Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Teresa's Connections

When Ricardo arrived home after a meeting several weeks ago and announced, “Teresa wants to know if you teach English classes,” I knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Teresa is the Director of a Mozambican NGO that promotes development in the agricultural sector, and one of Agrolink’s principal partners for the work we do with smallholder farmers. Teresa used to be the head of the NGO’s Chimoio office, and coincidentally was transferred to the Maputo office one month before Ricardo and I moved to the capital. Teresa is also from a very well-connected and influential family in the political sphere of this country, so when she expressed interest in improving her English I knew that it would be in our vested interest for me to start teaching pronto.

Since Teresa has to travel frequently for her job, we decided to structure our classes in intensive Phases where we have lessons every day for about 3 weeks followed by a break while she is off monitoring projects. We just finished Phase 1 yesterday and will pick up our classes again on May 15th. Quite honestly I couldn’t hope for a better arrangement. Just when I am starting to burn out on teaching, Teresa takes off for a couple of weeks and I get a chance to restore my energy and concentrate on other things for a bit.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m actually enjoying being an English teacher this time around (as compared to my experiences in Brasil where I taught conversational English to a group of unruly teenagers and business English to a sleazy lawyer who complained constantly that my price was too high). Now instead I have a student who actually wants to learn English and is happy to pay a fair wage for my time and effort. It’s been quite satisfying to watch Teresa’s language skills improve – perhaps even more satisfying than receiving a check for several hundred dollars yesterday that will make a huge difference in our life right now.

In addition to the obvious benefits that come from teaching English, Teresa has also taken me and Ricardo under her wing as fellow Chimoio transplants. Last weekend was Teresa’s 42nd birthday and she insisted that Rico and I attend the party at her house. Knowing it was yet another offer we couldn’t refuse, we bought a beautiful bouquet of purple flowers and took a taxi out to the upscale new development by the beach where Teresa and her family live. Even though we arrived an hour after the party was supposed to start, Rico and I were one of the first guests to show up.

We felt a bit out of place in the midst of Teresa’s relatives that were still setting up tables and chairs on the patio, but one of her cousins took an immediate liking to Ricardo and from that point on we had someone to hang out with. Teresa also introduced me to her niece, a girl my age named Nana who grew up in Virginia, studied Financial Economics at Marymount, speaks perfect American English, and whose father was Mozambique’s first ambassador to the US. Nana and I got along really well and made plans to hang out. All in all, not a bad ripple effect for a couple of English lessons I was somewhat forced into!

Meeting Nana at the birthday party turned out to be a blessing. Rico was in Chimoio this past weekend and I was feeling super depressed. Then Nana called on Saturday and invited me out with some of her girlfriends for a night on the town. I accepted immediately, excited about my first time out in Maputo and only my second time out in Mozambique since moving here nearly a year ago. The night started at the Clube Naval, the beautiful colonial building on the waterfront where Portuguese soccer matches are shown on big TVs in the restaurant downstairs and Maputo’s young and hip dance and play pool in the bar upstairs. I actually really liked the upstairs bar, my favourite part being the excellent people-watching.

Maputo is without a doubt the most diverse place I’ve ever lived, and the group of people in the bar certainly illustrated the miscegenation quite well with Mozambicans of African, Indian and Portuguese descent drinking together with Europeans and Chinese and all the possible racial mixes in between. What’s more, each person had his or her own style, so in addition to the racial diversity the bar was full of rastas, punks, socialites, gangstas, and hippies all mingling and having a great time.

After a couple of gin and tonics at the Clube Naval we headed to a bar called The Lounge. A lot of Nana’s friends were at this bar and I met some really interesting people. One friend, a Mozambican guy called DJ Renegado, sat at our table and excitedly told us that he’d been selected to play the after-party of a really big hip-hop concert that will take place in Durban, South Africa in July. The concert will feature Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dog, Rhianna and several other big acts from the US and South Africa and the concert promoters are paying for DJ Renegado to fly down there and turn tables after the show. According to Nana and her friend Kadiga from Cape Verde, DJ Renegado is by far the best DJ in all of Mozambique. Meeting him made me want to get tickets for the show in Durban, but right now it’s just not a possibility.

Another friend of Nana’s, a guy of Indian descent but with thick dreadlocks in his hair, sat at our table and told us that his house had been used last week for filming a scene from “Blood Diamonds,” a movie about Sierra Leone starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connely that is being shot here in Maputo right now. His house will appear in the film as the residence of the Prime Minister of Sierra Leone. Even though it was totally against the rules, Nana’s friend hid in the stairwell of his home while they were filming and managed to capture part of the action on his cell phone without any of the producers noticing. He pulled out the phone and proceeded to show us the clandestine material. Although the quality wasn’t that great, you could definitely make out Leonardo talking to a Black man in a suit in the middle of a huge office. From their expressions, an argument was taking place and you could see Leonardo pace back and forth, then throw up his arms in frustration and storm out of the room. Nana’s friend told us that he and his family had received an invitation from the Director to attend another shoot on Wednesday where a shootout and a car chase will take place. How exciting!

We finally left The Lounge around 4:30 in the morning, super late by my standards but “an early night” according to Nana. She dropped me off at home and I literally fell into bed, too tired to even take off my makeup. I had to wake up early the next morning to make a lasagne and a coconut-chocolate pound cake for a big Easter celebration that afternoon that Teresa had invited me and Rico to attend. Definitely the most memorable Easter I’ve ever had, it is a story that will have to wait, however, for my next blog because I must do some work on the timber proposal now….

4 comments:

no exist said...

The friends will come,
the roots will be set,
you will have fun like everyone else!
Close your eyes, take a breath, the forces of the universe await.

Muchos besos

telfair said...

Coconut-chocolate pound cake sounds delish. Can't wait to hear your Easter tale...

Anonymous said...

Ali
I love reading ur stories,always
touches me...but I love even more
when ur friend Lampros make comments.
xxxx

Anonymous said...

Gaby