Last night I moved in with a Mozambican family. For the first few days I had been staying with two of my colleagues – an Australian girl and a British girl. They’re in a big flat on the fourth floor of their building, with a view of the beach across the street. The family I’m staying with now are in a flat nearer the center of town.
My first impressions of the family are positive. Dona Ana welcomed me as her daughter and told me I need to learn Portuguese because she likes to talk a lot! She works as a secretary for the Assemblies of God Africana church. Her husband works for the government; he’s in charge of the chapas (public mini-buses). They have one son, Moses, who is 11. Their 18-year-old orphaned niece, Julieta, also lives with them, and she has a darling 8-month-old daughter who is scared of me. Julieta speaks some English.
Last year Dona Ana had an Oasis gap year team stay with her. It was the first time she had real interactions with white people. She said before that she used to be shy, not knowing what white people were like. But God placed it on her heart to host this team, and she said she learned that they are just like Mozambicans. One of her examples of similarity: “They go to the bathroom too.”
We ate dinner at 10pm. She said they eat no later than 8pm, but we ate at 10pm…oily French fries, rice, bread, fried chicken, salad, and mangoes. I gained Dona Ana’s approval: She said she likes me because I eat well! Then I went to bed, barely sleeping through the night because all I could feel were springs in the mattress and the heat and humidity heavy upon me. For breakfast (which was promised at 7am and served at 8am), I was given cake, bread and butter, a bag of milk (yes, a bag that I bite the corner off of and suck out the milk), and tea with sweetened condensed milk.
One night down and 29 to go. Hopefully in the remaining days I will gain a workable understanding of Portuguese and some lasting relationships. Hopefully, although I fear futilely, I will gain no added girth.