Our education system in Mozambique only allows us to learn basic English. So when I started working at my current job, I found myself in very difficult situations, because all the work documents were in English and my English was very, very poor.
I then went to an English school here in Maputo for three months, but didn’t learn much. There, I met a young woman and we decided to speak only in English to each other, not Portuguese. I was very afraid to speak English, but with her all the fear disappeared.
But we realised it wasn’t enough, so we went to Johannesburg and enrolled for an English course. I got a little money from work to do it, but I had to use my little salary at the time to pay for the rest, like accommodation and food, you know?
When we came back home, I was like … different. So, so different. Even me, I didn’t recognise myself. I was speaking English as I am speaking to you now.
I was applying for a master’s degree at the time and asked one of my bosses to write me a letter of recommendation. She wrote how she admired how I am a person who is able to learn new things and how impressed she was with how quickly I learnt English.
A while ago, I was considering resigning from my job, but then I remembered that letter. I opened it up on my computer, read it, printed it out and stuck it to my mirror at home. One year later, that letter is still on my mirror. I keep it there because it wakes me up. It makes me remember that I can improve my skills; that I can do whatever I set my mind to. — Aster Sitoe, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian