I just returned from my village stay in Namacata, about a thirty minute bicycle ride from the city. I experienced the daily life of the Chuwabo people and learned a lot! My most common activities included drawing water from the well, grating coconuts, receiving visitors, taking bike rides, and conversing with my host family as we snacked on peanuts. I was so well received by all the people—my family, the neighbors, the church. Here are a few highlights:
Most Unexpected Visit
On the first day my host family took me to pay a visit to the neighborhood boss (sort of like the mayor for the area) to officially greet him, explain why I was in the village and get his blessing.
Most Rewarding Feeling
Every Friday my family would take out large pestle and mortars to pound the weekly allotment of rice. Throughout the year they eat the rice grown in their own fields. After harvesting the rice it has to be pounded to remove the shell. This is a neighborhood activity—many kids and family members come to help. My first attempt at pounding rice was not so successful—I almost fell over when I picked up the huge piece of wood used to pound! But by the end I could pound little by little. I still pound “like a little kid,” as I was informed by my 13 year old host sister, but it’s so rewarding to watch the chaff float away in the wind!
Most Amusing Question
One of the neighbor kids asked, “Do you pull on your noses so they stick out like that?”
Most Relaxing Pastime
I loved playing a board game (similar to mancala) with my host sisters. They dug holes in the dirt to be the board and use a type of snail as the pieces!
Most Stressful Situation
Taking a bucket bath shower at night! Mosquitoes, darkness, frigid water—I took as many afternoon showers as possible. But the view above of the stars between palm trees was a nice consolation.
Daytime view from the shower
Most Common Visiting Hours
Between 5-6am or 5-6pm. Apparently if you really want to show someone you care about them you arrive at their house at 5am.
Most Embarrassing Moment
Toward the beginning of a church service there is always a time where every visitor introduces himself and greets the church. On my first Sunday in the village I attended a church that speaks only Chuwabo and doesn’t translate into Portuguese. The pastor (a good friend of my host family) called for visitors to stand up. I sat perfectly contented on my bench until he came up and asked me, in Chuwabo, if I were not a visitor. After the congregation had a good laugh I finally got the hint!
Most Interesting Cultural Tidbit
There are many rules in Chuwabo culture about who eats what foods. For example, the burnt part of the rice (any good Chuwabo wife will burn the bottom of the rice) along with the legs and liver of the chicken belong to the man. Apparently slighting this expectation is grounds for divorce!
Most Refreshing Snack
Green coconut! You drink the water and then crack it open to eat the coconut with a spoon.
My host mom opening a coconut
Most Depressing Fact
My 15 year old host sister is in 9th grade. She is one of only TWO girls in a class of 50. Most drop out before secondary school and many already have children by this age.
Most Surprising Meal
French fries for breakfast!