Happy New Year, everyone!
I wasn't sure what to expect with a Mozambican New Year's celebration, but it turns out that Mozambicans party it up just as much as Americans on December 31st. I spent the 31st in Chimoio with seven other PCV's. We went out to dinner and I had some pretty fantastic pizza. Then six of us continued to a bar, where I enjoyed one beer while being harassed by a very very drunk Mozambican. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Then we went back to my friend Anna's house (there are approximately a bazillion Anna's in PC Mozambique, which is rather obnoxious most of the time...) and ate cake and ice cream and played bananagrams while waiting for midnight to roll around. At around midnight, we had our own countdown that we have no idea whether or not was accurate. But who cares? We made our way out to the street, made noise with pots and pans, and set off 10 firecrackers. I did not partake in the lighting of the firecrackers, but I did almost have a few heart attacks courtesy of them. It was a pretty mellow New Years Eve, but as many of you know mellow is just fine with me!
New Years day was quite an adventure. We decided to wake up early to watch the ball drop live via internet at the Peace Corps office. We got to the office with a little time to spare and set up my computer to watch the live feed. We watched live footage of Times Square for about 10 minutes, and about 30 seconds until the new year, my computer decided it was a good idea to shut down completely with no warning. Luckily, one of the other volunteers there, Lisa, was on the phone with her mom, so we still counted down with all of you on the east coast to the new year. :) After we watched the ball drop, we watched a few hours of classic youtube videos to really ring in the new year right.
Then it was time to make our way back to Messica. My friend, Anna, that we were staying with in Chimoio decided to come back to Messica to check out our place and make a traditional New Years meal with us. Other PCV's from our province were also passing through Messica, so they also came over to celebrate the new year. The problem with getting to Messica on New Years Day was that there weren't many chapas going back and forth due to lack of people traveling. When we got to the chapa stop in Chimoio, there was one chapa to Messica waiting (while there are normally about 3 or 4), and the chapa that was there was completely empty. So we got in, thinking we had no other choice and began to wait. After about 20 minutes, two other people had showed up. So at that rate, we would have sat in the chapa until the next day waiting for it to fill up. Luckily (kind of) there was a guy there who was hitting on me that decided to help us out. He told us that there was a chapa going to Manica that was almost full, and that we could just have them drop us off in Messica which is on the way to Manica. I investigated the situation, and it turns out that the guy wasn't crazy, and they agreed to drop us off in Messica. So yay for creepy guys who turn out to be helpful.
So we told the cobrador (chapa guy that tells the driver when to stop) that we needed to get off at the paragem (or chapa stop) in Messica. When we got closer to Messica, the cobrador asked me where we wanted to be dropped off, and I was super confused because I had already told him at the paragem. He pointed in two different directions and asked me “la” or “la”. I was quite frazzled at the sudden questions when I thought that I had been abundantly clear about where we wanted to get off. All of a sudden, Sarah tells me that we passed the street that we needed to turn down to get to the paragem. After a few seconds of being like “umm....what are we gonna do?” I decided the first order of business was to tell the cobrador that we wanted the paragem that we had just passed. He just sighed and looked at me like “how could you be so stupid, you white girl?” and said, sorry, we're dropping you off at the other paragem of Messica. And I promptly told him that I had no idea that there were multiple stops in Messica. So then he proceded to think I was even stupider than he thought possible. When we got out of the chapa at the stop he asked if we wanted the stop by the Catholic church and I said yes, so he pointed in the direction of the Catholic church. But he was pointing in the opposite direction from the church I've been going to. So I started arguing with him telling him that the Catholic church was the other way. Then a nice man in the chapa promptly told me that Messica has two Catholic churches. So I learned quite a bit about Messica from this little mishap, including the fact that Messica has multiple paragems, and multiple Catholic churches.
After the chapa left us standing on the side of the road a few kilometers from home, it started raining. So there we were, three white girls with large backpacks and other bags walking along the N6. Soon, the light rain turned into a full fledged storm. We saw an empty building not far from the road, so we made our way towards it and took cover inside. It turns out it was home to the new water office of Messica. There was a man inside who was guarding the building. He told us that we could stay there and keep dry as long as we needed to. He also showed us a back path that was a shorter way to get to town. Conveniently enough, it was a mud pit by the time we were able to start making our way up it, and the only shoes I had were flip flops (my other shoes broke on New Years Eve). So we waded through the mud up the path we were shown periodically asking people we passed if we were following the path toward the market. About halfway through the walk, I wiped out and got all muddy - of course...because that's my life. Eventually we made it home after about a 45 minute walk. It was quite the adventure, but I was happy to see the rest of Messica, which until then I didn't know existed. A few hours later, our other friends showed up and we made a wonderful New Years dinner. It was great to have some people at our house and show them around Messica a little bit. The consensus was that Messica is super cute and all of the people are very friendly. :)
Also on the first, Sarah and I found out that the administrative boss of the secondary school, Chimoio, had died. We weren't told exactly what the cause was, just that he had been sick. He was the first person that we met in Messica. He got in the car with us when we were just arriving and helped us move into our house. He was also there every time we visited the school in the past weeks. So this news was absolutely shocking, and pretty devastating as well. We were told that his funeral was this morning, and that we could meet at the school at 7AM in order to ride to Chimoio where the funeral would be held. Obviously Sarah and I felt that we needed to go, so we went to the school this morning at 7. Around 7:45, the car showed up, and we made our way to Chimoio with about 20 other colleagues.
I really didn't know what to expect from a Mozambican funeral, but it was very different than what we're used to in the states. First, we went to Chimoio's house for a blessing and some singing. Then we all piled in many flat bed trucks that were stuffed to the brim of people. Not kidding, probably about 40-50 people in each truck. We then made our way to the cemetery. There were so many people in our procession - I would guess about 300 people. There were more blessings and speeches at the cemetary, given in both the local language and Portuguese. After this, there was more singing, and eventually the burial of Chimoio. They actually lowered the casket into the ground and buried him as we were all standing there. Then people planted flowers and other assorted plants around his grave. We eventually all piled back into the truck and returned to Chimoio's family's house. Then we washed our hands, and took turns entering the house and shaking the hands of all of the sobbing relatives of Chimoio. It was so sad. I really didn't know what to do with myself. When everyone was done paying their respects, we went back to the truck and headed back to Messica.
So that is how my New Year has started. It has already been the most interesting year of my life, and we are three days in. I can't wait to see what else God has in store for me in 2013, and throughout the rest of my Peace Corps service.
Tomorrow Sarah and I are going to the school to find out officially what grades we will be teaching and to help make the schedule. So with my next blog update, I should have more information on those things. For now, all I know is that school starts on January 15th, which is actually coming up really quickly. That's really scary. Prayers appreciated because I have to teach math in Portuguese...it's gonna be rough.