June 13, 2013
Today I found out that one of my supervisors, Bernardo Canhaca, died yesterday. He had been sick for a long time, so it’s not entirely surprising, but it’s still sad. He used to be my supervisor here in Mecanhelas, with Conselho Cristao De Mocambique (CCM), but back in February his illness worsened and he ended up moving back to Cuamba where his family lives. Near the end of 2012, I had seen him get progressively skinnier and haggard-looking.
When I first got to site, my supervisor for CCM was a man named Getulio. Bernardo was his number two, but within two months of arriving at site, Getulio opened another office in Cuamba. He left to work there full-time, leaving Bernardo as my supervisor. We actually didn’t get along that well most of the time- he had a knack for missing monthly report deadlines, and then calling me after the donor organization began hounding him. He would always demand my help writing (not editing, completely writing) the report and claim that completion and sending of the report was “urgent”. At times, I would be working on other projects and would tell him that he would have to wait, and this would make him angry. A few times we yelled at each other- at other times I would silently fix him with a stony stare that always seems to make Mozambicans extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, we managed to repair our working relationship before he began getting seriously ill.
I didn’t see him much right before he left town in February of this year, but I went and visited him in Cuamba in March and he was bed-ridden, emaciated, and losing his voice. He was only able to speak to me in a hoarse whisper. He was deteriorating quickly.
The last time I saw him was May 30th, two weeks ago. I was on my way to Nampula to fly to Maputo to help with training of the new volunteer group. I met up with Getulio in Cuamba, and on our way to Bernardo’s house, I was told that Bernardo was much, much worse than he had been in March. I saw this for myself the moment I walked into the bedroom of his house. He was sitting up, but only with the help of a family member (his mother, I think). Without her shoulder to lean on, he would have collapsed onto his bed. He was breathing heavily, which made me suspect his lungs were damaged. He had lesions on his face, hands, and feet. He could no longer speak, and even though I greeted him when I entered the room, he did not look at me and gave no sign of recognizing me. He was extremely emaciated. Getulio told me that his family members had to carry him to the bathroom so he could do his business, since he could no longer walk. It was obvious that he didn’t have much time left.
The lesions made me think of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, though to be honest, I’m not completely familiar with all the symptoms of the top of my head. But if he did have Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare illness, he almost definitely had AIDS. No one spoke of the cause of his illness, which probably supports my theory that he had AIDS. For all the talk of condom use and the catchy slogans for AIDS awareness in this country, it’s still a frightening and stigmatized disease here. To be one of Bernardo’s family members, taking care of him and watching the illness worsen, must have been truly awful.
The CCM office here in Mecanhelas has since shut down- it shut down in February when Bernardo moved to Cuamba. It was a new office when I arrived at site, only having opened a few months previously. It’s a weird feeling, going by the old office where I used to spend so much time doing reports and giving computer lessons.
Although Bernardo and I weren’t very close, I still saw him regularly in 2011 and 2012, so for better or for worse, he played a large role in my integration here in Mecanhelas. He accompanied me on my first chapa ride from Mecanhelas to Cuamba. Also, he loved Western music. He said it was so much calmer than Mozambican music, which admittedly does often have weird high-pitched noises and sound effects. I once put a variety of music I like and listen to on his flash drive, from Elton John to Okkervil River. A month later I went to Cuamba and he invited me to his family’s house to have a beer. We sat in his yard having a brewski and listening to the tunes I gave him. Because all the music was in English, I’m sure he didn’t understand 99% of the lyrics, but he still thought they sounded great.
What’s sad is that Bernardo’s deterioration is not rare in Mozambique, or Africa as a whole. I became a Peace Corps volunteer to learn about things like this, and to do my best to spread awareness and encourage prevention. Even though it was tough to see Bernardo in the final stages of his illness, I’m glad I did see him one last time before he died.
May 19, 2013
Hey everyone! Really sorry that I haven’t updated this thing in…a long time. I don’t know why that is. I guess I just wasn’t sure what to write about. But I’m going to make an effort to do as many posts as I can in my final two months (!!) in Mozambique. Also, I’ll briefly be in Ethiopia and Egypt after Mozambique, so I’ll try to do a few posts from there as well!
For the past few months, the kids in my photography group have been taking photos of their community that they feel can be used to teach Westerners what life is like in Mozambique. I’m proud to say that a Facebook album to showcase their photos was finally created today. You can see the photos at:
They’re very excited to show off their work, and I hope you find their photos both enjoyable and informative.
This photo project doesn’t stop with them though. I told them I would ask my friends and family back in the States (and elsewhere!) to take photos that can be used to teach them what life is like in the States or other developed countries. So please send photos and a brief description for each one to email@example.com! I know my photography group would love to see snapshots of the world outside of Africa.
In other news, I’ve been selected to help with the training of the incoming Moz 20 health group. I’ll be back in Maputo province for a week in either June or July, and I’ll know next week when I’m going.
March 6, 2013
This afternoon, my sitemate Jamie and I were walking to the market to get some snacks when we came across a mob of elementary school students running away from the elementary school and towards us. As we got closer, they stopped running, and began running back to the school. They all seemed fixated on something at the school, and as we got closer, I noticed they were all staring at a man standing under a tree. The kids were yelling and throwing rocks at him, and he was screaming and throwing rocks back.
I suddenly understood what was happening. Jamie had told me there was a mentally ill man whom a lot of kids in town like throwing rocks at, because he loses his temper and throws rocks back. It’s like a game to the kids: they get close to throw rocks, then run away as he throws them back. Then the process gets repeated. They get a huge kick out of him losing his temper, so they intentionally provoke him. I had already stopped the kids once before, at Jamie’s school. I yelled at the kids and told them that it’s not funny to throw rocks at the mentally ill, and they stopped. That time, anyway. I also tried telling the man that he shouldn’t throw rocks back, but I don’t think he was paying any attention to me.
While mental illness is misunderstood in the States, the misconceptions here in Mozambique are so ridiculous it’s almost comical. There just aren’t any resources to help the mentally ill in my town, so they are left to wander the streets and are either laughed at or completely ignored. When I’ve asked coworkers about the mentally ill people in town, they always claim drug use caused them to get sick. What kind of drug is never specified, just “drugs” in general. People are receptive when I tell them that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but that’s not common knowledge here.
In the case of this man who throws rocks, all the children I stopped and talked to claim that he’s a “bandit” and a bad person. But as far as I could tell, he only throws rocks in self-defense. I have seen him and talked to him in the market when he wasn’t feeling persecuted, and he seemed very friendly. The logic that a lot of Mozambicans apply to the mentally ill seems to be the same logic that is applied to dogs: They are bad because they hurt you, so we should hurt them back. Dogs are routinely abused: children and adults alike kick them, throw rocks at them, and so forth. The dogs get angry and threaten them, which reinforces the abuse even more. Most people seem oblivious to the vicious cycle that arises when they abuse a mentally ill person or a dog.
So today, I watched these small school kids throwing rocks at this mentally ill man, and the man flying into a rage and arming himself with his own rocks. There were dozens of children, maybe even more than a hundred, and I knew I had to say something, even if it didn’t work. So I began yelling at everyone present that the man was sick and that it’s not nice to be mean to sick people. Yes, he throws rocks, but only because you throw rocks at him. Leave him alone and he’ll leave you alone. However, the hooting and hollering and rock throwing continued, so I decided to talk to the man. As I got closer to him, kids began warning me that he was dangerous and that I shouldn’t get near him. When I was only a few feet away, he began biting his own arm in a fit of rage. I decided to try an approach I sometimes used with some of the clients at the mental health clinic I used to work at. I put on a sad face and told him his actions were making me very upset, and asked him if he would please stop. He seemed to calm down a little bit, and stopped biting himself. He put down the rock he was holding in his other hand, but a few seconds later a rock was thrown by one of the bystanders and the man flew into a rage again.
I decided to try to find some schoolteachers to help. Jamie and I were at the elementary school, yet no teachers could be found. We walked over to a classroom to find a room full of children armed with rocks, but no adults. We asked where the teachers were.
“They left,” was the only response we received.
I told the kids not to throw rocks, and they denied that they had been throwing rocks, and that it was “some other kids who already left”. I told them and another group of kids that were outside the classroom to gather round and explained what a mental illness is and how most mentally ill people are only aggressive if you are aggressive to them. I told them to leave the man alone; he woudn’t throw rocks at them if they didn’t throw them at him. After that, Jamie stayed with the kids while I went back to the man to try to talk to him again. I told him that the kids wouldn’t stop throwing rocks, so he should just try to go somewhere else. He wasn’t listening to me, so I got closer; he suddenly threatened to throw a rock at me, yelling at me to stay away. I guess this was the point where the children would retaliate, but having worked with schizophrenic clients who would sometimes threaten me with violence, I knew it was best to be kind, yet firm and direct. I told him that I wouldn’t get any closer, but that it would be best if he left the school. He stopped viewing me as a threat and refocused on the mob of people taunting him.
Feeling unable to do anything else, I walked back over to Jamie. She told me that after I had left, one of the kids tried to get closer to throw a rock, but was reprimanded by one of the kids who had heard me explain about mental illness. Jamie felt that there was nothing we could do to stop the mob, but that we could talk to small groups and try to persuade them to persuade the others to stop. So I spent a few more minutes talking to a handful of kids. Some of them seemed to listen, but others definitely did not. Eventually I moved on.
I know that that man will continue to get rocks thrown at him wherever he goes, just because people think it’s funny that he feels the need to defend himself. It was fortunate that today no one seemed to get hurt, but who knows what will happen in the future? One of my orgs has a kid’s club that sometimes meets on Fridays, so after this incident I asked my supervisor if I could talk about mental illnesses at the next meeting. I may not be able to provide the resources that the mentally ill of Mecanhelas require, but I can try to change people’s attitudes, little by little.
February 20, 2013
I totally meant to write another in-depth blog post on Cape Town, but I’m once again back in Mozambique, the land of limited internet capabilities. Time just kept slipping away, and next thing I knew, it had been two weeks since my vacation and some of the details I wanted to include in a lengthy post have been forgotten. Damn.
But something I will focus on is my hiking of Table Mountain. I hiked the mountain with Alex, an Australian guy who was staying in my hostel room. Compared to Mount Mulanje, hiking it was a breeze! I did, however, hike it in new shoes that are slightly too big for me, so I will forever remember Table Mountain for giving me cuts on my heels that later got infected and required me to stay in Maputo on medical leave. Near the end of my Cape Town trip, all these lesions started popping up on my feet and got really badly infected. It even got to the point where lesions started popping up on other parts of my body, like my face. My body got overwhelmed and was not healing properly. As I boarded the bus to go back to Mozambique, my feet were swollen, though I had more or less gotten used to the discomfort.
Back in Mozambique, I knew I should consult the Peace Corps doctor. I went to go see her and she was very alarmed by the state of my feet. Just the sheer number of infected cuts on my feet (seven) alarmed her, but what scared her the most was the surrounding skin on one of them was starting to turn gray. Apparently the skin was dying. Last year, another volunteer got medically separated from service because he got a flesh-eating bacteria infection (don’t worry, he’s fine now). I guess there were concerns that I had the same thing, though the only thing that really hurt me was walking on swollen feet- not the cuts themselves.
The doctor put me on antibiotics right away and made a surgical consultation for me that day. I arrived at the Maputo hospital for my surgical consultation only to find that the doctor it was scheduled with was AWOL. Another appointment with another doctor was made for me for an hour later, so I sat around the clinic, thinking about my situation. Based off the doctor’s reaction, I knew I was quite possibly facing medical separation. It was quite an emotional hour for me as I reflected on whether or not I was ready to go home. Sure, living in Mozambique has been quite difficult, but I’ve learned so much and felt that I had so much work left to do. I’m the Niassa Coordinator for the JUNTOS youth program, so my departure would have put an extra load on one or all of the other JUNTOS leaders. I also thought of my newly arrived sitemate, and how I’d be leaving her alone. Not that I don’t think she could have handled it, but she’d be the only American at site, like myself when I first got here. Sometimes that can be really tricky, and I know she requested a sitemate, so I’d have felt bad.
The doctor who met with me was surprised at how I could have so many lesions but not be in much pain, which gave him some hope for an easy recovery. He had an aide clean my wounds and then bandage them. He gave me some antiseptic cream and vitamins and told me to take the antibiotics three times a day. He wanted to see me again the following afternoon.
Normally I’m terrible with taking pills, but with the stakes so high, I was very diligent this time around. Within a day, the swelling in my feet had been reduced, and two days later it was gone completely. I’m grateful that my body responded so easily to the antibiotics. By the weekend, my cuts had completely scabbed over.
While on medical leave, I met another volunteer from Gaza province who was also in Maputo for the treatment of skin infections. Unfortunately, her body was not responding to several types of antibiotics. I’ve been keeping in touch with her as she continued to try different medical treatments. Today it was finally decided that she would be sent to the States for treatment and then medically separated. It’s funny to think that we arrived in Maputo on the same day with the same problem, and now she’s on her way out while I’m still here. I feel the roles could have easily been reversed, and that I’d be writing this from California right now.
Back in Niassa, I struggled to cope once again with all the attention. In Cape Town and Maputo, I was anonymous. But anonymity is impossible as one of two white Americans in my town. I also had some conflicts with the family I share a yard with. They once again started using an outside electrical outlet I have to watch television at night, and one night they kept using my electricity even after I announced that I was going to bed. Angry with this, I shut off my own electricity, which greatly offended them. My thinking was, “I’m the one who pays for it, I can do what I want.”
Later on they confronted me about how they felt, which both surprised and humbled me. It’s not like Mozambicans to express their disapproval, so I was glad that they approached me. They said that they had received a new DVD, and that they merely wanted to watch it a little bit longer after I went to bed. Admittedly, I overreacted, so I apologized. I felt that my relationship with the family fractured a bit, though it’s been improving again over time.
Last night, I got a call from my sitemate: one of the kids in the family had told her all he had to eat that day was a slice of pumpkin. She said that he said the family hasn’t been paid my rent for months, and that they currently have no money for food. My main organization is supposed to pay for my housing every month, but they’ve had organizational issues lately, and for the past two weeks the office has been closed entirely. I knew that the family hadn’t been getting paid, but I never really thought about the magnitude of their situation until last night.
Looking back, its been so easy for me to tell myself that this is a collectivist culture, and that people are always lending each other money or food. They are, but I realized that at some point I have to give a little too. I’ve been constantly on the defensive because people don’t hesitate to tell me how much more I have than them. When people ask me for money, I blow it out of proportion and tell myself that if I helped out everyone that asked, I would have nothing. That’s true, but I honestly haven’t been helping out much at all- nor have I been very sympathetic. Life is not easy here: most people don’t have jobs and they don’t have money. And those that do have money are expected to provide for family that doesn’t have money, which often wipes them out. I’ve seen it happen with the supervisor of my org that’s shut down for the moment. He gets a monthly salary, but he has to go to Cuamba to get it, where he also has relatives who take most of it from him the day he picks it up.
I still think it’s important for me to not lend out money to people just because they ask for it, and to stress the importance of saving (a concept which is practically unheard of in my site), but I realize that I’ve been taking this so much to heart that I’ve come across as a cold-hearted bastard to a lot of Mozambicans. I’ve been in American cultural mindset too often and have avoided looking at things from a Mozambican perspective. I’ve been shutting off my electricity to stop a family from using it without thinking about how little they have and how I, who always have enough to eat and travel with, must seem refusing the luxury of electricity to a family that is constantly struggling just to get by.
I pay one of the kids every month to do certain tasks for me that are difficult here in Mozambique: washing clothes, mopping (I have yet to see a mop for sale), carting water. When I first arrived, it was agreed that I would pay him 500 meticais (about $16) a month to do these tasks, but I always seem to be traveling and not at site for the full month. Every month, I pay him a little bit less than the 500 meticais, and every month he complains and I have to once again explain how I’m not paying for the time I’m not here. But the family could really use the full amount every month, so I decided that I’ll just give him more tasks to do. He wants more to do anyway. Last night, he cooked beans and xima for me. It was really good! This way he still earns the money, even if I leave site for a period of time.
I have approached the issue of money with a U.S. mindset. While everything I’ve done is logical from a financial perspective, logic isn’t a culturally valued trait here in Mozambique. I need to realize that, and while overall stress financial planning, be able to put logic aside from time to time to help people that might seriously need the help.
Had I been medically separated, I would have never looked at things from this perspective- so I’m grateful that I wasn’t set home and that I was given the opportunity to learn some new things and approach sensitive situations through a new lens.
January 31, 2013
So this post is gonna be about Cape Town, but I have to at least briefly cover the recent floods in Mozambique first. I don’t know if any of you have heard, but Gaza province in the south was severely flooded until just this past week. All Gaza Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated to Maputo, so I got to see them and talk to them when I was there last weekend for my Volunteer Advisory Committee meeting. Most left before the water started rising in their sites, and I think they are slowly making their way back as the waters recede. But some sites, like Chokwe, were severely flooded, and if the volunteers left any belongings behind, they may have been lost to flood damage. No PCVs were hurt in the flooding, but hundreds of Mozambicans died. But the real damage is happening now. Crops have failed, houses have been washed away, and life will be a lot tougher now for Mozambican and Peace Corps volunteer alike, in terms of food prices and many other things. The volunteers know that their communities will be hurting, and in Maputo I definitely saw some volunteers grieving. All my best to the volunteers in the south right now, and to their communities.
Now I’m in Cape Town, which is a whole different world compared to Mozambique. It’s supposedly the rainy season, but it hasn’t rained once since I’ve been here. It’s constantly hot and sunny, and it gets dark hours later than in Mozambique (why is this?) even though neither celebrate DST. I get a lot less attention out on the streets, although there are still some people who ask for money and can be rather aggressive about it. But, walking down Long Street- the main bohemian hub of Cape Town where my hostel is located, I smell an amazing mix of odors (schwarmas, KFC, burgers, pizzas, ethiopian food, and so on), I see quite a diversity of people, and I experience just a great vibe in general. There are so many things I can say about Cape Town already, but this blog post will focus on a very uniquely South African topic: race relations.
My first night, I met the white co-owner of the hostel on the hostel’s rooftop bar. She’s a white Zimbabwean, and told me about living there with Robert Mugabe in power. Her family owned a farm, but she said that she watched her father get harassed and even beaten by black Zimbabweans trying to seize the farm. The whole family eventually left, but she feels that a similar perception of black superiority is happening in South Africa the moment.
Yesterday, I went to the District Six museum. In case you don’t know, District Six was where minority groups (Asians, blacks, mixed race people, and so on) were forced to live during apartheid. Families grew up there for generations…until Feb 11, 1966, when it was declared a “Whites Only” area. The white SA government then forcibly evacuated the minority residents, but not many white people chose to relocate there, so the district fell into disarray and these days there is no trace of the once vibrant community that existed there. Anyway, I had a tour guide at the museum, a Malaysian man who used to live in the district. Side note: today is his 78th birthday! He was saying that the party that Nelson Mandela led, the ANC (African National Congress) has these days become very corrupt and that the country has moved from “white oppression” to “black arrogance”. The mantra used to be, “White is Right”, but now he says the feeling is that “Black is Right.” He claims that the current President, Jacob Zuma, is extremely corrupt.
These two perspectives, however, come from non black South Africans. How do black South Africans feel? I have met a few “coloreds”, as they are called here in SA, but I didn’t ask them about the government. Race relations here are fascinating- there is such an in your face attitude towards race that I feel is completely opposite to the way race is handled in the States and even much of Europe. We tend to try to ignore race, whereas South Africans see it as a vital part of every day life that is not taboo.
Cape Town is in itself is a bit of an enigma in South Africa. It is in the only province in the country that is locally represented by the DA, the predominately white Democratic Alliance, and not Zuma’s ANC. There seems to be a general consensus that things run more smoothly and efficiently in the Western Cape province than in the other provinces, so maybe there is some merit to the corruption claims. My white SA friend tells me that the “robots” (traffic lights) always seem to work in the Western Cape but not necessarily in other provinces of the country.
Personally, it is still difficult to write a blog post on race relations, but I do think Americans could learn a thing or two from feeling more free to discuss race relations and the role of race in politics.
January 16, 2013
The Mecanhelas market is a living organism: a constantly evolving tapestry which is forever weaving and reweaving itself. Case in point: Today I found a new food stand.
I was wandering the market, looking for eggs to buy. Sometimes eggs are in great abundance, while at other times I can’t find them at all. Fortunately, I know two or three shops that usually have them. After one shop failed me, I decided to take a shortcut down a small alley to another shop. The Netherlands may be famous for its random, narrow alleys, but this one could definitely give those Dutch alleys a run for their money. As I was shoving my bike between two walls, one made of woven straw and one made of cement, I realized that the straw building was new. After getting through the alley, I took a look through the thin sheet that served as the front door and noticed a table with several chairs around it. It was unmistakably a dining table- it was embellished with a centerpiece consisting of a plastic tray, which held a vase of fake flowers and a green, plastic triceratops toy.
This new food stand is right next door to another food stand which first sprang up in June of last year. It’s where I go to indulge my occasional craving for either rice and beans or goat meat and rice. I could have easily kept walking to my usual haunt, but I was strangely drawn to the triceratops. So I went in and asked the owner what kind of food they had. They only had the usual fare, but at my usual food stand, a plate of goat and rice is 25 meticais. Here, it was only 20 meticais. Score! I was hooked, so I ordered a plate and played with the triceratops while I waited for my food to arrive.
Just a few minutes later, I was handed a decent sized plate of goat meat with onions, tomato, and MSG infused rice. I really love me some red MSG rice, so I devoured it quickly. The goat meat was also excellent- not undercooked and chewy like it would sometimes be at the other place. Also, goat meat usually has a lot of bones, but the amount of bones in these goat pieces was minimal! All in all, it was a fantastic dining experience. At roughly $0.69, the price can’t be beat. I highly recommend it to any of you who happen to find yourself in the Mecanhelas area.
I’ve been back at site for over a week now, and I’m trying to get back into the swing of work. That’s a bit hard to do, though, when I reflect on the fact that I only have 6 months left here in Mozambique, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished much in the first year and a half. I feel I will leave behind a legacy of aborted projects. At the very least, there is one org in town that is close to being ready for a nutrition training: although when I went to their weekly meeting this afternoon to discuss dates for this training, only one person was there. He told me all the other members were sick or busy with other things, so we’ll have to decide on a week to give the training at the Thursday meeting…provided people actually show up to it.
My sitemate Jamie has been sick lately, but these things tend to happen when volunteers first get to site. She’s all better now, and despite her being sick, we’ve been having a good time. She taught me how to play Yahtzee, which I had never played before, and we seem to be watching a classic movie each night with dinner. A few nights ago was The Sandlot and tonight was When Harry Met Sally. Having a sitemate rocks!
Aside from work and movies, I’ve been reading a lot recently. While I had aimed to have read 100 books by the time I finished Peace Corps, I realized today I’m only up to 28. Eh, still better than the pace I usually read at in the States. I think I can get to 50 books by the end of my service. I’m currently reading The Thirteenth Tale, a book about books (which is my favorite kind of book).
At the end of the month, I have a VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) meeting in Maputo, where I will bring volunteer concerns/issues to Carl, the country director. That meeting will take place on the 26th and 27th. After that, I’m off to Cape Town for a week! Not gonna lie, really looking forward to that trip and hoping the time until then will fly by!
January 3, 2013
A thousand apologies for not updating in so long. Guess I was so busy for a while, prepping for my sitemate´s arrival as well as Jama´s visit to mecanhelas right before she finished up her service and went back to the States. It was sad to say goodbye to Jama, who was pretty much my closest friend here in Mozambique. But I know she´s having fun back in America.
Now I have Jamie in Mecanhelas, and it´s been great having her! Her house isn´t ready yet, so she´s been living with me. The last few weeks it hasn´t been a problem because I´ve been traveling for Xmas and New Year´s. But tomorrow we go back to Mecanhelas, and back to being in the same house. It´s been fine though, we cook together, watch movies and tv together, and all that jazz. I´ve really enjoyed showing her around town and catching up on all the pop culture I´ve missed out on after a year and a half here in Mozambique.
For Xmas, I went to Pemba, and for NYE I went back to Lake Niassa, near Lichinga. Both were pretty fun, but involved a lot of long nights. I´m now pretty exhausted and ready to get back to Mecanhelas and back to work for the last six months or so of my service! I really enjoyed catching up with my fellow Moz 16ers in Pemba though. We had a secret santa gift exchange, and my friend Jack Cheng got me an electric mosquito swatter. Its pretty awesome. Today in Cuamba, Zackaria and I were using it to literally fry some flies. It was pretty intense!
I also met all the new Niassa Moz 19ers at the lake for NYE. It was so cool to meet them all, and crazy to think they only arrived in country at the end of September! Laura Melle and I were the only two “veteran” volunteers at the lake, but we still enjoyed hanging with the newbies. You just can´t beat drinks and fireworks on the beach.
Now that it´s officially 2013, and the year I go back to the States, I´m starting to think about my post Peace Corps life. I´m thinking about going to grad school for either counseling or clinical psychology, so I started looking into those types of programs today. Hopefully I´ll make a plan sooner or later!
Okay, I´m off to have some dinner. Hope the new year is treating all of you well! My resolution is to update this thing more often. We´ll see if that actually happens….
October 28, 2012
Yesterday Carl Swartz, director for Peace Corps Mozambique, visited my site. He sat in on my photography group meeting and then took me to lunch afterwards. He was traveling around Niassa province since he had never been before; he started off in Lichinga and made his way down, my site being the last to visit before he went to Nampula province. It was really great having the head honcho of Peace Corps Mozambique visit, and not only because he brought me chocolate and cheese and bought me lunch! He was really interested to hear how I’ve been adjusting, how it is being the only volunteer in a new site, how work with my three (or more) orgs is coming along, and so on. I stopped to introduce him to a lot of the locals, and he was impressed at how many Mozambicans I know and am on good terms with. He said that one of the biggest differences between southern volunteers and northern volunteers is that the northerners tend to be more integrated. It makes sense since there are fewer volunteers up here, and fewer ex-pats from the States or European countries as well. I don’t really have a choice- if I want to socialize at site, it has to be with Mozambicans!
The photography group meeting went really well. My kids were excited to meet my boss and another American. They actually met two new “mecunias”, because Anthony, the volunteer in Cuamba, also came to visit. Carl had a lot of great questions for the group about our past and present projects, and the kids enjoyed showing him recent photos they’ve taken.
Carl left after only about three hours, but Anthony stayed the night and I had a good time continuing to show him around. We gorged ourselves on the cheese, managing to demolish about 98% of the block that night. Cheese is pretty much non-existent here in Mecanhelas, so I had to take advantage of having it while at the same time having no fridge! Then we lounged around watching Arrested Development, Community, and listening to Katy Perry.
Anthony left this morning, and now my only plans for today are to read and jot down some notes on the JUNTOS curriculum. I’m on the curriculum committee with two other volunteers, and we need to decide what changes we want to make on the education topics for next year’s workshops.
So yeah, I know that’s its been a while since my last post. I was traveling for a bit around Nampula province, but the main reason I haven’t updated is because I’ve been pretty stressed out and I didn’t want to make a post that was just rants and raves about how Mozambique sucks. I actually did make that post a few weeks ago, but internet was down at the time and I cooled off before it came back. Fortunately, this week has been better. I’ve been planning a no-cost nutrition training with an org in town, for its members. It’s going smoothly (so far, anyway). I’m also just about done with my malaria project proposal. All that’s left to do is write up the pre/post test questions, and my supervisors and I agreed to do that tomorrow morning. So although its taken months to get to this stage, shit is finally getting done!
My travels through Nampula were great. First I went to Mozambique Island, which has nice beaches and is always relaxing. There were a ton of volunteers there for the JUNTOS handover meeting or just to hang out, and one night we all went out dancing and I danced for hours. Was pouring sweat, but it was well worth it! So much fun.
After Mozambique Island, I went to Ribaue, my friend Charlie’s site, for a few days. It’s always good to see him. We hung out, at his place, watching Family Guy, Futurama, and Indiana Jones. We climbed the mountain behind his house; I actually had proper footwear this time, and the hike was nowhere near as challenging as Mt. Mulanje in Malawi, so I don’t think I cursed at all on that climb. Mainly, however, Charlie and I sat around complaining about the heat. It’s getting so damn hot around here! I happened to be in Ribaue for Teacher’s Day, so I joined Charlie for the festivities; he’s an education volunteer and the holiday actually pertained to him. We went to a special dinner at his school, although the dinner wasn’t ready until 10 PM, and by the time we got our food we were exhausted and ready for bed. We ate, had a few beers, and then went straight to bed because we had to get up at 5 the next day to catch the train.
My next trip will be another trip to Lake Malawi in a week in a half. Actually, the trip is to Lake Niassa, because that’s what it’s called on the Mozambique side. This will be a goodbye trip for the Moz 15ers. I’ll be saying goodbye to quite a few of them, but I’m saddest to see Jama and Charlie go. They both leave in December, although Jama’s coming to Mecanhelas at the end of November, so I’ll be seeing her again. This trip will probably be the last I see of Charlie for a while though, so that’s sad. While it will be strange not having the Moz 15ers around, the Moz 19 education volunteers get to site in December…and one of them should be coming here to Mecanhelas!!!