on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

Intruder

In Mozambique on March 27, 2008 at 9:18 am

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for almost two months already. At times it feels like I’ve been here for a much longer time and then there are others when I feel as if I’ve only just arrived.

I spent a lot of time walking into the city this week-end. The walk from my rural-esque outpost to the city centre is more or less an hour. I did this on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. People think that it’s crazy that I’m walking. I can’t comprehend this. It strikes me as completely ironic considering that I’m an American and Americans have this terrible reputation as being lazy sloth-like overindulged creatures. Yet Mozambicans will go out of their way to avoid walking. When I tell people that I walk into the city, their eyes grow wide. No, you can’t it’s too far. Too far? It’s only an hour. People will pay money to cram themselves into tiny trucks or cargo vans where they have no air to breathe and barely a place to put their bottoms just to avoid walking, it’s absurd. The whole time I’m walking down the main road people are pulling over screaming “Senora, senora, boleya?”( rough translation – miss miss do you want a ride?) No thank you I say, I like to walk. This is usually followed by a grunt or a series of snickers.
I never noticed this before because with Tracy we hitchhiked all the time and are always picked up right away.

I have finally learned my way around the city. It’s such a liberating feeling to have your bearings in a completely foreign place. It has taken me a while since there are no street signs (at least very few) and many of the buildings look similar. But I can now confidently say that I can get around on my own to almost any location.

Yesterday afternoon as I was coming home from the city, I noticed the gate to my house and the front door were open. At first I thought Tracy was home. As I got closer, I saw a pair of flip-flops that I didn’t recognize.

“Ola! Ola!” I said walking into my house. The dining room was clear, the living room was clear, spare bedroom one was clear, my door was locked, Tracy’s door was locked, that left spare bedroom number two. “Ola!” I pushed the door open and flipped on the light. The door bounced back. Someone was behind the door. My heart started to leap out of my chest. “Ola! Ola!” I pushed on the door again, I could see the faint outline of a figure in the crack in the door. “Saida!” I exclaimed. The person stepped out. It was one of the neighbor kids. The one that stares but never speaks. He looked frightened. I was so confused yet relieved that it wasn’t a rapist or a mass murderer. What are you doing here? I asked in French since I forgot how to say it in Portuguese. The boy, who is probably 14 and probably slow, said something about a cat and ran out. His cat story made no sense considering my door was closed and last I checked cats didn’t possess the thumbs necessary to open doors. I walked around the house to check if anything was missing. We’ve had problems with people walking in and taking our food. I guess the perception is that the Americans can afford to buy more food, so let’s just help ourselves to whatever they’ve got. It’s so annoying, but our door doesn’t lock and there is nothing we can do.

Making my rounds, I noticed that the guitar we keep in the corner of the living room was missing. It’s case was wide open. I went back into the spare bedroom and tucked away behind the door was the guitar. I wasn’t sure what to do. Our next door neighbors don’t speak English. They own the house we live in. Their son broke into my house and was either playing the guitar or planning on stealing the guitar. I didn’t have the language skills to explain the situation, so I am going to wait to speak to my project leader today to see if he can speak to the family next door. So strange!

We really need a lock. Only our bedrooms lock. People are constantly walking in, taking our broom, our coffee, our tea, our matches and our food when we’re not home. People just walk in when we are home, they come in for visits and quite frankly after spending my day in the teachers office with my “colleagues” the last thing I want to do is have a visitor whose native language is not English, who doesn’t observe the same cultural customs that I do. It’s too frustrating for me to deal with at this stage of my own culture shock. At first I used to feel bad kicking people out. I used to give in and tell people that I’d give them English lessons. “What would happen if you just said no?” Akisha asked one day. I was taken aback. Duh! Just say no. And now I do. People may think that I’m rude, so let it be, I’ve got peace of mind. “I want you to teach me English and I will teach you Portuguese”- “No!” “Ugh?” “Not today. Good night!”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: