africa: dancing, marriage and abel.

the organization i’m here with is called care for life. it works directly with those affected by AIDS, malaria and TB. it funds the baby orphanage we work in, it pays the salaries of those locals that run the organization, and it funds the large scale projects we do here. the local program directors choose families that are most in need for us to work with.

every time we enter a village – they are like shanty towns – we are swarmed by children and babies and people. they just stare. i think sometimes we are accountable for a few riots. i’ve felt like all i wanted was to look just like them so that we could get more work done without being such a spectacle. 

often times there isn’t enough work for us all to do – only so many people can be on a weak bamboo roof hammering at a time. that leaves me to entertain the masses…. which isn’t difficult. i ask them to teach me a dance and they circle around and start clapping the rhythm. one or two, usually the tiniest 3 or 4 year olds get in the middle and start moving. it is beautiful and alive and i jump right in with them.

they have a hard time with my name so i am now maria after my middle name. i’m still not used to it. at the baby orphanage all the little kids started chanting, “maria, maria!” until i finally turn around. i was about to tell them to be quiet when they all squealed, “maria!!!” i guess i better remember my name. 

later in one of the villages, i was talking to two of the older girls. they both had babies strapped to their backs in capalanas. one was only 20 and the other was 25.

they asked how many children i had.
not even a baby?
where is your husband?
i don’t have one. but how do you not have a husband?!
i don’t know.
then the one smiles and says, i can’t see you married though. it’s just a feeling i have.

great, even in the depths of the senna tribe in beira, moçambique i have no hope and there are concerns about my marital status.

i think i am in love.
he is 11.
a soccer player.
he is beautiful. 

i saw him behind the house we were building. i’d peak around a wall which had been made with bamboo slats with rocks shoved in and then covered in a kind of mud cement that they call bloque. he was sitting on a rock, leaning against his wall, eating with his hands from a bowl. he was shy. he’d notice me looking and smile, then quickly look away. as i carefully watched him, he was secretly looking at me.

i finally went over and crouched down next to him. he had two little fish on top of his rice. his brother was nearby. he told me the brother was too little to be a real soccer player. his name is abel. i asked if he had a bible. he said no, but he knew the story. i told him his name was strong.

i had to finish working on the house…. and then we had to leave. i found abel and taught him rachel’s cool handshake. the group followed us all the way to the street. one woman grabbed me and told me how happy it made her that i danced with them. we got in the chapa/van and reached our hands out the windows to touch theirs. and i looked for abel. i still miss him today.

housekeeping answers for curious minds: yes i received my tetanus shot and my typhoid and i still have yellow fever and dengue and hepatitis a and b covered AND i’m on malaria medication. should have it covered, although i seriously may be developing lice.
there are 9 kids in our group: 3 guys and 6 girls. two of the guys and myself are the only portuguese speakers. the main language here is portuguese but we are also in the area of the senna tribe so they speak completely differently.
we live in a 3 bedroom house together. we work in a baby orphanage every night and do large scale humanitarian projects all day long…. like building roofs for shack homes. we also teach english classes at another orphanage on the weekends.
yes a boy always runs with me.

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