Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Art of Doing Nothing (Bel Far Niente)

Pretty sure I have seen those leg warmers at a few raves

The above picture was captured at the traditional wedding. Favorite comments from home include: "There is your future son-in-law", "Your hipster sunglasses don't really fit in", and "This looks like a scene from a satirical Mel Brooks like movie".

Almost everyone stateside has asked me, "What are you actually doing"? This is a good question but I am sorry to tell you I don't have a good answer. For those of you unfamiliar with PC jargon, the first three months at site is called Integration. It's a time where you get settled in, get introduced to the chief, and start building relationships both with people you can work with and people you can chill with. It involves a lot of nothing for most of us Americans to get used to. Thankfully I am not too keen on being busy, but even for me, the "stillness" is very still. 

Painting the house, acquiring furniture, and getting to know the family have taken up a majority of my time. I go on walks. I cook. I clean. I try to read outside rather than inside, so as not to be antisocial. I just received a box containing some of my painting supplies so that will probably make things more interesting. I try to spend time everyday doing whatever the family is doing, often shucking dried maize or putting those same kernels into bags and onto trucks. It's very Pocahontas, looks like I fished my wish. I did get to go to a traditional wedding ceremony and was led by the hand to dance in the center of the line, for the hosts. It was pretty embarrassing, and not like any line dance I have ever known. But probably a good way to start being known around town.

Not having electricity means not charging all the fun stuff I have. It also means I have been writing, reading and listening to my shortwave radio more, which is pretty cool since Mozambican radio is quite a mix - everything from house music to 80's power ballads to Portuguese lounge jams.  Also, the BBC has been keeping me abreast of the world news and their fancy accents make the same old depressing BS sound both cheery and proper. 

The "stillness" is a breeding ground for homesickness, but its been manageable so far. I hope my book on meditation provides some tips but right now its a lot of new age-y stuff (its actually very old age-y too) I don't really want to hear. The hardest part for me is being OK with the fact that productivity is not prioritized here. A book I am reading, again, (and highly recommend), The Geography of Bliss, has a quote from Bertrand Russell, British philosopher: "A certain amount of boredom is required for happiness". I think I am meeting that quota.

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