never left the country. I talked to them most of the way back and they were such a delight. I love experiencing things with people for the first time. The fresh eyes make you want to rewet your own. Sometimes we forget that we are living our dreams....

Lets zoom back, 1989. I remember it well. I went to England with my dad and mom. They bought me a fancy hat so I felt fancy. Thats when I knew it. I knew I'd collected all those national geographics for something or another. At seven years old, I had the travel bug. But it wasn't really the differences that fascinated me, just the fact that so many people could be crammed into our one little speck in the universe. And that people looked so different, but all did the same things. And thats when I felt that restlessness. You all know what I'm talking about....we all call it different things.....the feeling that you were meant for something bigger than what your day to day life entailed, the feeling that there was something bigger than you, the feeling that so many adventures were to be had. ......I'd love to hear when you've all had that first experience and what it made you do? For me, it compelled me to a life of service and a life of understanding my world a little bit better. Its not just the places, its the people that really make me want to move and shake.

But, I also don't want to overromanticize traveling, that's what I've realized this week. So, at this point, I have basically divided my time between three efforts. One is a rapid health assessment for a project. Two is the teaching and research at the University to support faculty members. And three is my personal research. So, some days I'm in an office and some days I'm on the computer. Some days I get out to talk to people. Its a lot like what it would be like if I lived in the US, yet again.

But, what is different in Maputo is this. I am meeting lots of great people that "create." They are committed to creating and recreating culture in Mozambique. We are talking about film, painting, theater, the works. And it really speaks to me to meet such vibrant people, to exchange idea, share a moment. I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a "development" person, per se, rather I just believe in service and I believe in also learning what you can from other people. For me, the best exchange of ideas comes in the most unexpected of places.

Take Sunday for example. I was invited to cook for 10 people and I cooked an Indian feast. What was meant to be brunch turned into a 7 hour ordeal and we discussed film, nationalism, health, music, literature, and personal narrative. I left so stimulated and thinking of things that I had parcelled away during my of late stint of practicality in public health. I realize now that we all need that bit of practicality, but even practicality needs a bit of artistic innovation. Do you agree with this?

And so, I begin thinking of my research again. Looking at issues of traditional medicine is not a new thing by any means. So, how can I do it in a new way? Well, the anthropologists look at it one way. So do public health specialists. But, how can I bridge the two and how can I make this interesting for a general audience? So, I am thinking of approaching it from a philosophical perspective. FIrst of all, why do people value traditional beliefs? We can draw on examples from lots of places in the world. Second of all, what are the anthros saying and what are the public health people saying. Third of all, what relevance do the trends of traditional medicine have on people's lives overall in mozambique, like the general population and what are some interim solutions for the HR crisis that actually value both sides? Thinking of getting a range of health professional views....well, these are the starts of my thoughts on this. If anyone has any feedback at all, it is more than welcome!

So, good fluxes of people and innovation. The things that keep me going. The best feeling is to arrive in your bed at the end of your day and take a deep breath and think hum, I opened my mind just a little bit more, don't you think....

Ate o prossimo....


Friday, February 15, 2008

Going to Maputo!

Hi All,

First, the pictures, then let's talk, right? Here they are, my latest and greatest from Maputo, Beira, and Catembe, the sister city to Maputo.

Pictures from Maputo and Beira

Well....At least I'm posting a little more often than I thought. I'm still not up to par, I know, but at least I'm trying right? The past few weeks have been part of my settling in although at this point I've been here for almost one month! I can't believe it and the time is going to sail on by, I can already see.

So, the first week since the last I've posted was spent trying to settle in to figure out my duties at the UCM. I am doing research, but mostly supporting some of the faculty in their interests. I am teaching, but also doing background research on a variety of topics. The second week, I spent in Maputo, trying to figure out how I was going to distribute my time. As a lot of you remember, in Malawi, I was doing research with the MVP. I got in touch with them here as well and looks like I am going to continue. Here it is a little different because the projects are younger so I'll be doing some baseline survey work for them and then later get involved in some of the project development.

I have my very first lecture on traditional birth attendants on Monday and I am really excited but also scared about speaking for an hour in Portuguese. The good thing is that I have reinforcements in case I get stuck, and of course, a powerpoint to read off of in case I am at a loss for words.

Then, on Tuesday, I move to Maputo to get started on the project. On Wednesday, I need to cross the border to Nelspruit, South Africa, so that my visa doesn't expire. Its a 3 hour trip both way on a luxury coach, so its not terrible, but still, seems so silly. Most foreigners can't stay in the country more than 30 days, unless you have a work permit. Its really weird that way. I guess it serves me right for getting my visa in Malawi instead of properly in the U.S.

Sadly, I don't have many deep insights at this point in time. I am still trying to understand the urban rural divide and why Maputo feels like Europe to me. Portuguese colonialism is a strange thing. They seemed to have squashed out the culture quite well. So much so that people actually believed that speaking their own languages was "tribal". So post-independence, the government eliminated things like traditional medicine and insisted that people speak portuguese. Now, many languages are dying out near the urban spaces. Chatting with people in the city, they say the last generation of speakers of indigenous languages were their grandparents. While this isn't true in the rural areas, with urbanization, comes a certain type of modernization. How Mozambique will go forward with that will be interesting to watch.

When I get to Maputo, I will keep you filled in on the ins and outs of big city life....I'm going to the city!


Monday, February 04, 2008

A Little Glimpse...

Hey Guys,

So here are a few pictures of my weekend excursion. Don't be fooled, I am still settling in and my friends are spoiling me. This weekend we went to Rio Savane, which is a true paradise. I am still fleshing out my project and next week I am in Maputo all week working just on this. Also, I will be taking pics there and in Beira so you can see what really happens (not on holiday weekends). But, for the time being, I hope this keeps people sufficiently entertained!

Will post reality soon...