CITIZEN OF THE WORLD IS HARD WORK

In this article Silvia from Italy,  who has been at a project in Mozambique as a volunteer makes considerations about what it means to be a citizen of the world. 

Experience in mozambique

This first period of being in Mozambique was a strong experience that put me to test. We arrived in August and we used the first month to understand how it works and figure out our position at the project.

We tried to get to know the students, the teachers and the people who work at the University. We helped a team of students who were preparing for a trip to Southern Mozambique and in the second month (September), we left with them for one month. Everything about being there was different; the cultural and linguistic way to live and make explanations about the world, lifestyle, how the people think and act.

Sometimes it was light years away from me. In this period I tried, I do not know how much success, to put myself in the position of an observer. But it is not always easy to observe objectively when you are completely absorbed in what you are watching.

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

Battling the stereotypes

I tried to observe without judging, I tried to understand without too many stereotypes, I tried to adapt myself without many preconceptions. I cannot say I had success: I judged, sometimes the stereotypes and the preconceptions came forward naturally resulting in misunderstanding and conflicts.

Hence, I tried to take a step back, reevaluate everything and attempt to start at the beginning. Staying a long time without internet, without the possibility to communicate with the “external world” of family and friends drives you to focus on your job, on what surround you, on yourself.

No matter how hard we declare ourselves “citizen of the world”, ready to accept everything, ready to live everywhere without conditions, ready to adapt to the realities around us without problems, sometimes we find ourselves putting limits to all these issues.

Although it can happen that we criticize harshly our origins, our culture, the culture of our country, we cannot deny that this same culture has deep roots that hold us up, and as soon as they are touched and/or in some way injured, we are reminded that they are part of us, of our moral, of our ethical, part of our being.

Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, it is possible to adapt as long as the reality doesn’t collide too brutally with personal convictions; it is possible to adapt as long as one finds a balance between oneself and the others.

Cultures and identities

When I arrived in Mozambique, in my mind there was the desire to know a different culture, new people and learn a new language. Some friends made fun of me asking if I want to change the mind of the people that I will meet.

And for me, it was only that: a joke. I didn’t come here with this objective and I was really surprised when a teacher asked me to help him to change the mind of his students. Why should I change their minds?

For sure, I would not like someone trying to change my opinion or my beliefs.

Changes can be possible only when all parts within the interaction are willing to let themselves be influenced by each other.

I didn’t appreciate it when I was criticized for my lifestyle, or because I’m agnostic, or for my different way to cook pasta or because I like different tastes.

All these are small things, and probably without any importance, but they help us to define who we are, and when we are far from home they help us to define our identity. When people deride our habits, they are not only deriding us but also our “world”, our country, our culture.

And if I can feel so “damaged” having 75 years of history of independence and of being theoretically strong and sure about my values and principles, I can imagine that people who gained their independence 43 years ago are more motivated to protect and grab on to their traditions.

Listen and learn

Therefore, following these considerations, we decided not to impose our thinking. We simply put ourselves as students ready to learn a different way of cooking, to learn to sing different songs, and then in our “free time”, when alone we cooked how we know or we made tea and that was interesting enough to push some of the students to come close and ask, and taste, and appreciate.

For example, we used to make chamomile tea every evening, but we used the flowers of chamomile so it was weird for them to see us drink this “schlop”, but we offered it to them in “coconuts’ cups” (more exotic) and they found out that it was good. From that moment, every evening they asked to have the chamomile tea in the coconut cups.

I think this is a clear example of how we can get closer and overcome diversities without a fight, but with the reciprocal will to know each other and share something.

During the project period, you will live and work in a community in either Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia or India. You will participate as a volunteer at a community-led long-term project at a Humana People to People project.

Did you know?

Over 50% of Mozambique’s
population is under
the age of 15.

“I tried to observe without judging, I tried to understand without too many stereotypes, I tried to adapt myself without many preconceptions. I cannot say I had success: I judged, sometimes the stereotypes and the preconceptions came forward naturally resulting in misunderstanding and conflicts. Hence, I tried to take a step back, reevaluate everything and attempt to start at the beginning.”

                                                          Silvia

  CITIZEN OF THE WORLD IN MOZAMBIQUE

In this article Silvia from Italia,  who has been at a project in Mozambique as a volunteer makes considerations about what it means to be a citizen of the world.

Experience in mozambique

This first period of being in Mozambique was a strong experience that put me to test. We arrived in August and we used the first month to understand how it works and figure out our position at the project. We tried to get to know the students, the teachers and the people who work at the University. We helped a team of students who were preparing for a trip to Southern Mozambique and in the second month (September), we left with them for one month. Everything about being there was different; the cultural and linguistic way to live and make explanations about the world, lifestyle, how the people think and act. Sometimes it was light years away from me. In this period I tried, I do not know how much success, to put myself in the position of an observer. But it is not always easy to observe objectively when you are completely absorbed in what you are watching.

“I tried to observe without judging, I tried to understand without too many stereotypes, I tried to adapt myself without many preconceptions. I cannot say I had success: I judged, sometimes the stereotypes and the preconceptions came forward naturally resulting in misunderstanding and conflicts. Hence, I tried to take a step back, reevaluate everything and attempt to start at the beginning.”

                                                          Silvia

I tried to observe without judging, I tried to understand without too many stereotypes, I tried to adapt myself without many preconceptions. I cannot say I had success: I judged, sometimes the stereotypes and the preconceptions came forward naturally resulting in misunderstanding and conflicts. Hence, I tried to take a step back, reevaluate everything and attempt to start at the beginning. Staying a long time without internet, without the possibility to communicate with the “external world” of family and friends drives you to focus on your job, on what surround you, on yourself.

No matter how hard we declare ourselves “citizen of the world”, ready to accept everything, ready to live everywhere without conditions, ready to adapt to the realities around us without problems, sometimes we find ourselves putting limits to all these issues. Although it can happen that we criticize harshly our origins, our culture, the culture of our country, we cannot deny that this same culture has deep roots that hold us up, and as soon as they are touched and/or in some way injured, we are reminded that they are part of us, of our moral, of our ethical, part of our being. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, it is possible to adapt as long as the reality doesn’t collide too brutally with personal convictions; it is possible to adapt as long as one finds a balance between oneself and the others.

When I arrived in Mozambique, in my mind there was the desire to know a different culture, new people and learn a new language. Some friends made fun of me asking if I want to change the mind of the people that I will meet. And for me, it was only that: a joke. I didn’t come here with this objective and I was really surprised when a teacher asked me to help him to change the mind of his students. Why should I change their minds? For sure, I would not like someone trying to change my opinion or my beliefs. Changes can be possible only when all parts within the interaction are willing to let themselves be influenced by each other. I didn’t appreciate it when I was criticized for my lifestyle, or because I’m agnostic, or for my different way to cook pasta or because I like different tastes. All these are small things, and probably without any importance, but they help us to define who we are, and when we are far from home they help us to define our identity. When people deride our habits, they are not only deriding us, but also our “world”, our country, our culture. And if I can feel so “damaged” having 75 years of history of independence and of being theoretically strong and sure about my values and principles, I can imagine that people who gained their independence 43 years ago are more motivated to protect and grab on to their traditions. Therefore, following these considerations, we decided not to impose our thinking. We simply put ourselves as students ready to learn a different way of cooking, to learn to sing different songs, and then in our “free time”, when alone we cooked how we know or we made tea and that was interesting enough to push some of the students to come close and ask, and taste, and appreciate. For example, we used to make chamomile tea every evening, but we used the flowers of chamomile so it was weird for them to see us drink this “schlop”, but we offered it to them in “coconuts’ cups” (more exotic) and they found out that it was good. From that moment, every evening they asked to have the chamomile tea in the coconut cups.

I think this is a clear example of how we can get closer and overcome diversities without a fight, but with the reciprocal will to know each other and share something.

During the project period, you will live and work in a community in either Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia or India. You will participate as a volunteer at a community-led long-term project at a Humana People to People project.

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