The thing about pants

So it gets hot here. By hot, I mean like I’m sitting in a brick oven, inside a pot of boiling stew, in the middle of hell, with a dragon breathing fire on my face hot. Sometimes when it’s hot I don’t like to wear pants. Mozambique has ridiculously conservative dress standards. If you wanna be a classy lady, you’re expected to cover your knees and shoulders at all times. Herein lies the problem: I want to be a classy lady, but I also don’t want to wear pants. I figured a great compromise would be to wear pants outside of the house, and not wear them inside. Clothing inside the house is generally optional – it’s my space you know?

Yeah so there’s this other thing about Mozambique. Personal space is not a thing. If somebody is wondering what those “mosquito bites” (aka zits) on your face are, they will put their face in your face and poke at them a little. If the chapa you are riding is so full that nobody can breathe and you have a boob and a chicken smashed against your cheek, there is most likely room for one more person. If you are walking down the street and somebody finds you interesting, they might come grab your hand and walk with you a little while. If somebody wants to come into your house, they will just wander in and sit down on your floor. Actually, the last sentence is not always true – that has happened before, but most Mozambicans will stand at the door and say “licensa” until you let them in.

Aside from the heat, licensa-ing is the bane of my existence here. People can licensa for hours. It has never come to that, but I am confident that if left alone, a Mozambican would licensa forever. The idea of not letting someone in when they licensa doesn’t exist. Who would want to be left alone? Hmmm. Somebody who is not wearing pants would want to be left alone. They would probably rather continue their pantsless nap on the floor than get up, throw on a capulana, and let you into their sacred pantsfree zone. Can’t you pedir some eggs from the other pantswearing neighbors? No. The neighbors need to borrow eggs, they need to ask you about the weather, they need to tell you that you are sunburnt, and they need to do it right now. So, they licensa. I tell them to wait a minute, and they continue to licensa until I have fully woken up, scrambled around, found some pants, dressed myself, and run to the door.

Ahh yes, this is what my life has come to. Writing about the frustrations of not being able to not wear pants. I promise you I’m here for a reason. My list of things I can’t wait for grows by the minute, and starting my work is at the top of the list. Actually, getting electricity and a fan is at the top of the list, but work comes next, for real.





  1. Diane

    Sarah, This brought a very big smile & memories! Is it dry there? If so,just keep pouring cups of water over your head…seriously. It will evaporate quickly & cool you down. What about a very long skirt?? I send this advice only because I remember the same “furnace feeling” in Niger 30 odd years ago. I will keep up with you, thanks for blogging! Much love, Diane

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