Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Puto Kame: SIDA mata

Back in February of last year a student of mine, Gift, asked if I could help him make some music videos for songs he had written.  At the time I had no video editing software and only my small point-and-shoot camera, but we spent a day and recorded five different songs in various locations in my yard.  Nothing much happened for a long time after that, but in October I told him that I had recently gotten some video editing software.  For a few weeks we worked on editing some of his music videos and putting them on youtube.  Then I had an idea.  "Would you be interested in writing some songs about HIV or malaria?" I asked.  "Sure," he said, "but I have no money record the songs. It costs 350 meticais to record a song." "I can pay for the recording if you write the songs," I said.  350 meticais is about 12 dollars.  The next day he came to my house with the lyrics to his HIV/AIDS song and malaria song.  It was only a few days before I left for the states so I gave him some money to record one of the songs.  "When I get back, we'll make the music video," I told him.

A few days after I got back from the states Gift appeared at my house and played me his song.  He had chosen to record the HIV/AIDS song first.  A few days later we spent the morning making a music video to go with the music.  Here is a link to the video we made:

The title of the song is called SIDA mata, which means AIDS kills.  Here are the rest of the lyrics in English:
AIDS, AIDS, AIDS kills mama
AIDS, AIDS, AIDS kills papa
AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, kills friends 

Be careful with AIDS, it kills you
Be careful with HIV
If you play with AIDS papa, you will die young
If you play with AIDS mama, you will die young
If you play with AIDS brother, you will die young
AIDS kills

AIDS has no friends
AIDS has no family
Mama, use a condom to protect yourself
Papa, use a condom to protect yourself
Friend, use a condom to protect yourself

AIDS, AIDS, AIDS kills mama
AIDS, AIDS, AIDS kills papa
AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, kills friends

I am so proud of this project and happy for opportunity to spread awareness and information about HIV/AIDS.  I have heard that the HIV rate in Zobue is 30% (since it is a border town) and in Mozambique overall it is 12%.

Next project, malaria.

band photos

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


After many months of the dry season we finally got our first good downpour in Zobue.  This marks the beginning of the rainy season.  People in Zobue have been preparing their fields for months and will now plant their corn.  Hopefully it will be a good growing year with the right combination of rain and sun.  For the children of Zobue the first rainstorms are a fun novelty and a chance to play.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mozambican smiles

In the United States and in a lot of other countries we are trained to smile for photographs.  Whenever someone is taking a picture, our automatic response is to smile--even if we don't necessarily feel like it.  In Mozambique, it is the complete opposite.  There are have been many times when people have been smiling widely until it is time to take their photo and then they immediately sober up and look extremely serious.  This is sad for me because many people I know here have such beautiful smiles, but it is almost impossible to catch them smiling in a photograph.  "Sega!" I tell them, "Smile!" (Sega is smile in Nyungue).  Despite my best efforts, my coaxing is rarely successful.  For example, a few days ago I gave away some presents to the neighbor kids and they were all smiles until I asked to take their photos.  Here they are with some of their presents:

The best smiles I see are after I've taken a photo of someone and am showing them the photo on my camera.  I wish I had another camera to capture them smiling at the photos on my camera.

Sometimes I try to sneak photos of people smiling.  Yesterday I gave an american flag hat to a friend of mine and he was so happy I really wanted to get a photo of him.  I snapped a photo while he was smiling and it turned out great:

Senhor Cebola modeling his hat.
I was happy with the photo, but he didn't like it and wanted me to take another photo of him.  He said I had "caught him with his teeth out."  This is the one he liked best:

Senhor Cebola's comment about catching him with his teeth out was interesting to me.  I had thought that Mozambicans' reluctance to smile for photographs was simply that they weren't used to having photos taken of them, but maybe there is more to it. Maybe they consider showing teeth to be impolite.  Maybe by not smiling for photos they are showing respect.  I'll have to ask my cultural consultants Silvia, Albertina, Leme, and Servina.

Friday, December 5, 2014

November travels

It's been almost a month since my last post because I've been living in an alternate reality called international air travel and a magical place called the United States.  In November I spent a few weeks in California and Alaska.  Did you know that you can get from Tete, Mozambique to Los Angeles in only 36 hours? Did you know that ALL the bathrooms at the Johannesburg airport are clean and always have flush toilets, toilet paper, running water, soap, AND paper towels or those hot air blower things to dry your hands? Did you know that people at the Dubai airport are respectful and quiet and don't play their music on their phones at maximum volume or have conversations in loud voices?

Also, in the United States when you go to a restaurant the waitress or waiter brings you water right away and takes your order in a timely fashion and you don't even have to wait 2 hours for your food! In the United States you can go to a grocery store and walk through aisles and aisles of SO MUCH FOOD! The vegetables are GIANT and there is so much variety! Broccoli, zucchini, red peppers, orange peppers, YELLOW peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, spinach, spring mix, herb spring mix, spinach and spring mix mix.  There are packaged vegetables already cut up just waiting to be steamed.  There are 10 types of hummus.  There are three different ways you can choose to buy your fresh basil.  On my first trip to the grocery store I was overwhelmed and I hadn't even gotten out of the produce section.

Life in Mozambique and life in the United States is very, very different, but surprisingly I didn't have as hard a time adjusting as I'd thought I would.  There were times I would exclaim about how different things were or when I was excited about a certain type of food (greek yogurt! cheese! tortilla chips! salsa! spring rolls! avocados! berries!), but overall it seemed like I was living in two separate realities and it was easy to adjust back to life in the United States.  For the past year I have been living in Mozambique and have gotten used to life without running water, toilet paper, and food variety, but I lived in United States for 24 years before that so when I was back in that environment it seemed pretty normal.

Another great thing about the United States (at least in the winter) is that it's cold!  I didn't sweat ALL the time! I could wear a sweater, jeans, socks, even a jacket, hat, and gloves! Also, there are almost no bugs and no dirt.  I could go a whole day (or a few days) without needing a bath.  Though I must admit, I did shower almost everyday because there is nothing better than a hot shower and then getting out and NOT sweating!

Though the food was great and the cold was wonderful, the best part of being home was seeing all my family and friends.  I wasn't able to see EVERYONE on this trip, but I was able to visit with a whopping total of at least 63 (give or take a few) friends and family members.  Thank you so much to everyone for taking the time to spend with me, even if it was only for a short time!  Knowing I have so many people at home who love and support me and are interested in what I'm doing is so important.  I'm incredibly thankful for all of you!

I am very grateful for the opportunity to be at home for a bit (thank you Dad!).  Leaving to come back to Mozambique was extremely hard.  I didn't want to leave.  The thought of leaving a place where I felt so comfortable (in all senses of the word) to return to a place where I feel uncomfortable (again, in all senses of the word) a lot of the time made me cry.  If I didn't have a trip planned to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in December I'm not sure I would have come back.

I'm now back in Mozambique.  I'm back in my village, back in my house, back to my neighbors and friends.  Back to sweating all day as my fan blows hot air at me.  Back to speaking Portuguese and trying to learn Nyungue.  When I arrived in Zobue the kids in my neighborhood yelled my name and my baby neighbor smiled and stretched out his arms to be picked up.  It was great to see my friends Leme and Servina and their daughters Suneila and Marnela again.  I was also happy to see my friends Silvia, Albertina, and the rest of their siblings.  In the days I've been back many people have greeted me happily saying, "You disappeared!" "Yes," I say, "I went home, but now I'm back."

I'll be here in Zobue for a few weeks, then I leave for my trip to Kilimanjaro.  In January I have a mid-service Peace Corps conference in Maputo and then school starts again in February.  I've thought a lot about whether I want to spend another year of my life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique.  I want to finish my commitment, but I know that if I am unhappy all the time I won't be a good volunteer.  Right now I'm taking it one day at a time.  If I can keep a good attitude about being here, I'll stay.  But if I am angry and frustrated all the time I won't be doing anyone any good here.  We'll see what happens once school starts.  Stay tuned.