In England everyone had an opinion (usually negative) about America. Especially if I mentioned Texas, they were quick to associate me with George Bush. For those who are aware of perceptions of Bush outside of America, this was never a positive association.
I am somewhat surprised now in Mozambique that most people seem to have little knowledge of America, apart from hip-hop videos. (Julieta is surprised that I don’t know trivia information about most hip-hop artists: “But they are from America!”) My Portuguese tutor was not even aware that America is at war with Iraq. In fact, I have seen nothing on Mozambican television news about Iraq, but I must admit that I have only picked up a newspaper a couple times so can’t say with any certainty what written news covers.
I have heard no one mention Bush except for my host father who was aware that there are elections coming up and that Bill Clinton’s wife is running. He is also the one who told me that America is a very good country that has done a lot for Mozambique as far as aid and development are concerned. What a difference in attitude from conversations in England.
I find the lack of knowledge refreshing actually. Mozambicans will often first ask me if I’m from England. Those who know my Australian colleague will ask if I’m from Australia. Just as most Americans lump all Africans together, the Mozambicans I’ve met do not distinguish between white English-speakers. I could just as well be from England or Australia for all they’re concerned.
The other day I was walking with a colleague who speaks English about as well as I speak Portuguese, and he asked, “What country are you from in America?” I told him Texas. (He didn’t realize how accurate his question actually was!) He looked at me blankly when I asked if he had heard of Texas. No, he hadn’t heard of it. That’s pretty great.