Aparna in Mozambique

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Back from the field....

Hi all,

I'm back from the field. Actually I got back on Friday, but I've been trying to catch up with sleep and seeing people all weekend, so didn't get to my blog until just now. But, writing in my favorite way is worth the wait....pajamas, coffee, sleepiness still not gone.....

As most people know, this was my first visit to the project site where I assisted in conducting a rapid needs assessment. I'll spare you the long details of what was up with the health situation, but overall I was really impressed. The site was different from many places even within Mozambique because it was considered semi-rural rather than rural and pretty near a good hospital, good water, and schools. The town didn't have a hotel because the one hotel in the town had been bought by a company, but most people thought that that company would bring more business to the community. There was one restaurant where we ate every day and I ate a lot of omelets and cheese sandwiches, which was not as bad as it could have been! Some of the days, we cooked lunch in the community and that was a fun affair as we always bought enough food for everyone in the staff team to eat so it became a big social event out of the ordinary as well.

In the community itself, there were still a lot of challenges, but community engagement was really high and it was so nice to see that the actual work was conducted by a group of about 5 local staff members, who are carrying the weight of the project. The other thing that was interesting for me was that I didn't see what I am used to seeing, that is the donor mentality. For example, we had a focus group session with leaders of the community and we asked them if a school feeding program would be good for the children. Instead of the yes yes that would be great, the leaders had thought a lot about their immediate needs. They said that nah, it wouldn't be a good idea. Their primary concern was food production and if they could produce more, then they could store some to feed the children. Also, the main leader was really funny, he often ended long speeches speaking only in Changaan with, yes, this is what we would like to do, and I hope that you all can help support us, and please quickly, before I die that is. I couldn't help but laugh, he had such a good sense of humor. Which I liked, life is serious, but never that serious when you at least have some of the things that you need to survive, right?

Most of the evenings I spent watching Brazilian soap operas, mostly 7 pecados (7 sins), which bordered on ridiculous, but of course, I love ridiculous. Then I would retire to my room and read loads, teach myself french, and watch some episodes of ugly betty, currently my favorite show on the planet.

One of the books I am reading, called Crossing the Line, actually got me thinking about a lot of different issues and was my go to every night (although I still haven't finished it). It is written by a journalist who also wrote a book about his time here in Mozambique to explain the war. This one is written about apartheid South Africa and his immersion in it. So he is a teacher from America in Cape Town. What I find interesting is his constant awareness of being an outsider and the problems associated with entering into a world that is not his own and imposing his values on others. The other observation that was interesting was how he kept trying to find importance in the day to day life of others on things that they didn't necessarily find important. In this case, he wants to know how important people's "color" is to them and how it affects their day to day life. He wants to find out why people are so repressed, why there is not more consciousness about the consciousness and freedom struggle. But, people don't want to talk about it. This doesn't mean that they don't think of it, but they certainly didn't want to talk to him about it or to process it in a way that he thought useful.

Both points made me think of my experience here. One thing to always be conscious of is entering into a community that is not one's own. I remember how strange I always felt getting off of the train in Washington Heights or near Yankee Stadium to go to work. But, somehow, driving up into a village in a white SUV is so much worse, yet people still accept it. I have no idea how to think about this in a productive way. In addition, I find a lot of time in Mozambique, people don't want to talk about the war. It was terrible, but since then, people have moved on. Never having lived in a war, it seems appropriate to me that its not really necessary to talk about it other than to entertain my wildest fantasies about what life in the war must have been like. People often also don't want to talk about color. Another relic of colonialism and probably not nice or pleasant to talk about. One thing I like in Mozambique is that color is often not an issue. Everyone is Mozambican if they were born here. But, I always think that it is really important to discuss color or rather being an outsider in this sense. Color makes you part of being an outsider. I think of it a lot because I somehow sometimes feel that I am different than a regular American because of my heritage and maybe that is a little bit true, but here no one actually cares and it brings me no additional skills with which to enter into a community. So, in sum, these are things that people forget about, that they move forward from. So, how important are they really, to the people whose lives you are actually talking about? I have no resolutions, but in short form, these are things that are on my mind and I can't really express in a good way at the moment.

I will leave this all unresolved and try and see what else there is to think about this week. In the meantime, I hope that all are doing very well and I hope you enjoy these pictures from our visit to the project site.

Trip to the Field



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home