Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Official Non-Motorized Velocipede Operator May 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 7:02 pm

I am now the proud owner of a Driver’s License of a Velocipede without a Motor.  In a country where cars can do seemingly whatever they want, I found it hard to keep a straight face when I went to acquire my very serious and very official bicycle documents.

At 8:15 this morning I entered the Municipal Building downtown and after some inquiries found the hallway for velocipede licensing.  I was sent to the last window, the Velocipede window where I was charged 2 meticais (7 cents) to fill in a form.  I handed over the bicycle owner’s documents (yes, we need those too to operate a bicycle) which were in the previous owner’s name.  The government official behind the counter asked if I wanted to transfer the documents into my name.  Well, sure.  Of course that meant going back to the first window to the Treasurer to pay 50.50 meticais ($1.74) for the transfer.  Then I had to take that receipt to the Velocipede window.  The official told me to come back the following morning at 10 to pick up the owner’s document and then go to the fire station at 1pm for my bicycle exam.  I asked if it was necessary.  I told him that my colleagues had informed me that if I showed my driver’s license that I wouldn’t have to take a test.  He told me to sit down and wait to speak to his manager.

It was a woman.  I hate speaking to official women in this country.  They’re often harsh and never smile.  I smiled a big smile, greeted her, and very politely explained that my colleagues had informed me that with a driver’s license I wouldn’t have to take a test.  I told her I’ve been driving for 13 years and riding a bike for 25+.  Therefore, do I still need to take the test?  She scrutinized my license, then handed it back and said, “Yes, you need to.”  Then I asked if it would be possible to take it at another time since I work everyday.  She interrupted me and said, “You can sit down.”  Um, okay…why?  She said, “You can sit down.  We’ll do it now.”  I thought she meant the test, but she meant she’d give me the license.  Of course that meant another form and going back to the Treasurer’s window to pay 21 meticais (73 cents) then taking that receipt back and waiting for my license.

As she was filling in the card, she said accusingly, “You’re a teacher of what?  It says here you’re a teacher.  What do you teach?”  I told her I teach English at the Pedagogical University and also work for an NGO and do workshops in schools.  She looked very skeptical.  She said, “At UP?  English?  English, English?  I did English at UP.”  Of course she didn’t actually speak a word of English to me.  I told her I was teaching 12+1 and that this was my first year.  Then she believed me and relaxed a little.

As I was getting ready to leave, I asked if I could come earlier than 10 tomorrow to pick up the other document since I have to work.  She told me I could try, but she couldn’t promise anything.  Wow, an honest statement about time in Mozambique!  Then she said, with a slight smile, “Can I ask you for something?”  Sure.  “Books.”  She wants English books, specifically grammar books.  I told her I didn’t have any grammar books but might be able to bring her a novel or two.  Finally she gave me an actual smile.  I finally walked out the door just after 9.

If all goes well tomorrow, I may be cruising the streets of Beira on a non-motorized velocipede as early as this weekend!  I just need to make sure I carry my official documents with me at all times.

bikes in Gorongosa


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Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 9:34 pm

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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better May 20, 2009

Filed under: Teaching — Jen @ 6:49 pm

Last week in class, my students were discussing the roles of men and women in small groups.  One of the questions asked:  “What do you think men do better than women?  Women do better than men?”  Two groups presented their responses to this question:

Group 1: Women are better at looking after children.  Men don’t have the time.  Women are worried about looking good, and so they are more organized.  If you walk down the street you will see all the women looking good, but the men don’t look good.  It’s because women are more organized in terms of hygiene.  Women have better homes.  If a woman lives alone, her house will always be nice and organized.  If a man lives alone, you can often find a mess and things in many different places.  Women are also not hard-hearted.  They feel pity.

Men are better at choosing friendships.  They know how to deal with friendships.  For example if you see a group of five girlfriends, you will see that it won’t last even a year because there is so much gossip.  But this is not notable for guys.  Men are more creative than women.  For example, many theories have been invented by men.  Anyone knows six female scientists?  Men can do heavier jobs.  Women do simple jobs.  Men are not as sensitive as women – it is hard to convince men to do something wrong, but it is very easy to convince a woman.  Men are more courageous than women.  Women are courageous on useless aspects, like killing someone, but men are courageous in how to explore the world.

Group 2: Men are better at security.  For example, men are guards and the majority of soldiers are men.  The majority of monuments are of men.  Men have more courage.  They fought against the communists and are our earliest heroes.  Men can hunt, like in the jungle.  Women see a snake and jump.  Men can do strong jobs.  They can carry big logs.  Women carry 20kgs of water but men carry three sacks of sugar.  Men run faster.  Even if you took that man from Jamaica against Lourdes Matola – they are both fast, but the man can still run faster than Lourdes Matola.  Men have more of a spirit of leadership.  In the past, few women were leaders.

Women are better at taking care of children.  They are more caring.  That’s why in a separation, the judge will say that the children should stay with the mother.  They are good householders.  And they are more romantic.