– Actual quote heard at a Peace Corps recruiting event –
Before coming to Moz my experience with kids was that one time I babysat my coworkers’ kids overnight. I made 3x my current monthly salary as a volunteer that night and still vowed never to babysit again.
Enter Mozambique, a country where 50% of the population is under the age of 18. All and all, I am lucky to be teaching at an IFP where all the students are adults (even though they sometimes don’t act like it,) and kids are technically banned from campus (even if they always find a way to sneak past the incredibly observant guards.)
Despite all this, it is impossible to avoid the packs of crinças here. Every time I leave campus, or when the kids are bored enough to wander through the fields behind our house and onto our back porch, I am greeted by groups of 7-10 kids ranging from a couple of months to about 10 years old. The leaders are usually the oldest girls, with the youngest of their siblings strapped to their backs, who echo their own mothers by ordering the rest of the group around when things are getting out of hand or there is a dispute over the proper usage of crayons.
Although I feel like I’ve come a long way in my tolerance of kids, this isn’t a story about how I’ve become some type of Mary Poppins. I don’t exactly like the kids, and they know it. Usually when they show up at the house, I pretend like I’m not home. After six months here, they’ve learned to just ask for Catarina.
Which brings us to today. The day when Kathryn left for two weeks for a conference in the city and a visit to America.
As per usual, some crinças who are neighbors with Kathryn’s host family stopped by before class and asked for Catarina. I inform them,
“Já foi, she’s already gone.”
They stand there and look at me quizzically, “She went to Marcia’s (Kathryn’s host sister, and their classmate,) house?”
“No, she went to the United States.”
“The United States…? Of America…? My country…?”
“You know that I am American, right?”
“SIIIIIM!” They all yelled simultaneously
“Which means that I am from another country called America”
The kids conferred a bit, and the older ones gave what I can only assume what was an explanation of the situation in Makua. After about 30 seconds, one kid asked,
“So, Catarina is in Nampula City?”
“Yes, she is in Nampula city until July”