“Saudade” is known to be a Portuguese word of very difficult translation to English, meaning something like the feeling of longing, melancholy… a need you cannot exactly pinpoint. You’d feel it when you think you should be back to a place, for instance.
Our Schools of the Future Team has returned from Mozambique with a suitcase full of stories and some “saudade”.
Please find below their experiences, as they told them to me. No edition this time, enjoy!
Andreia Veiga, Secretary EWB-NL Foundation
Being in Mozambique was an unforgettable experience. In spite of the short stay, I brought with me 1000 adventures, tons of stories to tell and a melted heart for all the care with which we were treated and all the warm that we received. The best of all, was the bond with the students. It was trully inspiring to the see their smile and joy of acomplishment when the car and their inventions were working. I think the images below speak for themselves!
The worse was to leave without knowing if our presence and the activities that we did together had an impact on the students lives, in a long term prespective. For them, the workshop was a unique opportunity and a chance to get a better life. I hope their expectations will be met.
Every little task there for us was an adventure, from going back to the city in a small van ‘chapa’ with 20 people inside, to negociate with street sellers or even to find a nice place to eat Matapa (National traditional dish)! The funniest adventure was when we travelled to Macaneta. In our way back the fuel of the boat finished, we then had to row back to the coast. After arriving safely to the coast the most troubled part of the journey was still to come. Our driver had been in a series of weddings the entire day. As expected he had drunk a bit too much and was enjoying pleasurable company ;). To complicate a bit more the situation his car had some mechanical problems.. Indeed you need to be ready for the unexpected.
EWB team taking the chapa to go home!
The wish to do good is the main motivation when engaging in a volunteering project. Therefore the best reward for the entire effort is when the immediate effects are postive, and they were as all the kids liked to participate in the workshops! In a more selfcentered point of view, the whole trip was the closest thing to an epic adventure that I ever experienced. The environment, the culture, the ways of living and working, the language, everything was new to me. As a french native, portuguese is only a second language.
The whole trip has been nicely disconcerting, shaking up my beliefs!
The worse is for me associated with the takeaway lessons. I think it may have been naive to initially think the contrary but the action of one iteration has no impact in the long term. It is just a very nice and exotic entertainment for the kids. The worse might be that the impact on the long term is conditioned to multiple and efficient visits over time, and this is just to create a possibility for long term effects, it might still not work out. A change in the Mozambican society would even require larger scale action. This really leaves you wondering if this is the best way to help them, which is good I think, always good to think more.
The funniest is very hard to describe I must say. This is highly dependant on the situation and our mood at that time. I will definitely remember the first contact with the national dish ‘Matapa’ and the vietnamese hot pot experience in Maputo!
The boat which took us to Macaneta!
During our time in Maputo we have seen many impacting things. For example, classrooms that are so crowded that at the end of the class you have to move the tables on the side to allow students exit the space. The same happened with the chapas, the public transport vans which were normally loaded with twice as people as allowed. This overcrowd seemed to be normal and everybody was calmly going on to reach their destinations.
For a big part of the local people, watches are mere decoration accessories which give the final touch to their outfit or an extra distinctive look. Some mornings, schools were emptier than normal due to the delay of big amount of students. Afterwards we got to know it was due to the weather and the unusual darkness caused by foggy or heavily cloudy days. In these situations kids look through the window and don’t relate the light with the morning as they are used to and keep sleeping. Time consciousness is considerably different from what we are used to. But what impacted me the most above all, was the people. With a little chat and a smile with them you created already an immense connection and they began happily talking about themselves, even inviting you to their homes to taste their favourite Mozambican meal or to see their new capulana, a traditional Mozambican fabric, they were going to use for the dress for the wedding of their brother. Amazing. Even the ones that have much less can look at life with the eyes of happiness and enjoying the little things such as the rhythm of the music coming out of one tent of the Mercado Central or from just having a chat with the woman next to her which is selling oranges and lemons (which, by the way, look so different than our lemons!).
This behaviour was also present in our students. All happy, energetic but mainly very respectful to us, the four engineering teachers. You could feel their gratefulness in those intense brown eyes looking at you while you speak loudly for the entire class. Their creativity and motivation undertaking the different tasks and overcoming the obstacles that were presented was very inspiring. How we all, at the end of the workshop, were making music sharing our different cultures through rhythm, through sung words, through even movements in the form of a dance was wonderful.
Of course all this in their own way and within their possibilities. The extent to which they participated was dependent on many factors. Some related to the content of the workshop, other related to their age and other related to their economical, familiar and personal situation. Also dependent on the day. There were issues that fell out of our reach. Things that we normally do not deal with and where the understanding of the situation is difficult for whom has not experienced it. When studying and striving to be the best of yourself is not just depending on your effort but also on extreme external influences which you have to deal with. Having to sell almonds on street to be able to afford the dinner meal for you and your siblings, being beaten by your father when things are not going well at home or suddenly realizing you are pregnant affects the way you face challenges and the mood you bring to school. Totally comprehensible. But because of the same reason, it is sometimes useless to set so much effort trying to bring a student to the technical university because, at the end, their personal situation won’t allow it. The impact is much higher when the families are supporting the student and helping them create the right environment to be able to focus on that.
All this experiences have brought me a lot, professionally and personally. Life looks a bit different now here back in The Neth erlands. I am very thankful for all the opportunities that I have had just because I have been born in the ‘right’ place and I will try to give my bit back to society in the way I can. Always keeping in mind those kids, those people and those incredible places in Mozambique. And for sure, those amazing people of Engineers Without Borders that make these kind of projects possible. Thank you all!
Celeste also maintains a blog here.
Andreia’s comment: Working in Development rarely produces immediate visible long term effects. One can see those in Humanitarian Disaster Relief operations, for instance.
One of the many challenges to work in Development is that you need an approach of “plant the seeds and wait some of them bloom”.
It’s very likely that you never realise the true impact you actually brought. When we, at EWB NL, first thought about this project, we thought that sparking the wish and capability to change the world around you, as opposite to not questioning why certain things work in a certain way, was a very good start.
The Foundation is committed to have future editions of the Schools of the Future.
We believe in long term impact!