|Romao, in his fantastic zoo-animal T-shirt|
Name: Romao Manuel Joao
Age: 20 years old
Grade: 10th grade
Likes: Conversing, listening to music on his phone, earning money, and changing outfits
Dislikes: Homework, studying, and disrespectful behavior
Strange Habits: Wearing Lisa's second-hand clothes
Notable for: Failing ninth grade three years in a row
Of all the people that we have met and befriended in Mozambique, Romao has been the most prominent, the most central, and the most important of all. While our relationship with him has taken some interesting turns in the past (see If You Give a Kid a Condom), we ended up creating a strong communicative bond and a real friendship with the "boy who brings us our water."
I simply can't imagine a day that doesn't involve Romao lounging on the wall of our veranda. He's the first person that we see in the morning and the last person that we see at night. He pops onto the porch just to "check in" at random hours, and often stays for a while to gossip, translate for the kids, or sit and listen to music. He tells us about his accomplishments and we tell him about our daily activities.
Over the past two years, it was nothing more than these normal, mundane, daily interactions--
"We'll pay you five Mets..."
"WHAT happened at school!?"
"Can you fix this memory card?"
--that steadily built and solidified the most important relationship of our Peace Corps career.
What started as hand-me-down relationship from one volunteer group to another became, in earnest, a real and enduring friendship. Romao is quickly growing into adulthood, and is starting to show his maturity. He's a "real person" now, and one worthy of our confidence, loyalty, and respect.
In Dan's words, "He's been with us from day one, and I trust him completely. I can't imagine our Peace Corps service without him."
And as Dan and I prepare to leave Zobue and return to our lives in the States, Romao is starting to make changes, too. In the next few months, he hopes to graduate tenth grade and then get married to his girlfriend, Teresa. Eventually, he wants to built a house in the city and get a "good job" for 2,000-3,000 Meticais a month ($67-100 USD.) It's strange to think that he won't always be in Zobue, acting as support for all the future Peace Corps Volunteers.
I can only hope that, having lived side-by-side with Americans since the age of 12, that we (all of us) have made as much of a difference in his life as he has made in ours.