Friday, November 1, 2013

22. Urine

What is that, in the middle of the shower?  It's a urine splat of course!

Urination is barely a private function in Mozambique.  In many ways, it's tantamount to spitting or burping or blowing your nose.  Some people might argue that it's uncouth to spit on the sidewalk, while others insist on doing it, anyway.  It's the same situation here, but with public urination.

In Mozambique, any outdoor location is a suitable urinal.  In fact, Mozambicans seem to prefer to pee in any random spot rather than to go into the latrine.  I've actually see grown women walk around a functional latrine and head straight for the shower, instead.

When we first arrived in Mozambique, we were actually warned about this particular proclivity.

"Americans sometimes find this alarming," we were told.  "But Mozambicans often... pee in the shower."

"Well, so what?"  I thought.  "That's fine.  Lots of Americans pee in the shower, too."

But I quickly discovered that it was not the same concept.

In Mozambique, families pee on the shower-room floor.  Whether that floor is made of concrete or several bricks set into the mud, everybody-- Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and all seven kids-- pee in the same location.  And then the urine just... sits there.  Without running water to wash it away, the family urine just lies on the floor, drying and baking and starting to smell.  

And it's not just in the shower.  Children, especially, will pee anytime, anywhere.  Little boys like to pee in the trash piles.  Little girls tend to hike up their skirts, tug their underwear sideways, and go standing up.  

The other day, I was walking to the Administrative Post with my friend and adult computer student, Lucinda. She was headed back to work after morning classes with me, and was dressed in a nice, full-length dress made from traditional, printed material.  As we chatted, she dug around in her purse, searching for her lipstick and cell phone.
"Hold on a minute," she said, pausing on the trail.  "I need to mijar."

"What?"  I said, turning around.  I hadn't quite heard her.  "-Oh!"  I said, startled.  "Sorry."

And there she was, in the middle of the path.  The fifty-year old woman was standing with her dress bunched in the back and the front, bending slightly at the knees over the dirt and the bare, sandy soil.

"Go on," she said, without even blinking.  "I just need a minute."

I turned around slowly and stared resolutely down the path.  As she joined me and moved on ahead, I tried not to notice the sprinkles on her fancy, high-heeled shoes.

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