Today, instead of having classes, we spent the day with our host families doing chores. Although I would say that I already know how to cook, clean, and generally take care of myself, I have learned from my mãe that in Mozambique, I do not know how to do any of these things. Eu sei tomar banho, eu posso fazer sozinha, which translates to I can take a bath, I can do it myself, was on the phrases on the Portuguese cheat sheet we received before we arrived at our home stay, which seems odd until you realize that your home stay family thinks that you have the self-sufficiency of a three year old. In all fairness, we did have to have an hour long training session on how to use the bathroom before we got here, so maybe that assessment is not too far off.
So today was dedicated to performing all the household tasks that will be necessary during our time in Mozambique. When I woke up this morning, we swept and mopped my house, and I helped with some of the cleaning in the main house as well. After eating breakfast, my mãe told me that today we would be making matapa, which is the name for both a traditional Mozambican dish, and the leaves of the cassava plant that are the main component of this dish.
To make matapa, we first had to go and pick the cassava leaves. My family has a decently sized garden, and I knew we had cassava plants, so when my mãe told me we were going to pick the leaves, I assumed that meant going to the side of the house. As soon as we start heading in the opposite direction of the garden, I knew that I was wrong. We ended up walking about 30 minutes to my mãe’s daughter’s house, where we picked a whole lot of leaves. It was actually pretty cold today, only about 65 degrees, so I was excited to get back to the house and start cooking and to warm up after my long unexpected walk without a jacket.
Matapa is a sauce dish that is typically served over rice. Besides the cassava leaves, it contains coconut milk, finely ground peanuts, ground dried shrimp, garlic and onions. The most time consuming part of making matapa is shelling and crushing the peanuts, crushing the cassava leaves, and making the coconut milk. All crushing is done with a large mortar and pestle, and is a lot of hard work; I don’t think that I have ever made such a physically exhausting dish.
After crushing the peanuts and cassava leaves, we had to open a coconut and remove the flesh to make coconut milk, which was surprisingly easy. We then basically just threw everything in a pot and let it cook for a couple hours while stirring occasionally. It turned out great, but unfortunately I do not have a picture of the final product, because according to my mãe you only serve matapa with white rice, and since we only had brown rice, she didn’t want me to take a picture.
Aside from cleaning the house and cooking, I was excited to do chores because after two weeks without access to laundry, I am running out of underwear! Unfortunately this morning my mãe told me that we need to conserve water. Mozambique is experiencing a pretty serious drought, and the town we are in is particularly affected. From what I have gathered, the public sources of water are pretty scarce, and some of the other volunteers said their families had to wait for 5+ hours to get water today, and paid more than double the normal amount. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do laundry, but at least I’ve got enough water to bathe and drink.
At around 2:00 this afternoon when chores were complete, I met up with some other volunteers to passando or walk around. We checked out some local stores and picked up some necessities before heading to a local restaurant to grab a well earned beer (for only like 50 cents!) before returning home for dinner.
All in all, today was both a rewarding and exhausting day. I learned that pretty much every chore in Mozambique is just plain harder than it is in America, and gained some serious respect for how hard cooking is when you can’t just run to the grocery store!