Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pasta sauce, rain and mosquitoes

It’s been awhile since I last posted. I can blame it only partly on lack of internet access (we have internet near our house but it rarely works). More so I have been caught up with settling in at my new home. School doesn’t start until the end of the month but it’s amazing how busy I can feel when I have nothing to do! Just about everything takes longer here.

Take cooking, for example. We have it far easier than a lot of PCV’s since we have a gas stove with an oven and a fridge (some would be very jealous to read this). We are also fortunate to live near a small city with a variety of foods. Still, everything must be made from scratch. Pasta sauce? Well, you lock up your house and lather up with sunscreen then walk thirty minutes in the scorching sun to town. Once there, you find your way to the market and duck under canvas and around reed walls, dodge fly-covered piles of raw meat, shoo away men proposing marriage and kids asking for money and women calling you over to buy things, and finally you make it to your favorite vendor waaayy at the back. You load up on tomatoes and onions, then move on to another vendor for okra, then elsewhere for garlic, etc… By the end you are lugging your sack of goodies back in the hot sun and make it as far as an awning on the main street where you sit in a heat daze and wait for the stores to open. They’re closed from 12 to 2 for a siesta and you can see Mozambicans stretched out in the shade along the sidewalk lying on capulanas or in wheel barrels. The store finally opens and you look for the things on your list: milk, popcorn, margarine… all out. So you chat it up with the folks behind the counter and promise to return another day and walk the thirty minutes in the hot sun back to your house (or wait for a ride). Once home, you begin the process of chopping, cooking, etc… If you want a salad you must first thoroughly wash all your veggies with bleach solution. If you want rice, you must sort out the rocks. Oatmeal? Sort out the bugs. I’m not complaining though. It’s a chance to practice my Portuguese, get to know people in town and feel somewhat productive. When I forget how spoiled I am I just talk to my friends in the “matu” (“the bush”) and they remind me what it’s like to be in a village with only tomatoes and onions, no refrigerator and only a coal stove to cook on.

An update on the weather: it rained! The rain lasted a few days and brought with it a stretch of cool weather (high 70’s) that we decided was sent from heaven. It also brought with it many mosquitoes. Despite our best efforts, they find their way into our house and I have resorted to wearing bug spray in the evenings. There is a lot of malaria in this region but I am religious about taking my malaria prophylaxis and using my mosquito net at night.

A note on mosquito nets… You need to tuck them in! It’s a pain when you have to get up at night but I realized that even though mosquitoes are too dumb to find their way into the untucked net, spiders are not. I noticed a couple of strange bites on my arms and legs and almost had a panic attack when someone explained that they are spider bites. It doesn’t help that we have a black widow spider living on our back porch. We’ve named her Charlotte (it makes her seem less terrifying) and have decided on a “live and let live” sort of relationship. Some of you already know that my Achilles heel is my irrational arachnophobia, but I am handling the situation well.

Perhaps another reason for my lack of blogging is that everything is starting to seem normal. I promise to continue posting even as the extraordinary becomes mundane. You will just have to write back and remind me how much of this is different from “normal” life back in the States.

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