Aparna in Mozambique

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back to the basics

Yeah, so I'm back to Beira. Remember my mosquito problems last week? Well, they caused me to get very very little sleep. Consequently, I sprayed like crazy. They perished. I overslept on Sunday morning. I meant to get up at 5AM so that I could have my coffee, news, walk around and be totally sure that I didn't leave anything time. Instead I woke up at 6:30AM for my 7:30AM flight. I was shaking as I simultaneously brushed teeth, went to the bathroom, and called the taxi driver. He, of course, being in bed, sent his friend. Who was, of course, up and working. Which, of course, made me feel terrible, that he could get up to work, but I somehow fell asleep on top of my full volume alarm. It was very strange. Of course I had packed all but my PJs, a few loose items, and my toiletries, so it wasn't a big problem once I got out of the shock of moi being late. I did forget my little prayer card from the Hindu temple of greater Chicago that my dad gave me. Luckily I have a double (the one my mom gave me) in my wallet. So, really I didn't forget anything. I know, I am a total nut.

Got to Beira and jumped right back into the swing of things. The "girls" filled me in over lunch and at night I went to prep with the Prof. that I'm working with for our Monday plan. We had all the materials done and all meetings set by yesterday and today we did our first two focus groups with students. We talked about HIV/AIDS knowledge, services at the university, and what the university's role should be in providing for its students but also in the dissemination of information. The most important thing that came out was that the students know a lot. Not surprising. But they also confirmed that hey, there is a ton of info, and everyone in Mozambique has access to it, albeit at different levels. But, because there isn't dialogue, people don't do anything differently. And they don't ask questions. And they still don't know the answers to everything. In lots of ways, just having a chance to interact with others, talk things out, makes a big difference. One of the most rewarding things anyways that I felt about group youth work. And it was nice to be with students. My favorite part was at the end of our group when one of the girls said, wow, I never thought I'd be sitting in a room with teachers from Germany and the US talking about HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. Go figure. That silly globalization. At it again.

Speaking of which, tonight I am going for Chinese food with my Beira girls minus one. I am so excited. Actually my mouth is watering. Yes, Chinese food in Central Mozambique. Amazing. And behind my house is a mosque. Actually in front. The call to prayer is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. Every time I hear it, I stop what I'm doing. And basically wish I knew what they were saying. But, still enjoy it. A nice little break out of whatever I'm doing that is probably less important. I am wondering right now if it is the same person that leads the call to prayer every single time....not entirely sure. I'll try and figure that one out at some point this week.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Eyes still closed

I'm awake, but I'm pretty sure that my eyes are still closed. So tired. Why? One mosquito in my room last night. Its getting cooler and there aren't a lot of mosquitos around. But, all you need is one. I've never hear buzzing in the U.S. from a mosquito quite like the ones I've encountered in my time in Malawi and Mozambique. I'm telling you, the most dreaded sound....and it always comes right when you are falling asleep. It happened to me last night at 11:45PM. From 11:45-12:30, I tried to fall asleep and ignore it, thinking, hey its a tiny mosquito, just ignore it. That never works. So, then from 12:30 to 12:45, I waited and tried to stalk it so I could rid it of its existence. Being the vegetarian Hindu, I kinda felt bad about this. So, I stopped and decided to let it be. Sprayed the room with Bay-gon insect repellant. Sprayed my sheets. Sprayed my skin. And put a wet wipe soaked in insect repellant next to my bed. 5 minutes later the mosquito was back. It bit my arms, legs, my neck. Although I was fully covered by the sheets, it somehow got in there. How, I have no idea. SO yeah, finally, I remembered my roommate in Malawi. To distract the mosquitoes, fans and lights are the best idea. I turned the fan on. It was still around, but not being able to fly closely to me, the buzzing was less and so was the biting.

Yeah, so it was a big night for me. Today is my last day on Project #1. I have two meetings. Of course I have to give a powerpoint. Why wouldn't I? I am not sure if I use them well, but my tactic is to distract with pictures. Usually works when I'm watching a presentation. Then lunch, then I need to pack, then I am going out for some last bites of Mozambican food. Yum. Anything involving coconut milk is a good idea in my book.

Eyes still shut. Coffee making it better although I ran out of my last drop of milk. I am going to wake up now and make sure that I am prepared for my presentation. Just had to make sure that everyone knew about the mosquitos down here and just how annoying in addition to other things, that they can be.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Happiness is.....

.....Pets. That was the store where I got my one and only dog Shellie, as a child. Totally irrelevant to this blog posting.

I’ve been feeling really inexplicably happy lately. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I’ve stopped taking Mefloquine (Lariam). It has been a significant change in my moods, my outlooks on the day, and my interactions with other people. It is so strange though. I know that lots of people have problems with the side effects, but I thought, hey, not me. I definitely had read and understood everything that can happen to you: nausea, dizziness, anxiety, depression, insomnia and so on…..I just didn’t think that every week I’d be adding a new side effect in addition to all of my other emotions….I just didn’t think that I was prone to side effects. Based on my experience, I thought that that was something that the pharmaceutical companies have to write on the package for the 1% that have adverse effects. But, Lariam is a really scary drug for me and I don’t think I can go back on it. I looked on the internet and read some crazy stories that I won’t share about the side effects of Lariam. Point of the story, I thought I was a superhero, I’m not, and now I feel so silly for not knowing that my emotions were due (in a large part, not entirely), to medications. The human body is after all, a series of complex chemical reactions, so it makes sense, I guess we are just sometimes wanting to think that we are just a little bit smarter than the organism. We really are not.

In other news, I am wrapping up my report this week in Maputo and have a dual purpose trip to South Africa (visa and shopping-i know, i'm a woman i love shopping what can i say??) planned for this Saturday, followed by a pasta party at the Marine house. Yes, I am indulging. I am being decadent. I know. I feel like that crazy lady from Eat, Pray, Love. Except maybe I’m missing the Pray and the Love. Okay, its basically, Eat, Laugh, Eat. But, I keep telling myself to enjoy Maputo, all the funny people and odd places before I have to get serious again next week. I think it is fair. As usual, starting my second day of the week realizing how LUCKY I am, for everything...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cinco de Maio

Eeek, woke up late this morning. Well, too late anyways for me to go for a walk. Not actually too late for normal people. Just too late for me what with my coffee, news, other reading, and mentally preparing for the day. I know, I'm a nut. This morning I woke up and regretted my last blog. It is something that I've definitely mentioned more than once, but I still somehow feel uncomfortable with. I remember once reading in Barack Obama's first book, he makes the point that you can go to another country and suddenly things that are not ok with you become OK. And that is really what I felt like yesterday. But, ah well, these things don't have immediate answers necessarily.

Later last night I went out for dinner and realized and realized that I need to perhaps not be a debbie downer (SNL skit reference) all the time. I'm very happy with my experience, just maybe eager and excited to be back in the U.S. Also, maybe this is just reality and I need to face up to it. In conversations with friends, I realized that I am a person that romanticizes the past as this place/time where everything was perfect. You know what I mean, where gentlemen were gentlemen and no one used curse words and everyone lived in a land of equality. As some point out, the fact that I only like nice thoughts and not the unpleasant is reflected in my selection of only romantic comedies and only things with happy endings. These places/times probably never existed, so maybe I need to stop having all this nostalgia for the past, more importantly a past that I don't even know.

I digress. It is a Monday morning, I have my steaming cup of coffee and I'm looking forward to this last week in Maputo. I've made lots of serious plans this week, but would also seriously like to see the Nanny Diaries, which is playing at the movie theater in town. I know, I will be in the theater with 10 year olds. In fact, this is what happened on the weekend when I went, thus resulting in my friend refusing to go with me. Ah, I'll try and convince her again...the excitement of my life!!

The Past, Present, and In-Between....

Its that time again. Time to get packing. I leave in a week from Maputo and head back into the bigger world beyond this wonderful little gem of a city. And part of leaving for me is being confused. Or maybe conflicted is the better word to describe how I feel. It has come out for me in different ways. Last week for example, we wanted to go to a restaurant for a football game as my friend's going away party. They were charging what I felt to be a prohibitively expensive amount to get in because it was crowded. To me that meant, they wanted to keep it an expat place. Sure, we could pay. But, I was too offended for other people to be a part of that. Also, I've been running again in the mornings. And I noticed that all the beachfront properties are owned by individuals. Ok, not all, but at least the ones that I run by. Swimming pools, multistory homes with electric fences and single families. Nice for them. Meanwhile, on the outside the beaches are littered with garbage, waste, and are overpowered by the fishermen. I'm upset that places that are meant to be public, that are for the public's enjoyment, are not at all public. And the last thing that set me over the top. Today we went to a fancy hotel in town to have a coffee. We arrived, and not surprisingly things were three times what they would have been outside. Of course, I was offended, because I looked around and saw a scene I didn't like. A huge plot of land with the most beautiful views available only to a handful of people. As non-guests we were pushed to a side bar so as not to be visible. I politely told the waiter that we would leave. He told me, don't worry. It is very expensive. But, you can sit here, its no problem. Its only by the pool that you can't sit. And that sent me over. The man working there as a waiter felt bad for us that we didn't want to pay for a meal which we could afford. Or maybe he realized that we just wanted to see the view. Anyways, it also upset me.

I'm rambling on. But, mostly what I feel is that I (and we) are sometimes things that are meant to be enjoyed by everyone. That are not necessarily for "us." And it makes me feel uncomfortable. The same thing happens in the U.S. of course, or probably in any other place in the world. But when spaces that are meant to be public (not the hotel, but more the beach for example), become very very private, it just seems so unfair to me. And maybe this isn't important. But, I can't get over the fact that in someone else's country, we can enjoy things that people who live here never ever get to enjoy. Un-equalness is hard to digest, especially when you are an active part of it. But, what happens when you are trying not to be a part of it and can't get out? It makes you very very uncomfortable....and then, what to do with that?

I am stuck on this thought for the time being but happy thoughts to look forward to this week with the production of my report, plans for the next 3 weeks of the new study, and many celebrations of food this week before I set off to the upper regions...lots of good thoughts from me to you.....

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It is the first day of May

Well, I realized that now I blog frequently enough to not have to write in letter format. So, here's to trying something new on the first day of my favorite month. Most people know why it is my favorite month!! Today is a holiday in Mozambique and in lots of other places too. Its the Day of the Workers, Dia dos Trabalhadores. What am I doing on my day off. Working. I want to finish my report. I've been trying to finish my report since this morning. But, everytime I write down one figure, I find a new one. Different populations for the district that we worked in depending on who you ask. Different numbers of health facilities depending on who you ask. And my favorite, different distances from the health facilities, depending on where you actually are starting from first of all, and then, of course, who you ask. So, going back and forth back and forth. And I decided, hey, I'm just going to write this thing in English first. When I started, I was doing the translations at the same time, but now I realized if I have to change, it'll be two documents, so better to just have one to edit to begin with. Wish I had thought of this maybe 2 weeks ago.

The other thing is that I am at home working and its not only my day off. Everyone in the building is home today. Most importantly the children are home. When I woke up I was admiring their cuteness in as I sipped my coffee. But, its been a whole day of kids playing. And they play only in the very very echo prone region of the back alley. They also like to throw things at each other that make noise. Buckets. Pans. Balls. You name it. Somewhere in the mix of 4-12s, there are a few babies. Thats right. The kids are babysitting. So when there is too much throwing the babies cry. Babies crying and throwing sounds and older siblings yelling at them. Plus then the moms yelling to cut it out. Or come in for lunch. Which I prayed that they would do, but didn't. Why do kids never get hungry on days off?? Anyways, I actually had to put my ipod on. But, after a while, I felt just silly. I realized that this is really really funny. Well, at least I'm sure that tomorrow it will be.

Right now I'm trying to focus on my report (as you can tell) in between the huge teenage mutant ninja turtlesque battle seen going on right behind my house.