Church in Makhuwa


On Sundays, I’ve started going to church. As a disclaimer, I’ve never really gone to church willingly on my own, but since Peace Corps training had us so worried about making sure we integrate into our communities, I told my landlady I’d accompany her. I figured showing face to church-goers couldn’t do me any harm, and it’s not like I have anything better to do on Sunday mornings.

Most of my time at church is spent swatting flies off of me, wondering how many beads of sweat are going to fall off my face, staring at different patterns of capulanas and wondering why they aren’t symmetrical. Sometimes my time in church is spent making faces at the babies, but that hasn’t worked out too well because babies who cry in church get death looks from (at least) the four benches surrounding them.

Though the mass is officially in Portuguese, most, if not all of the songs are in Mahkuwa, so my Sundays spent in church have also become my place to figure out if I can clap to the beat (I still can’t… for those of you wondering.)

This Sunday after church, my landlady said she wanted to introduce me to the community of Mutuvazi A (my bairro) at their own prayer service on Wednesday. Wednesday came around and I had totally forgotten (halfway hoped she had also forgotten) but around 2pm she came to pick me and take me to the dirt building 10 meters down my path, where I was thrown into a church service completely in Mahkuwa. Lots and lots of paying attention, standing sitting, following the hand movements and signs of the cross of those around me, attempting to clap to the beat, and spacing out later, I hear-  blah blah some sounds, louder sounds, softer sounds, senhora professora, more blah blahs. Uh oh.

As I got up to present myself “Ensina Naka Leonora” (which represents about 67% of the Mahkuwa vocabulary I know), I continue through- stuttering in Portuguese “I’m going to be a professor here at the secondary school, I usually go to church on Sundays at the paroquia, I didn’t know this service existed, but since I might be teaching on Wednesdays, I probably won’t be able to attend this service, blah blah thanks for having me in this bairro, Malema is wonderful.” I am welcomed by claps and ei-lei-lei-leis. One lovely lady in the far left corner reminds me that it doesn’t matter if I don’t come to church, I just have to make sure to give my contribution (25 meticals weekly I am reminded) to someone who can drop it off in my name (uh ohhkay lady). Then some quasi-important guy sitting next to the priest says something. 

“Estas occupada?”

I wonder… Occupied?… then it hits me, occupied is a false cognate. This man asking me if I’m single in front of the priest? Oh my… I don’t think Jesus would be too happy about that. 


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