Aparna in Mozambique

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Elections are in the Air

Morning all,

Cloudy Sunday morning in my Maputo. In my pajamas with my pot of coffee, the BBC, and lots of things on my mind for the week ahead....

Well, the biggest thing on everyone's mind is the election in Zimbabwe and what is going to happen. So far, the opposition is saying that they won, but Mugabe is still insisting that although he wants to be fair, he won't acknowledge another winner. Sounds like a fair deal, right??

So, everyone is buzzing about with the excitement of an election. Results won't be out for a day or so, but still. And it makes me think of this year's election in the U.S. and the promise it holds. I think that most people agree that a lot more is at stake in this year's presidential election than before and people are really charged to go out and vote.

One of the things that always amazes me is the amount of coverage of the U.S. in the local press. This week, for example, in the local independent newspaper, the entire speeck of Obama's on race was printed in translation and it took up an entire two pages! There was also an article critiquing Obama and calling him Obambi for being soft. My friend thought this was very Maureen Dowd of the article to make up names like that, but that is besides the point. I realize that the paper in the U.S. covers other countries, but I find it interesting that in a country with much greater ties to Europe, the U.S. gets so much coverage. It makes a lot of sense, that the U.S. as such a large donor country (and war faring country), has an impact on other people's lives, but still, I find it really interesting.

I've been thinking a lot about getting ready to go oup back to the north. I have really truly been enjoying Maputo and all that it has to offer in terms of culture and learning opportunities. But, I also feel that I'm just about done getting my background information and its time for me to put some of my skills back into practice. Still waiting for lots of approvals in Maputo though for the project I'm on here so my trip to the field has been very long delayed. But, in the meantime, I've been putting together some of the work I need to do up in Beira and learning about the history of Mozambique and other Luso-phone countries in Africa as much as I can. Knowing your history never hurts, right?

My life past August is still up in the air, but I've come to accept that. I have the ability to stay in Mozambique until the end of November if I'd like, so it is good to know that there are options for me. There is certainly enough to learn and enough projects to be done, and I am feeling a lot stronger than when I got here. When I got here, I felt very out of place and irrational needs to go back to the U.S. But now I'm feeling a lot more well-placed and patient. It is interesting how just a month back in the states made me so anxious and wanting to return to something that I wasn't even necessarily a part of in the first place. Ah well, I guess its just that sometimes you can long for a place or state that exists for someone somewhere or maybe in your mind, but that you have never yourself experienced. Its having nostalgia of something you don't know right, but maybe think you would like to know? I guess sometimes this compells you to action and to planning and to good things, but sometimes its just wasted thinking on things that are not immediately important to you in your day to day life.

Who knows. Last week my friend from Malawi came to visit and it was such a breath of fresh air. We were all over town and it was so nice to have someone else come and take a look at the city with fresh eyes. She loved it of course. Cafe culture is to be appreciated when you are coming from Blantyre. And we spent a lot of time walking, talking, eating, and generally enjoying life and each other's company. My favorite kind of visit. We also took a trip to the beach, which was my first trip since I've been in Maputo. Also, she inspired me to finally get my act together and perfect my driving skills so I cut a deal with my favorite taxi driver's friend and have my first lesson for "stick shift" set up for Monday. I figure that its a safety issue and if I don't learn now, well then it will be that much longer.

As usual, I am thankful and feel blessed (or lucky as my dad would say) for this opportunity. I am finally getting to the point where I feel like I know something and am realizing, probably with my looming birthday, that I am at an age where people take me a little bit seriously (well, only when I don't smile every 5 seconds). I wish everyone a wonderful week and hope you enjoy the pictures (More to add to the album but these ones of the girls are fun for the time being)!!

Sarah's Visit to the Big City

Lots of Xs and Os,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This is not deep thoughts, right?

Friends, Family, Loved Ones....

I must post more, I know. But, I get so caught up in wanting to create some deep big time discussions, that I just never get around to it! So, ok, I am warning you in advance, please don't expect deep thoughts from me today. And really not in the near future. I haven't had enough coffee yet today and I have a meeting in a few hours, which is kind of a big deal, and a friend coming to visit from Malawi, who loves to plan, and who I have made no plans for.....well, yet!

First of all, here is very interesting and innovative blog: http://tworque.blogspot.com/. My friend Victoria (who has also done a video, which you can get through this link: http://develop.blip.tv/) who did all that amazing and crazy in a good way traveling around the world to get good development images told me about her friend Pragnya, who is a wonderful engineer phd person from UCLA/MIT. Geez, well her blog is clearly going to be more savvy than mine, because well, I'm a am not the type to be up to date on the latest and greatest, let's be honest. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but just know that my friend asked me to put up Mozambican music weeks ago and I still haven't done it because I'm too scared of the high techness of it, even though she gave me all the instructions. Silly, I know.

Also, I am sitting at my "consultancy" right now in air conditioning and reading National Human Development Report 2007 for Mozambique as well as the new report just put out on global TB control. Why do I feel like I read the same things over and over again? To remotivate myself, I looked for inspiration elsewhere.

So naturally, I read Obama's speech this morning. Wow, I was blown away. If you haven't read it, please take 10 minutes to do so, it is seriously worth it: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/us/politics/18text-obama.html?em&ex=1205985600&en=06a539b9d149224f&ei=5087%0A

I've read his 2 books and I just like the way he writes. It is motivating. And I like the way he speaks. I wish I had actually seen him say this. He makes you think things can be different, huh? It struck me as very Sartre with his brother's keeper theme as usual. And like good old Sartre (and as he points out, the good old bible) said, I'll never be free while other people are slaves in this world. Our man from Illinois gets that, doesn't he?

And I like how he always points out that no matter what your color and experience, that doesn't take away from the fact that you can still care about the quality of other peoples'lives because it still affects you. And you can still understand where they are coming from, because something once happened to you that made you change the way you think.

So, why I bring this up? This helped me remember why, in fact I am here. I talk about this all the time, but if you guys could check out the speech and let me know if it motivated you in same way, no matter how, I'd love to hear it. And also, now that I have renewed my spirits, let me get back to the work to be done....

Lots of good thoughts,

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Tossing and Turning....

Hello my dear readers,

Well, no pictures this week I hate to say....yes, more than 2 weeks in Maputo and still no pictures...

It's a hot hot Sunday morning in Maputo and I, am happily sitting in my pajamas in my apartment drinking coffee and trying to come up with interesting things to post on the blog. If only I posted more frequently, there wouldn't be the pressure to write life changing posts....but alas, during the week I've been caught up in a whirlwind of trying to see and do everything there is to do in Maputo.

But, still, I find that I've been unable to sleep, because I feel somehow funny about my place here. I've been thinking back to my time last year in Malawi. Mozambique is certainly not challenging in the same way that I was challenged last year. Mozambique has a relatively higher percentage of middle class persons and so I don't always feel like an oddball out. Still, I am losing sleep on my place in this city.

I have the job of my dreams really. At least its what I always thought that I wanted to do. I am planning a rapid health assessment for a project, I am organizing a study on HIV/AIDS knowledge in May, and in June I am teaching public health. Yes, lecturing in portuguese at the university and looking forward to the patience of the students. Still, I feel unsatisfied. I feel "chic," like a trendy development worker that I don't really think I am. Isn't the point of my fellowship to be an academic, to engage in the pursuit of knowledge?? I keep reminding myself that before you can begin thinking you need to observe, you need to read, you need to learn. I feel like I am not doing enough. I could be volunteering on the weekends for example? I'd be more of a burden than a blessing and I'd leave in 6 months. I could be doing personal research. But I'd again be a burden and don't know enough yet to go on my own. So where does that leave me? I have to be satisfied with my place and appreciate that I really am contributing something, its just not clear to me yet what that is.

Maybe it is also that I am having a mid-20s revelation....wow, I am coming to a point in my life where I actually have to choose something for a while and stick to it. That was of course brought on by my rejection from a PhD program that I applied to....I was pleasantly surprised that I actually felt happy at my rejection. That is when I realized, its not really what I want to do!! What a great and liberating feeling. Also a little scary. But one door closed, another one opens right? I know that I want to be back in the states in the fall and most likely to continue to study, but something more clinical. So although we can't always be 100% sure of what we want to do, we can be sure of the things we don't want to do. Being rejected was a good thing and I'm happy that it happened to me.

Other than that, there is not much going on in my part of the world. I've been reserving my weekends for reading but am very distracted by the blistering heat....wish I could go to the beach but have found that very little can happen without a car....surprise surprise.....

Looking forward to hearing your latest updates!

Cold thoughts,