Before I came to Mozambique, I imagined an idyllic life out in the campo, away from all of the city sounds that kept me up at night in Philly… but honestly, there are plenty of night noises here. There’s the high-pitched buzz of the mosquitos outside my net, hungry for a midnight snack; there’s the constant babble of the dramatic and romantically frustrated women on the Brazilian telenovelas my mãe likes to watch; there’s the howling and growling of the neighborhood dogs; there’s the whooshing of the wind that whistles through the trees and rattles my door; and, if you’re a lucky carnivore, there’s the mooing and huffing of the unfortunate cow your family has tied to the pole in the driveway.
My family here knows that I don’t eat red meat, but I don’t think they understand that I used to be vegan. The word vegan doesn’t even exist in Portuguese: it essentially translates into “strict vegetarian.” Eating meat here hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. As far as I am aware, the meat industry in Mozambique is not as cruel and environmentally detrimental as the system in the states. In fact, I’m not even sure a “meat industry” exists because most people here kill what they eat themselves. Ethically, it’s so much better to kill your own animals and use every last part (they eat EVERYTHING) – but that doesn’t make killing animals any easier. I’ve been witness to two chicken be-headings, and they were both painful. I didn’t see my family kill the cow, but I was helping my mãe in the kitchen all night while people traipsed in and out of the house with the various body parts, covered in blood and innards. It felt like a crime scene. While it was kind of cool to see a cow’s heart up close and personal, just hours after it stopped beating, it was not so cool to filter my clean water next to a pair of crusty, fly-covered cow’s legs for the past week. I think I’ll probably go back to being at least vegetarian when I go to site. Mozambique has plenty of beans and nuts, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. You wouldn’t think it given that my host family subsists on a sturdy diet of meat and carbs. My mãe can make some killer chicken and rice, but I get SO excited when there is something green involved.
On another food-related note, our language group had a lovely cross-cultural cooking day with our mães last week. We made veggie burgers with hummus and salsa, which turned out awesome by the grace of God. I was reminded of how frustrating it can be to cook in a new place (translating ingredients and measurements, substituting half of the missing items, using foreign/inadequate cookware), and chuckled to myself over the memory of nearly burning down the house while making cookies for my students in El Salvador. I am so, so, so glad I packed some good kitchen stuff in my two-year bag. The mães made some couve (a type of green) in a coconut sauce, xima (which is basically like bland grits or polenta), and a fire roasted chicken. We feasted. It was wonderful.
Food matters aside, I am loving Mozambique. It is BEAUTIFUL. The weather’s a little rough right now. Within the span of days it fluctuates from too hot, to too rainy, to too cold, and back again… but given that that’s my only complaint, things are pretty great. I love my host family and I feel like I’m getting to know them more every week. My pai and I had a surprisingly deep conversation this morning over tea about the struggles of the Mozambican education system, government corruption, and the never-ending cycle of poverty. And uh that happened in Portuguese (high fives all around!) My sister and I spend a ton of time making paper boats and planes and coloring with the markers I brought from the states. My brother is a little closer to my age so bonding with him is hard, but he likes to laugh at me so that’s a plus? And my mãe is always looking out for me, telling me to eat more food, take another snack, and put on my jacket when it’s cold. I think after ten weeks with them, it’ll be hard to say goodbye.
Oh, and my ankle is slowly getting better – I was able to play ultimate in the rain yesterday, so I’m thinking I can start running again this week. Fingers crossed!