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....


Blogger The Bear Maiden said...

No day is silly if you live it to the best of your ability....

12:32 AM  

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