Saturday, September 1, 2007

Project News…

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and the head of the CDC have made a trip to Quelimane. They wanted to see first hand the work being done here under the PEPFAR program by Vanderbilt, Columbia University, HIA, and other organizations. Additionally, the U.S. has given funds for a new malaria initiative which is very exciting. Columbia has been in Quelimane for quite awhile and runs a large urban treatment program. Vanderbilt is taking a more rural approach to HIV treatment and prevention by having multiple sites in rural villages. I can’t wait to be done with our language training and see the rural sites (though I will miss our professora!). Currently, there is a lot of interest in improving cooperation between TB and HIV programs, since those diseases walk hand in hand and are both so prevalent and devastating. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of data on TB here in Zambezia, so hopefully I can get to work and be of help in that area soon.

The relationship of NGOs to this country is really fascinating. Foreign aid has been a mainstay of Mozambique’s health care for many years. NGO’s have come in, hired away the best and most well educated medical staff with higher salaries that the government can’t afford to match. While that work has been crucial in moderating health crises, the Mozambican Ministry of Health has a vested interest in developing a Mozambican health care system and infrastructure, one that won’t disappear when a foreign government decides to cut funding. It’s a wise goal to have, but it can make things a bit more complicated. One of the ways they are going about it is to require all NGOs who hire Mozambicans to pay them on the Ministry’s pay scale, thereby eliminating one incentive to work for NGOs. Some workers have agitated to have higher salaries as in the past and NGO’s have had to explain that their hands are tied. Also, a NGO cannot hire a foreign health worker without first proving they couldn’t find a Mozambican to do the job. An ad has to be placed listing the qualifications needed and there is a waiting period of some weeks. You can see the loophole this leaves open.

Daily Bits……

Today I put my toothbrush under the faucet, turned on the water, and foamy black junk spilled out. 1 toothbrush down and I now know never to put anything under the tap without turning the water on first. Also, don’t crack eggs into a bowl of stuff you’ve already mixed.

Today Olivia and I went for a walk around the city early in the morning and we saw a small monkey tied to a wall and chewing on, oddly enough, a green golf tee.

Mini essays and details on our life here that y'all may want to see.....

Un pouco sobre moda,

The ladies here often wear capulanas, 2 meter lengths of cotton cloth wrapped around the waist as a skirt, arranged as a headdress, and slung over the shoulder as a baby carrier. These have been traditional dress for many years. They are fantastic because they are cool in hot weather, comfortable, useful for storing change, and can be an instant towel or potholder. Some women wear one capulana as a long skirt and wear another around their waist like a utility belt (á la Batman). Various regions of the country are known for different styles of capulanas. In some regions of Zambezia women make blue dye from local plants and make capulanas with a characteristic tie-dye look. Nowadays, most people buy capulanas printed in large quantities from companies. However, the really interesting thing about these is that they are now also used for expression of political views. There are capulanas printed with names of political parties and descriptions of important days in Mozambican history. There are capulanas with renditions of The Last Supper and maps of the United States. Very much like t-shirts. I have been so intrigued by these things that I went to a shop to buy one. I was careful to pick one with an innocuous peacock design. (Never talk or wear politics in a foreign country) It took awhile for me to learn to fold it well enough so that it doesn't fall off, but I think the trick is to place it waist high. I still haven't worked out how to tie the tail into a change purse, but I'm working on it.

Un pouco sobre a comida,

There is no skim milk to be had in Quelimane. Actually, there aren’t that many dairy products at all. Milk comes in 1-liter boxes that you don’t refrigerate until after you’ve opened them, and there is very little cheese (sigh.) You can buy Diet Coke one can at a time from only one place in town, and they only stock 6 or 7 cans at a time. Mozambicans are a bit mystified by the idea of making food less fattening. Also, there is no nutritional information on anything. That is actually rather nice; you have no idea how many calories are in what. However, if you're trying to teach basic principles of nutrition to people, it makes it difficult for them to use the information.
Most people here have tiny portable, outdoor charcoal stoves they cook over. The charcoal is homemade and sold in little pyramid stacks on the street. Most people eat a diet of rice (sometimes made with coconut milk) or chima (a starchy something), beans and fruit. Sometimes chicken if they have enough money. Almost everyone is very thin. In fact, we saw a Mozambican man with a potbelly at Zalala beach and our first thought was, “He must be wealthy.” You automatically equate overweight with wealth, which is different from the states. There are open-air markets where people sell fruit, fish, veggies, grain, etc. There are thatch stalls where people sell things. The produce is much smaller than what we buy in the states, which makes me wonder what we're doing to the food at home. The market can be a bit overwhelming because there is often dirty water running between the stalls and many people beg for money there. I’ve started keeping small change on me at all times. Olivia is teaching me how to purchase food, what greens we can eat, and how to cook without the ingredients we’re used to with only one stove eye, and most importantly, how to wash and prepare it so we don’t get sick. What would we do without her? She makes a mean eggplant mousaka, but my current favorite dish we make is guava smoothies. I want to work on fried bananas.

Un pouco sobre as animais,

There is a house a few down from Michele's (where we have class). They keep a rather large beige monkey tied to a tree by his tail. I'm not sure what kind of monkey he is. (I keep meaning to google image east African monkeys, but the internet is too slow, so I never get to it) He's about the size of Babycakes and has a dark face and a long tail and tufts of hair by his ears. He sits in the same spot every day and looks very sad. I don't know why the family keeps a monkey. There are many rats in Quelimane, we see them in the streets frequently, especially along the marginal, a long street that runs by the river. We also see many chickens and ducks hanging around. We want to get a chicken for a pet when we all move into Troy's house. I saw one today that is a fine candidate. He was a beautiful white and black rooster that was calmly walking down the sidewalk toward me. Not running, not squawking, just strolling along. He then stepped off the curb and (I swear this is true...) looked both ways before crossing the street. At a stroll. I don't know why. (ha ha). He stepped up on the other sidewalk (stepped, not jumped) and continued down the street.

There are also very, very large bats here. Near our rented room is a huge baobab tree that has a diameter of probably 10 feet. It is huge and ancient and full of bats the size of cats that talk and swoop all night long. There are geckos everywhere. One is living in our bedroom. Fine with me, he's a friend. It's the bichinhos (portuguese for “little beasts” or bugs) that give me a turn. I have a routine when I get up and go into the bathroom for my icy shower every morning. I click on the lights and wait a few seconds before opening the door. If the cockroaches run away without me seeing them, everybody wins. Then I go in and make a bunch of noise, shake them off the shower curtain and throw stuff at the soap dish if any are hanging out there. Sometimes, they charge at me and then it’s every man for himself.

A Noite,

At night, you can see many more stars over Quelimane even than in McMinnville. Stray dogs and puppies roam, homeless people build small fires with coconut shells on the sidewalk. The few cars that there are seem to drive even more recklessly at night. This is a place with ZERO traffic signs or lights, with huge potholes, dirt roads, open sewers, bikes, people and animals filling the roads and drivers careening through it all at top speed. I shudder to think of the traffic fatalities every year. Last night, we were walking home and two cars came from behind actually drag racing, filling the entire road. We had to leap onto the sidewalk to avoid being hit. One morning, Olivia and I were walking and we leapt out of the road because a garbage truck (which I didn’t know Quelimane had), came barreling down the dirt road at a speed I have never seen a garbage truck achieve. It then executed a tight corner and then another without slowing down AT ALL. I just knew it was going to topple over. People were jumping out of the road left and right. It almost looked like a live thing, a dinosaur or something, chasing a smaller animal.

About Quelimane….

200,000 people live here, but that number is misleading. Most live in mass thatch settlements around the city and many are on the edge of survival. The average lifespan in Mozambique is mid-40’s or so. For younger people, the HIV prevalence is about 1 in 5. That number varies according to age group and location, but it is still pretty striking. There are really only a few paved streets and concrete buildings. Most of the buildings are poured concrete and haven’t seen maintenance in many years. Some are only half built, construction stopped by lack of funds. Often these lots have squatter gardens full of tomatoes and other things. The people who live in town have to hire night guards to protect against theft. There isn’t much violent crime, but people are just so poor that things are stolen right and left from anyone who has valuables. Every window is covered by iron bars. I know we look very foreign as we walk the streets and I definitely feel very, very out of place. We hear people say “musugos” when we walk by, which is chuabo for white people. However, I think a big part of that is not so much our color as economic status. We are hugely wealthy here in comparison with the average Mozambican. I think that’s what creates the biggest gulf. Kevin is doing a great job of trying to bridge the gap by chatting, taking local transportation, buying local food, waving at kiddies, etc. Little children follow us and say, “Hello! Hello! Hello!” in English and then giggle and scamper off. But there still is a distance. I think everybody is curious as to who we are and what we’re doing here. And they’re waiting to see what the crazy huge white guy is going to do next.

We have seen a post office here, but I not am sure there is a mail system. Because Quelimane is on a bay, shrimp fishing is a big thing. The biggest company is called Krustamoz. I can’t help thinking of Krusty burger. Right now it’s winter and the dry season. It’s still REALLY hot. So hot, the hook and eye fasteners on my underthings have rusted. That’s my new definition of hot weather. Has anything I’m wearing rusted? The sun is merciless and dust swirls in the streets. Our empregada Regina tells us that this is nothing; December will be when the real heat comes. Also the rain, which brings malaria season. Even now, the roads have large lakes and sewers overflow, so I wonder what the rainy season will be like. Some roads must be impassable and humidity must be insane.

That's all for now, I'll try and add some more tales from Moz a little later, but hopefully you can see a little of what our life is like!


Blogger Leslie Butterfield said...

Hi Lara and Kevin,
Steve and I just read your entire blog to date over a few chicken dumplings at the kitchen table. We enjoy living in exotic Africa vicariously through you, especially when it comes to cold showering and brushing our teeth with black water. You are great journalists and knowing you even a little makes the reading more wonderful. Beware the mosquitos and other disease carrying items as we do want you to come home to tell more stories in person. Send a photo of Lara in the local garb please.

Thanks for taking the time to share the little details.

Stay well and let us know what stuff we can send such as tooth brushes and unrusted bras plus how to send this.

Love, Cousins Leslie & Steve

September 2, 2007 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Laine said...

I have been thinking about the two of you even more because we have been (except for thirty minutes in the morning) without water for eight days. We now have a new water line.
Learning about your experiences is like reading a really good book. I can't wait for the next chapter.
Let all of us know what you name the chicken and please take care of yourselves.

September 4, 2007 at 8:53 AM  

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