June 1st was Dia das Crianças, or Children’s Day. I’m told this is an international holiday but this was the first I had heard of it. All the students learn about different rights that children have—the right to a name, to go to school, to a family, to be healthy, to be protected from abuse, etcetera. It was a big deal particularly for the primary school teachers like my roommate Nelta—they spent hours cooking and baking a lunch for students in first through seventh grade. The morning was observed like other holidays in Estaquinha: a march from the mission to the Administrative post, singing of the national anthem, placing some flowers at the flagpole, followed by assorted “cultural activities.” It being Children’s Day, there were some cute little performances—poetry, songs, skits, and relay races and Etelvina’s and my English theater group did a play about a child’s right go to school (will post more on this later).
Then, after the lunch, a talent show featuring mainly students from the secondary school, emceed by one of my tenth-graders. This, too, had been in the works for weeks, rehearsing on weekend evening after the generator went on. In a place like Estaquinha where there is absolutely nothing to do, these rehearsals were the social event, both for students and teachers. Because there was nothing else going on, all of us teachers in our twenties would go to watch. On 1 June itself, I got to be a judge along with three others. There were three categories: dance, a fashion show, and “playback” or fantasia, which people were amused to hear we don’t really do in the States. It is basically lip-syncing to a pop song, sometimes with choreographed dance moves, though usually not—all without a hint of irony. Just like all the women dancing on Women’s Day, I’m impressed by the lack of self-consciousness displayed by so many kids. Here in Mozambique, Peace Corps invests heavily in “secondary projects,” what are groups to do extra-curricular activities. But I have found that there is already so much good stuff going on, and why would I want to devalue or trifle with that? Life can be pretty boring in Estaquinha, so most of the time, we make our own fun.