29 March 2008


I learned this Friday that I have a reputation. My empregada, Dona Fatima, told me that her daughter was visiting Ponto do Ouro in the last month and mentioned that her mom in Maputo worked for a woman anthropologist that worked in Matutuine District. Immediately, people asked "Doctora Jenny?" These were people from both sides of the Mozambican-South African (KwaZulu-Natal) border.

It weirds me out a bit that people I've never met or spoken to, living many kilometers away from Madjadjane and Gala know who I am. I suppose I stand out a bit. There aren't too many white people living out in rural Mozambique, walking everywhere, asking about culture and tradition and history and plants, making terrible attempts at learning Mazingiri Ronga, measuring trees and counting plants, asking men and women and children about their opinions about agricultura to xilate... And everyone is related, so there is a lot of news exchange between villages in the Maputaland region... Imagining the situations where I might come up in conversation is a fun exercise in and of itself.

At the same time, I know that while people probably tell stories about the silly and crazy things I've done out of ignorance, I haven't done terrible things to warrant warnings about me. So I am happy that people know who I am. It makes my work easier. People are more open about their activities. For example, in the past month a number of local hunters have spoken with me about their hunting, what they've caught, and where. This is not something that I would have been able to do a year ago.

I still am curious what my reputation is though. I'll probably never find out. Salema, my assistant, tells me that people like me. That will have to be enough.

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