September 4, 2012
I know I’ve been bad at updating lately, but that will now hopefully change. I got a portable internet modem just before I went to Maputo for my medical conference, and the internet is AWESOME on it. I can post new blog posts soooo easily now, and even include pictures if I want! Woohoo! So any future month long blog post delays will only be due to my laziness.
I went to Maputo for a medical conference, where I reunited with the other Moz 16ers for doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, and to learn about future projects we can do at site. During the day we had sessions that were actually pretty interesting and informative, and at night we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In fact, as the week wore on, I got more and more exhausted, as evidenced by the photo that my colleague Madeline Noble so graciously posted on Facebook after I fell asleep at the dentist’s office.
One of the sessions was on malaria projects we can implement here in Mozambique. Actually, I’ve already been working on a few malaria projects, and have even been featured in some news articles by Stomp Out Malaria, a US-based organization that is working to eradicate malaria in the countries where it is still prevalent. So if you want to read more on what I’ve been doing at site, check out these links:
The week just flew by, and before I knew it, the conference was over and we Moz 16ers sadly parted ways once again. But I stuck around Maputo for a few days because Lexie, an Australian who’s been touring around Africa and who I met at Lake Malawi, came to visit before she flew back home to start a new job/graduate school. We mostly just enjoyed the awesome amenities that Maputo has to offer: taxis, restaurants, bars, seafood markets, museums…we had a lot of fun just hanging out, and it was sad to see her go.
I also went back to Namaacha while I was in the south, to see my host family again. It was a lot of fun! They were all so happy to see me again, and I was happy to see them too. All the kids are so much bigger and grown-up now! Especially Tibu, who speaks Portuguese much better than he did while I was living there. Hell, MY Portuguese is much better compared to when I was living there!
When I flew back to Niassa, it was a bit of a shock to be back in the far less developed north. As soon as my plane landed, I decided to try to make it from Lichinga back to Cuamba to meet the new volunteer in Metarica (two to three hours east of Cuamba). Unfortunately, chapas in the north fill up much less slowly than chapas in the south. Whereas an empty chapa from Namaacha to Maputo filled up in no more than 30 minutes, I waited FIVE HOURS for the Lichinga chapa to fill. And whereas I got very little attention for being white in Maputo, while sitting in that chapa, random Mozambicans kept tapping on my window to say, “White! Give me money!” It was an unpleasant homecoming, to say the least.
We finally left Lichinga at 4:50 PM, and got to Mandimba (150km from Lichinga, and halfway between Lichinga and Cuamba) at 8:30 PM. So including chapa waiting time, it took me 8.5 hours to travel 93 miles. Needless to say, I was pissed. I overnight in Mandimba because I would get into Cuamba at 11:30 PM at the earliest, and most likely even later than that. While I was in a bad mood at first, hanging out with Mary Kate, the new volunteer in Mandimba, was fun. She has a new puppy which she rescued from other dogs who were attacking it, and I had a lot of fun playing with it. Makes me wish I had a dog here in Mecanhelas, but I don’t necessarily want to deal with taking care of an animal when I can barely cook for myself!
The next day, I was all ready at 8 AM to get back to Cuamba, hoping to take only three hours and get in before lunch. But Fortuna was not with me yet again, though I feel bad for getting frustrated by this delay. We picked up a sick woman at Mandimba hospital, and she laid across the back row of the chapa; she also had an IV drip with her. She was being transferred from Mandimba hospital to Cuamba hospital. Why didn’t she take an ambulance? I don’t know. They do exist here, though they’re rare. Anyway, the trip should take three hours, but as soon as we left Mandimba, the sick woman started moaning in pain at every bump in the road. Now you need to know that chapas are always very old vehicles with no shocks, and that the road between Mandimba and Cuamba, like most roads in North Mozambique, isn’t paved. So the bumps never stopped. The driver quickly had to slow down to a crawl to minimize her discomfort, and the three hour trip ended up taking five hours.
Getting back into Cuamba, my frustration with Mozambique was at an all time high. After two weeks of lounging around Maputo, I was definitely reminded that Maputo is the exception rather than the rule to how life is lived in this country. Wealth definitely trickles down in this country, and is concentrated in Maputo, while the most northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado get shafted. I know that, but I still wish I was back to living the Maputo lifestyle. I miss the comforts and ease of my life back in California. I miss driving around in a private car and not having to squeeze into a chapa with 20 other people. I miss not being stared at every time I leave my house. I miss not having to move past a drunk person with a wide berth because there’s a good chance they’ll try to hug me and call me their best friend in an effort to get money. I miss living in the same town as people with a culture and set of values that is similar to my own.
But I know that while these negative feelings will not pass, they will fade. I have a network of dozens of peers that are going through the same issues I’m going through and whom I can call at any moment to help me feel better. I also now have my modem, so I can feel a little more connected to friends and family back in the States because I can now chat with them regularly via Skype and post more regular blog updates! And I do have some important projects in development; they’re still going to take a long time to implement, but they’re coming along.
I think what motivates me the most to keep going though, is knowing that the end is in sight. I will be back in the States in 11 months, LESS THAN ONE YEAR! Knowing this has been helping me push through the frustrations of small town African life. And I really am excited to see how I can help work with my colleagues to improve our community in what now seems to be a very short timeframe. If nothing else, I want to continue to improve my relationships with people here in Mecanhelas. Projects might start and fail, but cultural exchange is permanent, and that’s what I’m trying to focus on.