August 17, 2013

Mozambican Birthday

Mozambicans never cease to amaze me with their generosity.  The little they have, they are willing to give up in a heartbeat for someone else.

Monday was my birthday.  It started out as a normal day.  Sarah made me a delicious cinnamon cake (my favorite) and some of our friends Antonio and Gelito came over to hang out for awhile in the morning. In the afternoon, Sarah had classes, so I laid around and watched some episodes of Grey's Anatomy while waiting for my friend, Otilia, to get back from Chimoio to go shopping with me.  At around 3pm, Otilia called saying she was back in Messica, and I headed out to her house to meet up with her.  We made our way to the market, and spent about an hour shopping around.  We didn't find too much, but we did find one shirt that Otilia picked out that I liked, so she went over to ask the price (as per usual so the vendors don't try to rip the branca off) and before I knew it, she was giving me the shirt. "It's already taken care of," she said.  I was shocked because Otilia and I have literally had countless conversations about how she has no money and no means to earn money because she is often sick and has back/neck problems.  I told her I couldn't accept it, but she insisted.  She wouldn't take no for an answer.  And she was unbelievably happy to give me the shirt.  She told me, "If I give what little I have, God will bless me more.  If I keep what I have to myself, I won't have those blessings."  What if the rest of the world thought in this way?

While we were at the market, I got a call from a number that I didn't know.  I answered hesitantly and found my student, Fauzia, on the other line.  She asked me where I was and I told her I was at the market to which she responded, "Okay, see you soon!"  "Um...Fauzia, why will you see me soon?"  "Um....we'll just see you soon."

After the market, I made my way back to Otilia's house, and got a call from Sarah.  After I told her I was at Otilia's, she told me she'd meet me there.  About 5 minutes later, I heard Sarah at the gate outside calling my name and telling me to come outside and that she wasn't alone.  I went outside to be greeted by about 20 students from one of my turmas.  Some of them were holding a banner for me.  They all broke out into a very cute rendition of Happy Birthday, and then into the Portuguese version of the song.  Then, one of my students, Tomas, read me a poem that he wrote me (in English) that was probably the most adorable thing I've ever read.  I was blown away and SO embarrassed, because we were basically putting on a show that many passerby's decided was too good to pass up.  I thanked my students, and shortly after they all left.

A few minutes later, I looked up to see another small herd of students coming towards Otilia's house.  I looked at Sarah with wide eyes as she said, "I swear I had nothing to do with this one!"  They were about 20 more students from another turma.  They broke out into "Parabens a você" once more, and then had another poem to read me (written in Portuguese this time).  The gist of that poem was "You can doubt the brightness off the stars in the sky or the perfume of the flowers. You can doubt almost everything in this world, but never doubt our love for you." Yes, you can laugh.  Because I sure did.

After Fauzia read me the poem, one of my other students spoke up.  "Teacher, I was watching a TV show the other day and it had Americans in it.  It was one of their birthday's and after they were given a gift, they had to do a dance.  Is that true?"  I quickly negared (denied) the validity of that statement, but the student would not let up.  "Teacher, dance for us!  Teacher, dance for us!"   I legitimately wanted to crawl under a rock.  Dancing might be my least favorite thing, especially when I don't have any alcohol in my system to loosen up a little. I told them to teach me how to do their dances, but after that failed they had the great idea to make me dance with one of my students.  The one that made the comment about dancing in the first place eventually stepped forward and held his arms out to me in a ballroom like pose.  Next thing I know, our bodies are literally pressed together and he is grinding back and forth against me as we're facing each other.  Literally the most awkward moment of my life.  I looked at Sarah (as she was laughing uncontrollably) and started mouthing quite obviously, "HELP!"  After about 10 seconds of dancing with my student (about 10 seconds to long) I stepped back and said "CHEGA!" (That's enough!)

"Teacher, are you tired?"
"Yes, I am very tired!  It's time for you guys to go!  But thank you so much!"

It was definitely an interesting day.  But it was also wonderful.  I will never forget my 22nd birthday..that's for sure!


  1. Happy birthday (once again)! I absolutely love Otilia's philosophy. Thanks for sharing it!