Para bens Angoche! On the 26th of September my beautiful little city turned 40 years old. Angoche Day happens to land on the calendar right next to Armed Forces Day, so we had 2 weekend holidays which in Mozambique translates to no work/school on Friday or Monday. Party on!
This year's festivities were much like last year's. Lots of struttin around in Angoche Day capulanas, traditional singing and dancing, drinking, going to the beach, live concerts, dances, eating, and of course, all of the competitions. Every year, there is a men's and women's foot race, a bicycle race, a needle-threading race, a water jug on the head race, and the most exciting of all, a motorcycle race! Just like last year, Angoche turned into a bustling city as everyone from the bairos, and outskirts come in to walk around and participate in events. And no one misses the motorcycle race. It seems insanely dangerous to me especially when a girl comes from a land where helmets, seat belts, speed limits, baby seats, warning signs, and guard rails are the norm; and there was actually one casualty this year. But hey! I guess this is what people do when they're hard up for entertainment.
David, Melissa, and Gina all came in to celebrate Angoche Day with me and my lovely site mate Margarida. We were fortunate enough to watch the race comfortably from the balcony of Fabiao's apartment on main street.
People will do anything to get a good view of all the Evel Knievel wanna-be's.
And I mean anything. In fact, this roof got so crowded, someone fell off the top. The ambulance following the cyclists had to make a stop to pick him up.
And here's the excited crowd rushing toward the winner of the motorcycle race. Turns out, it was one of my colleagues who teaches 8th grade math. Represent
Mozambican enthusiasm may have been for the motorcycles, but for the Americanas, the men's run was the focus. Last year when I watched the men's 10K race, I knew I wanted to participate the next year. Most of the participants couldn't even finish partly because they sprint the first lap like they're runnin a 100M dash and then die and partly because the concept of working really hard and training well is a bit fuzzy. To many Angocheans, training means taking a little jog and doing some weird hip-thrusting calisthenics the night before a race. When one can't finish a race, he either runs straight of the course to hide somewhere or he flops himself on the ground dramatically. It's pretty great. The women's race is only 2K, which is a pretty big insult in my opinion.
So anyway, I wanted to participate this year, thinking it would be a really great girl power example to Angoche. When I asked to sign up myself and 3 other female colleagues for the men's race, guys laughed in my face, which inspired me all the more. I was surprised that even Mussa, one of our best, open-minded friends had to be threatened to sign us up with the organizing commission. Whenever ppl heard about it, we got amused but negative responses. Even our Papa Fabiao at the post office who knows us so well and sees us running all the time told me that I certainly wouldn't be able to do it, even though most days I run 12K or more.
In fact the only Mozambican man who was fully supporting us and even bragging to everyone that we were going to win, was our wiry, slightly crazy, old guard. Feliciano even agreed to be our water boy on race day cause he wanted to be there when we crossed the finish line.
So anyway, the day of the race came and they tried until the last minute to get us to participate with the women. I had to throw a fit in front of the Mayor of Angoche before my request was observed. As they were stapling our numbers to our shirts and telling us we were going to die and I thought it might be a real possibility now that things had run so late. The race was scheduled for 7:30AM. We actually go on the line at 11:30. It was toasty and super sunny and there is no shade; but the Americanas made a great showing. Once they saw after the first sprinted lap that we weren't going to die off so quickly, people were a little more supportive. In fact, some students were so concerned about how much Senhora Professora was sweating and turning red, that I was dowsed with water 3 times.
Melissa ended up coming in 3rd, I got something like 6th, Gina and Margarida placed somewhere after that. We can't be too sure. They lost count of both people and laps. Whatever. I thought the point had been made. We beat a good number of the guys and actually finished the race as opposed to a third of the male participants who walked after the first 2 laps or disappeared into the crowds.
This is the Moz way to take a pic--no smiling, and ya gotta have a prop.
And there he is, our waterboy/coach/biggest fan. Thanks Feliciano.
I wish I could say that running the race proved all the naysayers wrong. I've gotten mixed reviews. Many people responded so positively, the way I had hoped. "Wow, I didn't know that was possible, but now I do!" Some men including Fabiao, have continued to laugh at me saying that they were right all along, women can't do it. What the what? Some students and colleagues have asked me why I bothered finishing the race because I only got 6th and that I embarrassed them by not winning.
I didn't win.
But I finished.
And I finished in front of over half the men who were actually able to finish.
I guess generations of particular ways of thinking far outweigh one 10K race. And although I "embarrassed" a lot of people, we were the talk of the town as everyone was at least excited to see 4 white women runnin with the guys. Hopefully more ladies will participate in the future knowing that the opportunity is there. I'm going to mark it down as a win and award myself at least 3,000 integration points.