A Normal Friday Night in Mozambique

It’s a culture of drinking for sure. I’ve told people that I never drank during high school (truth), but I’ve done the most of my drinking during AmeriCorps, graduate school (keggers at school?), and Peace Corps. I’m not sure why service-oriented positions foster a community of drinkers, but I also find myself in a culture that not only condones drinking, but uses it as a way to pass the time when there is no work to do during the day.

When my colleagues and neighbors finish work at the end of a busy week, they’re normally to be found at the local bar, drinking a beer, whiskey, or wine with friends. I wonder to myself where the culture of drinking and dance music originated, but I can only assume it came following the struggle of the war and a time of uncertainty. How best to celebrate freedom than dancing and enjoying a cold drink? I try my best to fit in, but neither my dancing not drinking skills are great.

If you tell someone here that you don’t drink (a close friend of mine does not drink), you’re greeted by confused looks and piercing questions about motives. Drinking is so engrained in life here that young children often attempt to track down nearly empty containers of hard alcohol to drink. It’s something difficult to see, but how would we address this? Where would we begin?

I often wonder if it’s a result of living in the “bush.” My site is located far north in the country, and the nearest city is about three hours away. Is this simply a consequence of living in the middle of nowhere? Do Mozambicans find refreshment in drinking? Do they drink to lubricate their nerves, stresses? These questions, I believe, have complex answers that I’m not comfortable exploring. 

Still, a cold drink at the end of the day helps to build relationships with locals, pass the time on a hot evening, and relieve stress from the busy week. I wondered why they stressed drinking challenges during our training, and it’s become very clear. 

It’s a culture of drinking for sure.

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3 thoughts on “A Normal Friday Night in Mozambique

  1. Development workers are generally massive drinkers – some elements of being far from home, the difficulty of the work, wanting to blur the things you witness, the things you hear…

    I think we need to be more mental health support and more understanding and safe spaces to deal with issues before they manifest into harmful behaviours.

    Saying all that – cold beer is enjoyable and sometimes really hits the spot.

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    • alekshybut says:

      I definitely agree about all your points. We need to be aware of how we handle alcohol, especially since our bodies are so out of sorts from being in a different climate, on a different diet, etc.

      We have a peer support network here among volunteers to act as an anonymous support outlet for dealing and talking through issues, but the extreme nature of the job and the feeling that people need to be “tough” often prevent people from reaching out. How to address this, who knows?

      Thanks for the thoughts!

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      • Your own internal dialogue can also stop you from seeking help.

        A large element of my job is helping to rehabilitate and reintegrate returned survivors of sex trafficking through pyschosocial support and job creation. When you’ve just spent time with a woman that has been through months of the most extraordinary abuse, escaped and walked for three months to return home – your own problems pale in comparison.

        I use my work to put my problems into perspective and it helps me to maintain my own mental health but I can see how it could stop me from seeking help if I needed it.

        Anyway, I hope you’re looking after yourself. Stay safe!

        Like

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