Moz is a country in which people knowingly say things that they don’t mean. It’s like an entire culture based on the promises you’d make in college to lukewarm friends you find yourself sitting by on the bus. “We should totally get together sometime for lunch.” “Yeah! That’d be great!” Then you both leave without the other’s phone number. YES! We’ve all done it! But such non-commitments dictate the Mozambeekan society. A given day is a success if your colleagues show up for the meeting you planned; just sleep off the next month if they show up on time.
So I knew that ENGLISH THEATER was a big deal when all 9 participating students showed up 5 days a week, on time (enough), to practice their play. WHAT. Though Micah was their captain, I accompanied them to Chimoio for the great competition. Of course, that voyage wasn’t completed without adventure.
We left around 7am that morning but the adventure really began 6 hours earlier, at around 1:20am. A neighbor returning from work in South Africa had saved up just enough money to equip his mud hut with a toddler-sized subwoofer column, stereo system, and a generator with enough power to run them through the night. Until 5:40am, exactly 5 min after I’d finally conceded to consciousness, he and his neighbors celebrated sleep deprivation with everyone in a half-kilometer radius. We had 8 hours to travel to Chimoio in the back of a truck and now I was doing it on no sleep.
“I don’t care what culture you’re in, this is unacceptable,” I told Micah, and set off to reprimand my neighbors.
And there, at the epicenter of the racket, were 8 children dancing carelessly as their hair coincidently twitched at the pulse of the bass. A 65-year-old decrepit grandmother held her hand out for me then stood, seemingly the first time in days, to dance with me.
Didn’t have it in me... I returned home after dancing for twenty minutes and never mentioned to them the music or my irritation. Africa: love it and hate it.
. . .
|The team in Chimoio|
On to English Theater! I accompanied six students to a roadside stall for a lunchtime plate of xima and beans. Om nom nom’d, then I pulled out a stack of 300 mets to pay for our meals. A nearby police officer saw the money and said, “Oh! Is that money for me?”
“No,” I said. “We’re paying for our meals.”
“Ahhh! Just checking. I thought it was for me...” He let out the greasiest of chuckles.
He approached me again moments later while I was paying and said, “You need to come by the police office once you’ve paid.”
“Why?” I asked. “I don’t understand. What did I do?”
He thought a bit. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll decide that once you get there.”
Big ol bribe-mongering asshole. To the dismay of the cop, I had all the appropriate documents and he couldn’t take anything from me. My theater counterpart Pinto, who Micah introduced to me as “the nicest man in Machanga,” smooth-talked him so well that they ended up exchanging phone numbers. I was just bitter.
. . .
At last, it came time for Machanga to present our play. Ours was probably the darkest theater piece ever presented in the history of English Theater, perhaps in the history of Mozambique: ten minutes of death, disease, and suicide. A father sells his daughter Sophie into marriage and her new husband has a heart attack and dies only minutes after consummation. Sophie acquires HIV from her single sexual encounter and dies years later. Sophie’s father feels responsible for her death and the play ends as he stabs himself in the heart with a kitchen knife. darkDARK.
A clip of Machanga's play
Unfortunately, we didn’t place but we dominated the individual performance awards:
Onú – 2nd best actor of Sofala
- best actress of Sofala
Carmen – best female English speaker of Sofala
Onú receiving his award
Success! And even the students who didn’t leave with an award still got a chique urban retreat with cookies, chicken, and Coke. Life is great.
Cuidado ... Machanga há de levar a primeira lugar próximo ano, suckaz!