March 9, 2012: Wow! Finally time for me to slow down from all the craziness of a hectic pre-spring break schedule and wrap my brain around the fact that we will be boarding a plane to Africa in just a few short hours! For me this has come up so fast and I am grateful to be able to at last focus all of my energy on the trip (I know it's a little late), but I do finally feel mentally prepared for the amazing journey that we are about to embark on. And as I do leave behind the rigors of a highly scheduled, fast paced "now now now" American lifestyle, I expect to encounter a new sense of time as we immerse ourselves in the Mozambican culture for the next week. Despite our research and exploratory activities, I still think I harbor some stereotypical expectations about the country, and am anxious to see them either confirmed or dispelled from my mind when we land. I am so grateful to have this incredible opportunity to be able to experience a culture so different from my own through this program. It is going to be so exciting and overwhelming (in a good way!) to get a taste of the country as we take a week long whirlwind tour. I am ready to go with an open mind, and can't wait to share this with all of you! Let's gooooo!! Now to finish packing!
March 12, 2012
Our first full day experiencing Mozambique, today was full of valuable eye-opening learning as we toured the United Methodist Conference building and also got the opportunity to engage at a local primary school in Maputo. As we made our bus ride out into the city, we got a glimpse into the everyday life of the people, characterized by lots of pedestrian traffic and market stands almost everywhere you looked. At first glance it looked like chaos compared to our highly structured roadways, but it soon became clear that this was the norm and everyone was getting where they needed to be. As we drove it was interesting to note signs and billboards that were written solely in English, when I had expected for all advertising along with everything else to be strictly in Portuguese. People watching is one of my favorite parts of experiencing the culture, and it was fun to note their dress, with much of the clothing split between more traditional garments and then similar clothing to what we wear on a daily basis in America. Taking pictures of nearly everything I see, I definitely feel like the cultural oddity that I am here, and wish I could know what those around us are thinking as we pass, however no one seems to be opposed to our presence, just more intrigued.
Our experience at the United Methodist Conference building gave us a little bit of insight into how local government structure functions to run other programs, and we had the pleasure of meeting with the Bishop. Her stories about the hardships she has faced in rising to her position as an African woman were very inspiring, and gave me a lot of respect for what she does both in Mozambique and South Africa.
Next we visited a local non-traditional primary school, which was definitely the highlight of the day for me. It was amazing to see all of the children focusing on their studies in an environment that we wouldn't normally view as suitable for learning. A shortage of classrooms meant that several of the grades were holding class outside in the elements, and in talking with the headmistress we learned that this small space accommodates to nearly 500 children. Seeing the dedicated teachers, staff, and students alike operating under circumstances with such limited facilities and supplies really made me reflect on what we take for granted within our own school systems. In comparison, we find such insignificant aspects to complain about, finding fault even in the comforts and extra luxuries that we are afforded. Here, the children seemed joyous doing with what they had and we felt very welcome as they shared their school with us. Despite so many cultural barriers, especially with language, I still felt as though we were able to connect with the children on some level and I am highly grateful for the experiences we had with them today.