This glossary contains a list of Mozambique-specific terms that I frequently use in my posts. If you have any recommendations for new words, please don’t hesitate to comment.


  • Capulana: traditional fabric defined by colorful patterns, generally worn by women, tied at the waist as a skirt. Men also where shirts made of capulana.
  • Chapa: the unofficial official transport system of Mozambique, which consists of anyone with a van (generally second-hand from China or Japan) that will stuff as many people as possible inside before departing for the destination. Things I’ve seen in chapas: goats, chickens, and vomiting babies.
  • Nomba: my Peace Corps site – one of the four main neighborhoods of the city of Lichinga
  • Lichinga: provincial capital of Niassa, considered the eighth largest city in Mozambique
  • Niassa: the northwestern-most province of Mozambique, situated along the borders with Malawi and Tanzania and containing the largest space (including the largest game reserve in Mozambique) and the fewest inhabitants
  • Maputo: the capital of Mozambique, located in the south of country
  • Nampula: the largest city in the north of Mozambique
  • Metical (plural: meticais, pronounced “met-ee-ky-sh”): the Mozambican currency
  • Xima: the go-to carbohydrate of Mozambique, it consists of corn flour boiled in water with a pinch of salt, stirred until it forms a kind of thick porridge that is left to form unremarkable, congealed blobs. The eater uses his/her hands to roll the dough into smaller balls and dip it into whatever sauces s/he may have at hand. It is, undoubtedly, the favorite food of 98 percent of my old students.
  • Black Cat: heaven-sent, protein-dense ambrosia. It is the brand of peanut butter imported from South Africa. Chunky Black Cat exists, but smooth is more common. They come in glass jars with red lids (green if chunky): 270 grams, 400 grams, or 800 grams. I’ve taken down an 800-gram jar in one week. Shameless, I know.
  • Arungu (plural: muzungu): the term for “white-skinned person” in Ciyawo, the local language in Lichinga

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