A little over a week has gone by since my fingers have taken to the keyboard of my laptop.
I arrived in Abuja Nigeria and after a rather uneventful passing through border control and customs I was out the airport door for the start of a new adventure that doesn’t have me living out of a suitcase. The rest of the PULSE team, split between the Clinton Health and Malaria Consortium, has been here for some time. I feel like the new kid on the block and I appreciate the scoping that they did for neighbourhoods and flats to rent and being readily available to answer my questions on money exchange, phone plans, wireless routers etc. After a few days in a local hotel I was able to secure a one-bedroom flat in the Maitama neighbourhood and have my fellow PULSE volunteers close by when the need arises.
New friends enjoying some quiet time before an evening of Jazz
Imran, Caroline, Juergen and Venelin
Manish, Girish, Ian, Juergen, Caroline, and Gatit
It is odd to actually (1) to be in a flat again as I haven’t rented in over 30 years and (2) living on my own again for those same 30 years. It’s always been with flat mates in University, newly married, to a growing family. It’s actually quite an odd feeling – giving me time to reflect, journal for my own personal reflection and provide the optimistic outlook through my blog.
So the other evening as I sat in my new flat, listening to my Spotify playlist, watching both the sun and lightening dance across the African sky – I wondered, what will I write about that will be so interesting to keep someone’s’ interest now that I have arrived in my host country. I am sure there will be trials and tribulations of adjustment to the surroundings and the way things are done here. But I had a thought – why not blog about the stories from the side lines? I’ve met some very interesting people on the travels I’ve had so far and over the next several months expect that I will interact with even more people – the cleaner, the street sweeper, the cab driver, the musician, the painter – to name just a few. I’m normally not the most outgoing of individuals – it takes a lot out of me. I’m more inclined to go into a corner and read/reflect or out into the garden and hide behind bushes lying in the hammock looking at the sky. Although, I do think that through the conversations, I’ve come to find people who are brave, smart and more like you and me. They are creative, caring, brave, have unrealised dreams and go through life just like you and me – trying to get by and enjoy the beauty that is around them.
So this is my first in a series of stories: Lourenco (Interpreter in Mozambique)
I met Lourenco on our first day in Linchinga Niassa Mozambique. The local office of the Malaria Consortium didn’t speak English and thus we secured the services of a local man to assist with translation of our questions, the responses and document reviews. Lourenco was someone who was dressed smart, arrived on time and was willing to stay longer for the interaction and the learning opportunity of new phrases or terminology in a field he had little knowledge. It was on our trip into the villages that we had the opportunity to exchange questions about life, experiences and thoughts about the world. What I took as odd is that for someone who lived in the city, he seemed to have a certain ‘at-home’ feel in the village and his eyes lit up during the conversations with either village elders or the malaria consortium volunteers enjoying the interaction as much if not more than me. I didn’t think much more about it. Later in the day we arrived in a slightly larger town to meet with local government officials. It was when waiting for the officials to arrive that he and I pulled up chairs under a tree on a dirt patch where chickens roamed freely. It was here that I heard his story.
Lourenco grew up approximately 30km further up the road from Chimbunila Mozambique (refer to my blog of fieldwork and the community volunteers). He talked about growing up in a remote village with family close by and that the village we visited was similar to his. I was struck that for someone growing up outside the city here in the North that his English was so good. I asked him how he learned English since it was my observation that so few people in the country spoke it and yet he grew up in a remote area. He went on to tell me that he was in the 6th grade and borrowed an English language training book from an 8th grade student (you didn’t learn basic English till 8th grade). He would read the book at night teaching himself English – but kept it from his parents because he felt he would get in trouble.
One day two men had come upon him on the outskirts of the village. They were working for a Christian Relief Organisation, they didn’t speak Portuguese and were trying to find someone who spoke English to help them make deliveries in the area. So this is where Lourenco came in. The men stumbled upon him, couldn’t believe that a young boy of 11 could speak English, yet be in a remote village. They wanted to employ Lourenco but he insisted that they first had to ask his parents. So the men and he went into the village and his parents at first thought he was in trouble, that he had stolen money – just wanting to know what he did wrong. He went on to explain what the men wanted to employ him to speak English. His parents were – you don’t speak English – but upon hearing him speak and the men concurred – well, the rest is history. Lourenco went on to finish his primary and secondary school and went off to University in Joburg, SA where he was trained as a teacher – he picked up French along the way – and today he is a primary school teacher in the town of Linchinga. He teaches English, has taught French (speaking both daily in some form along with his native Portuguese), is employed as an interpreter for a number of NGOs when the need arises in the area, and in his spare time teaches guitar to his students. He is married and has one son. I was amazed at his story and the pure smile that radiated from his face. I look at what he has been able to do and the opportunities he has before him, yet he remains with the community. He told me that he stays because he hopes he inspires others to see the world and show them what they can do – that which lie ahead of them by learning a language, and playing some music for good measure too……thanks for making me smile Lourenco – happy to be called your brother.