While I find this to be one of the less exciting aspects of my life here, I’ve also found that it comes with the most misconceptions. So, here it goes, my housing situation in Chitima for the next two years.
I live in a little yellow house rented from a wonderful woman named Cândida. It’s one of four houses that sit inside her quintal, an area similar to a fenced-in yard. In Mozambique, this type of housing situation is known as a dependência. Rent every month is taken care of by Kappa Kappa and I pay the utilities. Cândida’s house is adjacent to mine, and her nieces and nephews live in the houses to my front and to my right. Contrary to popular belief, it’s all made of cement and has a tin roof…no mud walls and leafy ceilings for me.
Chitima sits at the base of a beautiful mountain range and, despite being partially obscured by dust and a few neighboring homes, I get to watch the sun set over them each evening. My house has the perfect veranda for a porch swing outside and 3 little blue rooms inside: bedroom, common room and kitchen. They’re pretty empty at the moment, but they’re coming along. My most exciting recent purchases include an electric kettle and a wooden countertop for my kitchen…I’m honestly a little more excited about the latter than I would like to admit.
I have my own casa de banho on the other side of the quintal, complete with dump-flush toilet and shower area. Again, this building is also all cement and is actually pretty nice! However, because it’s a separate structure from my house, that means I can’t use it after dark; I keep what’s called a xixi bucket in my room for those middle-of-the-night-emergencies and dump it out in the latrine in the morning. While some volunteers have indoor bathrooms (and some even have running water), I feel lucky to have this set up. It may not look ideal, but it’s pretty great.
As far as water for things like drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry is concerned, there is a spigot in the corner of our quintal. The water turns on about once a week for a few hours, which means that all morning activities are cancelled on those days as we fill as many buckets and jerrycans as possible. There are pumps and wells in walking distance if necessary, and a hole can be dug in the riverbed to wash clothes and dishes.
My house sits in bairro Primero de Maio, one of the more central neighborhoods in Chitima. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the hospital in one direction, 20 minutes in the other direction to my site mate’s house on the edge of town, and 8-12 minutes to the market depending on the cattle crossing.
Because Chitima is the district capital, I can get just about anything I need at the market…from food to toiletries to clothing to home items. There are a variety of permanent storefronts, wooden stands, and women who spread out their produce on plastic tarps each day. Common foods include couve (similar to collard greens), cabbage, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, rice, beans, and eggs. There are also the occasional carrots, bananas, oranges and lettuce depending on the season. My diet hasn’t been interesting so far and I don’t have a fridge, but I’m certainly not going hungry.
I think I’ve covered all my bases here, but phone conversations with my mother always prove the contrary. That being said, I’m open to answering more specific questions as they come up, so please feel free to comment or shoot me an email! There will be more detailed posts to come on many of these fronts as I delve deeper into my community research…and life here in general. I have much to learn.