No instant gratification. No fact checking. No quick Google search. Just a nod in agreement when someone says something. Some of us may remember a world without “all” answers just being a quick click away. A world without internet and a world with a greater since of belief and wonder. To experience such a phenomenon you could take a time machine back before smart phones, SIRI, and fact checks or you come on over to my neck of the woods in Africa.
Without this instant access, things are perpetuated into a realm of truth that would not stand a chance in more developed worlds. Not everything is bad though. It provides a since of entertainment and curiosity. Sometimes I wonder where someone could have come up with these thoughts; the people have quite a knack for creativity. Well in order to not keep all the imaginative lines to myself, I would like to welcome you to episode one of Fact Check Mozambique Edition.
“A lady turned into a snake at the local restaurant”
Before one of my university classes, one of my students asks me if I heard what happened that day; this is what happened. “A lady in the community turned into a snake at the local restaurant.” The things my community finds truth in shocks me everyday, but this? From a university student? No matter how much I insisted its impossibility, reasoned with science, and tried to make light of the situation, he would not believe that his friend could have been lying to him.
“After someone in the community took medication from the traditional healer, he turned into an eagle and flew above the community. Now he has a better view on the community and how things can be run.”
According to the boy, there was nothing short of the absolute truth in this story. The man flew over the community. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him was that the traditional healer probably just gave him some medicine that got him high. However, if somehow all of this shape shifting is true and keeps happening, I’m going to have to try and learn. I wonder what my spirit animal will be.
“You can cure malaria by spraying all the mosquitos you can see with bug spray”
Sure. If there are no mosquitos than you can’t get bit and can’t get malaria. That’s nice and all, but you’re not going to kill them all. The more concerning part about this statement is that it came from someone working in the health field. Someone that Mozambicans rely on for health information wholeheartedly believes that you can prevent malaria by spraying the mosquitos you see. Looks like we have a little bit of malaria education we need to do before our next session.
“There are no black people outside of Sub-Saharan Africa”
This belief was universal for all of the people around me; according to them, in order to be black you have to be born in Southern Africa or Central Africa. After naming Libya and Egypt as examples, they all concluded a definite region to qualify.
“White people can’t be poor”
On a recent bus ride, this debate ensued for two hours. Yelling so loud, I could feel people hurl their thoughts as spit consistently landed on my face; the person beside me must have had a gleeking problem. As example after example rolled out, the passengers decided to agree to disagree. The people that have not seen a poor white person refused to believe that the white people that they see in movies or television have counterparts that are poor. Of course the white foreigner (me) was not permitted to contribute in this debate.
On the things about the United States
“Barack Obama is not African American”
When I heard this I turned my head just to clarify that they were talking about the same person. Yep turns out it was. According to the people around me, in order to be considered African American you must have both parents and all relatives from Africa. Since President Obama’s mother is from Kansas, he had no chance according to them. As much as I tried to reason, this was one that was had to agree to disagree on.
“Michael Jackson died black”
Apparently, according to the man on the bus, Michael Jackson had surgery and was white, but miraculously he turned black again before he died. After being shot down from disbelief from the others, he changed his story to the fact that Michael Jackson had another surgery before he died to change him back to having black skin. His claim apparently stemmed from something he read on the Internet, and as we all know, everything on the Internet is truthful and factual. Not.
“Michael Jackson only had a white face. The rest of his body was black”
Okay this idea what shut down pretty fast by the people around me; however the instigator stood his ground that it was fact. I’m honestly not entirely sure how this would work or where he got this information from. However, this rumor could have been shot down in a heartbeat with a quick Google image search.
“Michael Jackson is still alive”
Okay, so this statement wasn’t on the bus ride, but since we are talking about Michael Jackson, we might as well touch on the biggest Michael Jackson myth in Mozambique. In the South, Central, and North you can pole five people that know who Michael Jackson is (it is a surprisingly large number of people) and will find at least one person that will argue this point for days. From the many conversations I have had on this subject, it is impossible to convince someone otherwise. They heard it on television, heard it on the radio, one of their friends saw him, or a friend of a friend knows for sure. From all the reports, Michael Jackson is allegedly living in Kenya, Senegal, Cabo Verde, or some other islands; reports vary on location.
“The Americas is one continent” “Europe and Asia are one continent” “There are only five continents” “What’s Antarctica? (After an explanation it is always followed by) Oh no there’s nothing like that that exists.”
Most times when I tell people I’m American they think that I am from somewhere in North or South America; the clarification of the United States is lost to most. People often ask how long it takes to drive home. Geography is definitely not Mozambique’s strong suite. After breaking out a world map, the people are astonished. “Wow what’s that.” “Oh that’s where that country is?” “What is that thing on the bottom.” Out of all the geography books and maps that I have seen in Mozambique, I have never once seen Antarctica; don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it exists somewhere. But take a step back and think about it, there is just a massive block of ice at the South Pole? If you take a step back and think about it, especially to people that have never even seen snow before, it sounds absurd. Geographical skills are lacking and most of my student’s can’t even identify Mozambique on a map. However, with the Postcard Project and others, we are slowing changing this unfamiliarity at my school.