Aparna in Mozambique

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A long silly day (is this what you call a cultural experience?)

So, in my next few blog posts, I've decided to focus on the ins and outs of my days, first focusing on the mundane, then on the less so. Culture culture culture. Coming up and down all the time. I think I should start talking about this a bit more, both in terms of what it means for people like me that "work" (yes i use this word lightly because some people believe that I don't actually work) in culture related sectors and also in terms of what it means for the people that don't!!!

Here goes a quick description of my day...

Today was a long day. Mostly of my own doing. I woke up at 5AM for no apparent reason with an irrational desire to go running. As I was staring off into space, I received a text message. Definitely some sort of sign that I should be awake. Unfortunately, the world was not ready for me yet as it still looked like it was 12AM outside. So, I wait, wait, and wait. Finally I get to be out in the world.

As I leave the house for my morning stroll, the guards, as usual are washing the cars. People really like to wash their cars every day. You know, for a country with water problems, car washing is much more of a pasttime than one would expect. Exit gates. Ahhhh, the guards in front of the malaria consortium. They usually try to get a hello, good morning out of me. Today they don't. Must be the headband.

Keep walking walking walking. Avoiding the piles of garbage (it is the end of the week), I make my way onto the main street. Pass the usual suspects who I see running almost every day, most of whom are foreigners, none of whom ever say hello although it is pretty clear to all parties involved that we are familiar with one another (as fellow freaks of the early morning hours). Making my way back to the apartment, I am trying to think of how to avert my eyes from the line of guards in the driveway (there are about 10). See, if I look at them, I have to give everyone a "Bom Dia" and if I go unnoticed (amidst sounds of washing cars), then I can make an easy escape into my place. Sadly, I must have stepped on a leaf, all of the guards look up....and it is time for me to say hello.

Bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia bom dia...

The day goes on. I sit through a 3 hour long meeting. Which is short. I go to do errands for work/non-work. It takes 2 hours. Which is short. I try to get a chapa (minibus) back for my next meeting. I get on the wrong one three times before finally deciding that I am going to get off and walk. I am now basically sprinting and of course it is the first warm day in a while. Leaves are getting stuck in my hair, I can feel them. Man, I need a haircut. Still, I will not be late to my meeting with an international agency.

Get a telephone call. Its important. Its okay, the talking is helping me walk faster. Get there finally to the meeting. My colleague (who happens to be french) is late. How is it that I missed three buses, walked for 30 minutes, and still I was earlier than someone who works in the office across the street from the meeting? No clue.

Get to meeting. We discuss water, sanitation, and hygiene. Techniques, targets, plans, and upcoming campaigns. Lots of things that we didn't know about that are going on in our study area. Good to know, and more to find out still. The person in the meeting is not the most polite to us. He stops at some points and asks if I would like to speak in English. By this I was a little bit insulted. But then also felt flustered and kept making more and more mistakes in my brief talk.

Ah well, meeting ends and all is well. Planning the similar meetings for the next day. More talks on HIV/AIDS care and treatment, more talks on community based integrated approaches, more talks talks talks. I am tired of talking (even though some people think that I never get tired of talking). Still, you gotta play the game sometimes right. And this is a learning experience right? And a cultural one too? Back home, finish work, and head back out the door. Getting ready to meet some people to hear about their careers and life stories.

Back on the chapa. I see a familiar hand unfold a seat. Its an acquaintance. What a coincidence. We drive down the main street. On pops his roommate. Yet another coincidence. They end up joining the other person that I am meeting for "information" and we all carry on like we've known each other a very long time, while in reality a very long time means a time span of a few weeks....the day ends with a ride home and me, in my head, thinking of how this simple little day gave me lots of reflections on culture for the next few weeks. Well, this day and yesterdays chai and a blank piece of paper on which to squeeze 6 months of "deconstruction." Here goes nothing....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kung Fu Panda Changed my Life

Morning morning....

Sitting in Maputo sipping my instant coffee...just got up early today to watch the sun for a little while. I know, I am a total weirdo. So, for a while now (a week, ok), I have been off of coffee, I don't know why, but I suddenly decided that I needed to drink more tea....today, I instinctively made coffee without thinking in my sleeplike state....so much for trying to kick a bad habit.

And so, here I am getting ready for the day, making sure the report I have been working on is okay and getting organized for the day and the week...and thinking a lot about kung fu panda. Apparently this was a big hit in the US a few months ago. I arrived in Maputo and found it in my apartment, delivered straight from the street.

Now, I always like cartoons (or animation) but this one made me laugh because well, it had some good messages and well, a giant panda doing kung fu is pretty hilarious. So yeah, as I am trying to read these reports on community based health care, my mind is wandering to the kung fu panda.

The two major things that I learned:

#1: "There are no accidents." Ok, this one was spoken by the wise old turtle master who later disappears into a breeze of flowers.

#2: "There is no special ingredient." This one is spoken by the panda's duck father, a slight detail, never explained.

Why am I thinking about these 2 things? #1: I would say that a good 50-60% of the time, I wonder what I could possibly be doing in Mozambique and whether I should have done this or that or something else. Well, sometimes you just have to accept a decision and also trust yourself a little bit. Decisions seem out of the blue sometimes, but they could still be the right thing. Seriously, why was the panda chosen to do kung fu, guess that was just the way it was. Ok, #2: I keep trying to find some big answer for what would be a good health strategy on a small scale and what people would need. But hey, as a lot of people are saying nowadays, not one thing works alone. I hate to admit it but sometimes it is easier just to find a quick answer and solution to lots of things at the same time.

Alright, so I am a grown woman talking about cartoons. And also starting to sound like a self-help book. Still, I remember how much the Little Mermaid changed my life when I was 8 years old, just trying to remember that feeling again. And sometimes, the simpler the better just to get a really good message across. What can I say....there is a reason why people respond positively to simplicity and colors and shapes.......

Here is to a great week in Maputo. Have some comings and goings, but hopefully I can manage to keep it simple and efficient. And although I love the variety of the big city life, am looking forward to getting back to Beira to the streets of sand and the smell of drying fish...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Off to Maputo....again

Well, this afternoon I am heading to Maputo, again. I've been in Beira for almost exactly 2 months and it has flown by. No awkward down times, no moments of boredom, no feelings of loneliness. I can honestly say that I've had just the right amount of work to do.

And I'm ready to go to Maputo, because, tadah, I finished my report....finally, on the study that we did at the end of May. Ok, well its still in revisions with my colleague, but anyways, I've sort of passed it on and am ready to go. Now I just have to get ready for this presentation I have to give at 10AM on Monday!! I think I am mostly ready but just need to brush up on some of the words before I go up there. This one is going to be on the evaluation that we did in April in the south.

So, yes. In my last moments in Beira for almost a month, I woke up early to enjoy Beira. I am going to run to this tiny georgous gallery that I have never been to and see if I can find anything for my mom. Then, I was thinking of walking down the street and buying some shoes for work. Yes, shoes off the street....straight to Beira from the U.S. or Europe. They are actually really nice. Although my concept of what is in fashion might be terribly off at this point!

Ooops, interruption. A friend is coming to pick me up in half an hour to go to the house of fruits and the deli with nice things like couscous. Ok, well why I am really going to go is to catch a ride for the shoes and the present for my mom.

Let me get back to substance, so the exciting thing about Maputo is that I am presenting our rapid health assessment and then we are also talking about the concept of the project on a greater scale. We will discuss our second phase interventions and how this can be managed in the next five years and funded....and yeah if this project can be taken to the national scale. Its all pretty exciting and hey, I guess I'm sort of this intern groupie, but still, its fun to see what happens. As I go further along, I am not really sure if I believe in the project and if it will work, but as the big guy says, if it doesn't work, it was still worth a shot. Still having doubts....but you never know until you actually experience it.

I know I am being ambiguous but thats because I don't want to name call on my blog and talk bad about things until I am sure.....

One thing on my mind this week. My roommate and I were discussing how, it is totally normal nowadays for use to be sitting in a room full of people that are HIV+ and not even think twice. I think when I was in the states I might have met a total of 10HIV+ people that were out about the issue. What is everyone else's experience with this? Just out of curiousity....

Talk about how much things can change in terms of how you think and experience life....in just a few years....

I'll be back to post once in Maputo and reunited with the other half of my brain in Mozambique, EMS!