Bem-vindo a Moçambique

I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up in the wonderful world of Maputo, Mozambique.  Forgetting my old routine and relearning the spicy, Mozambican way of things. 

Women harvest a piri piri pepper field outside of Maputo

I was on my first placement in Brazil when I found out I would be going to Mozambique. I began to eagerly dream about my future life in Africa, a new continent for me. My initial worries were practical: Would they understand my Brazilian Portuguese accent? What kind of clothes do Mozambicans wear? Will my vegetarian eating habits be accepted? What do 20-something year old Mozambicans do for fun?  I read everything I could about Mozambique. I consulted guidebooks, I went online and read tourist testimonials, I compared country statistical reports. I thought I knew it all when I boarded a plane in February and headed to Maputo. And after just a few weeks here, I took everything I “knew” and I threw it away. There are some things that need to be breathed, tasted, seen, touched and experienced first hand to be fully understood. Mozambique is no exception. 

Mozambican beaches

While I have lived and traveled abroad before, I soon realized that it was counterproductive to draw comparisons between countries. Every day in Mozambique, I am surprised by a new cultural nuance I learn. The unique gender roles and chivalrous expectations between girlfriends and boyfriends (women typically get a monthly allowance from their boyfriends). Referring to service workers and venders as “Mom” and “Dad” as a sign of respect for their work. The cacophony of Changana, the local language of the Maputo providence, prominent in the streets and marketplaces and knowing the appropriate situations to practice what I’ve learned, “Lichile!”  I must lose my pride and adopt the catch phrase, “this might be a stupid question but…” trying to dive into a new way of seeing life, the Mozambican way. 

Capulana crafts at a local market

So I’m ignoring the guidebook tips, the tourist testimonials and the country data, finding that they can’t convey daily life in Mozambique. It is through living with the people of this fascinating country that I am beginning to see the threads connecting us.  I’m shifting my thinking to a more human level; to appreciate the sameness found at the core of humankind throughout the world while appreciating a distinct way of living.

Over the next four months, I will undoubtedly experience the range of emotions that comes with living in a foreign land. I look forward to working with our new partner iDE Mozambique, while observing and absorbing as much of the culture as possible along the way. Até!

About the author

Julian Guelig

Julian began her adventurous life roaming the backwoods of rural Pennsylvania on horseback, but discovered the allure of living abroad and international travel as a Rotary high school exchange student in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This formative year enabled her to step back and observe American culture through a different lens, shaping her nascent global view. She studied Economics and International Development at Tulane University, honing a tangible skill-set spanning business development and economic analysis. Wanderlust struck again; she spent a semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro, where she fell in love with all things Brazilian. After graduation, Julian taught English with Fulbright at a federal university in Cuiabá, Western Brazil, and later independently in Rio de Janeiro to young children. She first witnessed the power of microfinance while living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro; the microcosm of life in a favela reinforced broader economic and development concepts she learned at Tulane. Dedicated to Kiva’s mission to alleviate poverty and improve people’s lives around the world in a sustainable manner, Julian is eager to return to Brazil as a KF28 Fellow. The opportunity to work as a Fellow will allow Julian to further her understanding of small businesses and the intricacies of microfinance in Brazil.