I have been with my host family since Saturday and, while living in someone else’s house is very stressful, I am VERY happy with my living situation. As I haven’t had internet for awhile, I decided to organize my post by significant events, trying to convey what training has been like so far.
1. I was supposed to be a boy. Apparently, Allison (or the closest name to Allison) is a boy’s name in Mozambique. On my third day here, minha tia Graca informed me that when Peace Corps had given them my name, the entire family thought they would be hosting a boy. Luckily (if I understood correctly), they preferred a girl. So I was a happy surprise.
2. My family is very disappointed with my eating habits. Not putting sugar or milk in my tea results in a debate every single morning. And despite the fact that we have discussed this quite a bit by now, I think they are hoping that one day I’ll tell them it was all a joke. They are also concerned that I’m not eating enough. Luckily, they aren’t one of the families that dishes up your food for you, so I don’t feel as though I have to force myself to eat everything on my plate. But they comment on how “skinny” I am and how, if I would just eat more, I could be “gorda (fat)” (Culture note: being called gorda is actually a complement, I haven’t decided if being called skinny is an insult). The food here isn’t actually too bad, but they don’t eat large amounts of vegetables and everything is very starch heavy. I am trying to convince my family that I really do like vegetables and that I definitely don’t want them soaked in oil or mayonnaise (which is how they eat them). My big success is they now understand I like apples more than oranges (haven’t figured out how to say I can’t eat too much citrus), but I am a little concerned that I’ll be sick of apples after eating at least 2 a day for 10 weeks. They have told me that I will be preparing dinner alone for the entire family on Sunday . . . I informed them that we all might go to bed hungry.
3. One of the phrases that Peace Corps suggests learning is “sozinha” or alone. I practiced this word every day and night because I was concerned (as this has happened to other volunteers) that my family would think I needed help with everything. Some volunteers have ended up being bathed by their host mother for up to a week because they don’t know how to say they can do it alone. Of course, I ended up with a family whose favorite word is “sozinha.” On my second day in my host family they decided it was time for me to kill a chicken “sozinha.” Wasn’t the most successful effort (I needed a lot of help) . . . While the knife looked sharp, it most definitely was not. I did manage to pluck the chicken, but someone else took out the insides. Next time, I told them that I need an axe.
4. Mozambican familial relationships are complicated. Until yesterday, I really didn’t even know how the people who live in my house were related (and was still a bit unsure of a couple of their names were). So, I asked my host sister to write down everyone’s names for me, saying that I needed to know how to spell them. From what I understand, I am living in Alcinda’s house (minha mae). Her sister Graca (33) lives here too with her 3 kids – Carolina (15), Nelia (7), and Andre (1). Alcinda’s children are Ginacilda (20), Jucelino (8), and Armando (6). Peace Corps requires that I have my own room, so (as far as I know) everyone besides Alcinda sleeps in one room (3 bedrooms total). Minha mae keeps a super clean house, so unlike some of the other volunteers, I haven’t seen a rat or a cockroach (but did see a HUGE spider). I need to learn her housekeeping secrets before I leave.
5. My Spanish is somewhat helpful for sentence structures, but absolutely no help with pronunciation. I can understand so much more than I can say, a situation that will get increasingly awkward as I start understanding more of what my family says without being able to convey that I know exactly what they are saying (especially because I have a feeling that they talk about me sometimes). Luckily they can just switch to Xangana (sp?) an indigenous language that is also spoken in Namaacha. My family is super Catholic so we went to church on Sunday (for 3 hours) and they did all of the readings in both Portuguese and Xangana. I’m hoping that one day I’ll wake up and Portuguese (and the nasally pronunciations) will make more sense. Sadly this hasn’t happened yet. I have to pass as an intermediate-high on my language test during week five in order to teach at the model school, so I’ll be working my butt off to get there.
Other than not being able to understand very much, life is fairly normal. I take two bucket baths a day (not really needed, but I’m worried my family will think I’m dirty if I don’t). I have an indoor bathroom with a toilet that you dump water in to “flush”. It’s fairly cold in Namaacha right now, so I am glad the toilet is inside and that I brought so many jackets. Miss you all!