Moseying down to Mozambique

My life as a Master's International Peace Corps Health Volunteer

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

(this post was written in 2 parts, started on 5/10 and finished 6/27)

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

2 years ago I was preparing to take the first steps on an epic journey.  In my usual 11th hour behavior, I did not actually start packing until the last few days I had in Atlanta. Even though I was the first of my cohort to be nominated December 2011, and knew that I was always going to go, it still did not click until the last few days in Atlanta. I did kind of a mad scramble to get all of my things together, random gear and gifts for my host family. I was surprisingly cool and nonchalant about leaving, whereas other people were more on edge about my departure to the other side of the world. When the last few days in Atlanta arrived, I was caught a little but off guard but still had a handle on my emotions and expectations.

Here I am, on the other side of the journey, preparing to take the first steps towards yet another epic journey. I leave my site, Manjacaze, in 3 days, and while I have known since August that this day would come, I am still rattled emotionally and coping with leaving a life and family that took two long and often hard years to form. These two years have been groundbreaking. I have learned so much about myself and humanity in general. I have faced death, despair, sadness, fear, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, but also love, joy, happiness, hope, confidence, acceptance and compassion. The entire face map of emotions “Today I feel…” I have encountered, sometimes in the span of a day. I have cried for no apparent reason, laughed for no apparent reason (probably due to a couple loose screws) and just taken it all in with a eery sense of calm sometimes.  I have learned to live alone, to be in the silence and not be scared (all the time). I have learned to be patient (sort of) and to not push my agenda on others.  My time here has given me a wealth of experiences, both good and bad, with which I will use to guide the rest of my life.

Time has been a tricky concept here… I judge it by the fruit seasons, plants growing, and by children mostly. When I met my “host” family here, their son was 4 months old and I feel in love with him. Now over 2 and talking (he recognizes me and says my name), it will be incredibly difficult to leave him, especially knowing that he probably won’t remember his “Tinda” (Tia Linda-Aunt Linda) and his sister will have to tell him tales of the American who was afraid of cats, made strange foods like burritos and sushi, and rode a bicycle with a helmet.  I feel like I have lived an entire lifetime here.  In accordance with this timeline model, I am now 50 years old, wise and transitioning from semi-retirement to retirement.  

…….Not to sound too macabre, but close of service (COS) in a way seems like getting your affairs in order after being told you have a few weeks to live. It’s the end of a life, lived to the fullest and with emotional and physical intensity you may or may not have expected.  After all the work you did, you build a life, from preparations to actually living it and one day you are meant to just walk away from it, never to return again (at least not under the same circumstances and not in the foreseeable future). How does one do that even?  How CAN one do that? How do you get the people who you have lived amongst to understand that? How do you deal with some who just desire to strip you of your belongings as you leave instead of maybe expressing the sadness in your departure? It is a difficult thing to do but for over 50 years, thousands of Americans before me have done this, said goodbye to a life once lived and returned, reincarnated in some ways as a version 2.0 of themselves. In a way it’s the nature of the beast. But once you get to that day, the day you did not think would come, certainly not in your first year when it seems like an eternity away, and then rapidly approaching during your second year, you are beside yourself in grief.  In the weeks leading up to leaving, I was in a sort of denial about it all, despite knowing since August that I would likely be leaving mid may. Again I had not packed or begun to arrange my belongings and was still saying half goodbyes or not even mentioning my impending departure in situations that would likely be my last time…Then as I began to accept it, about 2 weeks before leaving, I got in the zone with regards to packing up. After that I began to realize that I needed to actually start saying goodbyes.

It did not help that my last few weeks of service were some of my busiest in terms of activities and of course the final Peace Corps conference with my cohort. I wrote a grant for and hosted a music workshop held in the secondary school by Positivo Mozambique to write a song about malaria prevention for the community. It was one of the most rewarding activities of my service. I swelled with pride on the final day when the kids performed their song in front of the school on World Malaria Day. The change in the kids demeanor/confidence was one of the few times I saw “change”/ “development” and in the span of a few days. I had also held Sexual Reproductive Health workshops in the same school with a dynamic professor and counterpart who to my shock and great sadness passed away in a car accident a week after the music workshop he helped me organize. I was truly devastated by his passing and for his family; his wife who was a close colleague of mine as she is the Pediatrician at the hospital and for his son who she said loved his dad so much.  After the success of these two events and the grief for his passing and the realization that I was leaving this all behind (plus all the questions of sustainability, impact, inadequacy, successes and failures) and leaving all the people I loved and who helped me through 2 years, I was beyond emotionally spent. I spent my last 30 days busy and also sporadically crying, to the shock of many. I had the chance to have a final hoorah with my fellow volunteers and in my last few days had a goodbye party at my house with my sitemate and our closest friends/family. It was a bit of a stressful occasion but also nice to share one last meal with those who opened their homes to us over the years.  I rode out of Manjacaze the way I came in with my nun counterpart Alice driving us to the nearest city. My final views of the town that reformed me were through a steady stream of tears….

From there I spent my last few days in Maputo in a bit of a flurry to finish the documentation for closing of service, of grants, of medical. I once again felt it to be very surreal. My final goodbyes to my closest friends had me inconsolable. As I walked through to security the lady behind the counter look at me, tears streaming down my face and me not even bothering to wipe them away because o the rate at which they were falling.  She asked me calmly, what’s the matter dear? And  I told her I was leaving a land I loved, people I loved, a life I loved, and that I did not know when I was coming back and I was very sad. She looked at me with great sympathy and told me that I WILL come back and see those people again, not to worry, I will come back. Barely able to speak I told her thank you, I will. After I walked passed her and headed towards the gate, she walked up to me and gave me a hug, said she liked me and gave me her contact information and facebook /email  and asked me to stay in touch and let her know when I am back.  This is what I am leaving. Mozambicans are incredibly caring, generous people who opened their homes, and lives to me. Always there to offer me meals, accompaniment, concerned of my well-being, curious about my habits, life choices and fascinated by my ways and I of theirs. I enjoyed teaching and learning from them, especially through food. Sharing recipes -the shock that Americans make cake from carrots/banana/apples/coconut then the delight when we made it together in a clay pot oven and they loved it and carefully noted the ingredients, or when I learned how to make a traditional dish.  The sharing of cultures, ideas, traditions….it’s one of the most beautiful products of Peace Corps for the volunteer and their community. It’s Exposure. It’s what I love about travel and living abroad and why I will continue to do it.  

As I have had more distance from the experience to reflect, I am constantly having revelations or conceptualizing parts of my experience and still dealing with a sense of loss and occasional thoughts that I could have done more…a tricky thought because we are not superheroes and as one of my directors said, we are not magicians…just because a volunteer is there, does not mean all kinds of things will just start happening or appearing. This is a process, and volunteers plant seeds, and build foundations in/for the community and for future volunteers to help continue to cultivate. It’s a project that is constantly evolving and involves the coordination of many different facets that are not in one person’s control.

My two years in Mozambique were without a doubt the most profound experience of my life.

If anyone is considering the Peace Corps, I urge you to talk to RPCVs (contact me! Or others). It is a truly unique experience and one that can never leave you. You will return forever changed and the juice is worth the squeeze….

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Home

This is a post thats 6 months behind schedule….As I approach the end of my service, in my last week at site, I am posting it as a reflection. Preparing to leave this home, where my heart is, for my other home, where my heart also lies is incredibly difficult. Leaving the people I have bonded with over these past 2 years in no easy task, especially since I may never see them again. I started crying about a month ago and have gone through stages of grieving: sadness, denial, acceptance, and now back to sadness. 

Anyway I wrote these poems on my phone, one about my first day home in Atlanta back in November, the other about being back home in Manjacaze in December. I had moved before leaving for the states in America but had company up until I left because of a training we had in my town, so my first night back in December was my first night alone in my new house. 

Home (Atlanta)

Home
Moving stairs transport me to a vast room with an organized queue
"Where are you going?"
'Home'
The crisp fall air chills my sandal-ed feet as I wait for my ride
Bone chilling
"Welcome home" my friend says
I soak up the newness of my city as we glide down the 6 lane highway to my “home”
Home
The silence of the neighborhood greets me as I find the key hidden for me in the pot on the porch
The sounding alarm startles me and I rush to disarm it, successfully remembering the code.
The 20 year old wooden floors creek below me until my cold toes reach the carpet
Lush
What a feeling
And now, what? I walk around the breakfast bar then take my bags to my room
Loving this carpet
I turn the faucet to hot and wait for steam to rise
I stand and let it coarse down my body, slowly warming me
Honey Pear soap cleanses me
No sand on my feet, victory
I dress in my favorite corduroys.
Rich eggplant.
I’m faced with endless combinations for food
I hesitate
And reach for Cheerios, one of my life’s first loves.
Yet its a new kind
My first bowl of cereal in 20 months
I savor it

In a matter of days the quiet from my first day back disappears as the house is filled with my family and the usual sound fabric of an american life; chatter, television, phone calls, traffic, radio
I find quiet again only late night

Home

_______________________

Home (Manjacaze)

home

darkness
clipping of the moon barely lights the way
hot, sweaty
"stop by the catholic church"
offended by man
"are you a sister? that means you can’t eat anything, not even apple"
I roll my eyes and don’t dignify a response making it clear that I understand but hes being rude
but home
feet kick up ochre sand
home/
she greets me in bright white, pint sized and delighted to see me and I her
Firmina, suprisingly cracks a smile
I wash away the day
and join the sisters for a meal
sweet potato/rice/fish
the food is fantastic not only because its my first meal of the day
for dessert, Mafura
I coax the Mexican nun through her first experience of it, just like I was a year ago
it is truly a unique fruit
she is apprehensive
but i get it
I savor the taste i haven’t had in 9 months
home/
my new home…
I’m received by neighbors
the boys grab my bags
company
what a difference a pulse makes
I open the door to my room
fresh paint, tiled floor
renovated bathroom, shower head, toilet seat
I feel like i won the lottery

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The week in review! Positivo Workshop in Manjacaze. One of the most productive and rewarding weeks of my service! 23 kids were trained in Malaria prevention, and 55 students participated in HIV testing at school provided by PSI. Love the work of Positivo Mocambique and truly greatful for the work and impact they had on these students! Bom trabalho!

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World Malaria Day

April was blog about Malaria month for the Stomp out Malaria
initiative in Peace Corps. To increase awareness in our communities
volunteers use many different activities to reach people and talk to
them about prevention.
April 25th is World Malaria Day and for me was the end of a very
exciting and rewarding week at site. I wrote a grant for the
realization of a prevention through music workshop in collaboration
with Association Positivo from Inhambane City. They work primarily
with school children (but also with community members) to educate
active youth on health topics such as HIV and Malaria and then help
the turn their knowledge into cultural relevant music that they write
lyrics to. Kids love it because they have ownership of a song THEY
wrote and sang that transmits a positive message through an easily
proliferated medium that community members can identify with. Its a
beautiful mission and one I truly believe in. Seeing the way the kids
change, feel empowered by their knowledge, and proud of their work was
one of the most rewarding moments of my service.

Malaria is the leading killer of children and adults in Mozambique.
The burden of Malaria affects all levels of society here.

(Pictures to come!)

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Backblogging: Fieldwork (from October)

I know I have been the WORST at maintaining this and I have a few promised posts I never got around to posting….this post takes us back to Sept/Oct 2013 when I was doing field work for my Masters International Directed Study.  These are my notes from the field….

After a youth workshop in June where we discussed the tradition of widow cleansing in Mozambique, I remembered discussing this during training and decided to make this tradition the subject of my directed study paper. After speaking with community members and counterparts,  I wrote a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Survey on the tradition of Widow Cleansing and HIV Knowledge. It seemed to me that there had to be some sort of cognitive dissonance amongst people who practice this tradition. Traditional widow cleansing requires the widow to have unprotected sex with her brother-in-law, other family member, or other man from the community in order to purify the widow. It has to be unprotected because the joining of their bodily fluids is what cleansing the widow.  After this they drink a ritual tea, and give this tea to other family members who live with the widow to protect them from catching Tuberculosis. If the widow does not purify herself through this act, she is putting herself and family at risk of TB or other bad happenings that she will be blamed for. While there is a non-sexual way to purify the house of the widow through an herbal washing of the home by the traditional doctor, this is not sufficient.  After speaking to neighborhood chiefs and other counterparts I chose to perform the survey in a community about 10 k away from my town. After training 5 volunteer activistas,3 neighbors and 2 locals from that town, we started to conduct the surveys. These are my notes from the field.

Day 1

We had a bit of a late start due to transportation (surprise) and general Mozambicans being late for anything and everything. Since I got there early, I interviewed a man while waiting. When my team arrived, I accompanied Ana on her interviews. She did very well. Our first interview was with a very old lady who did not speak Portuguese so Ana conducted it all in Changana.  All the other elderly women we met that day all chuckled when we mentioned Kutchinga (widow cleansing) After a few more interviews, we gathered at our meeting place. The first day was not perfect in collection but that was expected.

Day 2

It was hot! Hot! Hot! I biked to the town with one of the activistas, my neighbor Angelina.  I walked 20 minutes out into the bush with Susana today to the border of the zone we were operating in today.  In this zone they suffer from a lack of food sources. Because its so hot and dry the only things that survive well are cashews, mandioca/cassava, peanuts, macala (bush fruit), and corn.  Sometimes peanuts are not available.  The zone is pretty bush but there are some nicely constructed homes. There is no energy/electricity in this zone. The health post has a nurse but only from 2pm. There is no lab, and so no tests are done. The nurse can only prescribe medicines for illnesses such as malaria.  There is no pre natal care either, so people have to come to my town. The town only has school until the 7th grade and secondary school is only available in my town (about a 2 hour walk in the evening).  Many people mention their fear of TB as a result of a purification gone wrong. Many people are afraid to say what they know about it because they are afraid people will find out who said what even though they know its anonymous.

Day 3

Today someone told me that this tradition is one passed on from history, since the time of adam and eve.  It was a slow starting day because my team staggered in at different times. It was a little frustrating because we had a schedule of interviews to get done per day and because I am pretty sure David, the one male activista who I haven’t been particularly fond of since day 1, is drunk by the time he gets to the town to do interviews. I am questioning his position on my time, interview style etc but can I fire a volunteer interviewer? Or should I just politely tell him his services are no longer needed.  Today I realized how few men we have encountered…where are they? Working or deceased??

Day 4

Today I interviewed a traditional healer about kutchinga. She is the second healer I have interviewed about this tradition, the first being back in June in our training village. Yvonne gave me the summary of this tradition and explained each step of it. She also explained that a similar purification happened for women who have lost a child or had an abortion. During this interview, she served me lunch as we talked. Her apprentice joined us to comment on a few things and during our conversation, she had a spell= spirits began talking to her and she began to wail and clap her hands. Yvonne calmly  told her family to help her apprentice and she was led to the back house where she began beating on drums 9(this is how spirits are able to communicate, through the medium of drumming). Afterwards I asked Yvonne about what happened as she was explaining to me how she became a healer. She told me that she would have spells like that in 5th grade and they were very disruptive to the classroom environment. They took her to a healer who then told her and her family that she was being called to me a traditional healer. She entered in an apprenticeship with another healer to begin her studies. .Yvonne sits on the board of traditional healers and tries cases of witchcraft as well. Despite having been to many trainings though related to health and HIV, she did not have a clear understanding about how HIV is transmitted, prevented and her apprentice stepped in once or twice to correct her. It was a very interesting day for me.

Thoughts

Humans have a natural disposition to rationalize things they don’t understand with stories etc. These rationalizations attract me towards anthropology especially when they are dangerous rationalizations. This is where medicine and anthropology MUST meet.  Rationalizations are good to explain phenomena but when they are detrimental to people who have no other basis of understanding, health interventions must occur. The etiology of a disease is fundamental to understanding how a population will respond to new knowledge about a disease they have explained away for years using a folk/traditional/ritual explanation.

If you are interested in some of the results….let me know and I can send you the paper

Heres the gist of the conclusion…

The principal research question- “Is there a perceived risk and susceptibility toward HIV among those who have strong attitudes about the importance of this tradition?”-concludes with a gendered response. Men proved to be more attuned to the risks and their susceptibility to HIV with regards to this tradition. Women did show concern and desire to know or reveal HIV status when partaking (though this is a hypothetical statement or caution). 

Do people who understand transmission and prevention of HIV hypothetically indicate intent to practice kutchinga (without a condom)?

Of female respondents who knew HIV was sexually transmitted, about half said they would participate in kutchinga and 35 percent said they would not in comparison to a mere 15% of men who said they would. Furthermore, of the women who knew having sex without a condom was a risk behavior for HIV, nearly half (48.6%) claimed they would practice kutchinga. On the contrary, only 16% of men who know sex without a condom is a risk behavior stated they would participate, stating “this practice has been done for many years” or that “they cannot let their brother’s belongings leave the family.”

Do people who know how to prevent HIV know that they can contract HIV from kutchinga

Of the men and women who knew how to prevent HIV, 69% and 61.9% respectively claim to understand they are susceptible to contracting HIV from this practice compared to 17% of men and 28% of women who claimed they did not know if they were susceptible to HIV from kutchinga. Several respondents who believed they could contract HIV from kutchinga added that because its “blood to blood they could contract HIV.”

 

Do people who know their vulnerability to HIV state that they would hypothetically participate in kutchinga?

Nearly half of the women, 45%, who understand their vulnerability to HIV, said they would still participate in kutchinga compared to 36% who said they would not. In contrast, 81.4% of men who understand their vulnerability said they would not practice kutchinga citing fear of contracting HIV or “there are other ways to purify”. 

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Mafura…one of my favorite fruits

Ata/Custard apple- another one of my favorite fruits

Try mine and Ill try yours! Peanut butter and Catepillars….totally normal

Baking your own bread is the best…

Chocolate banana monkey bread…yum!

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A Brief Moment of Clarity

So my sitemate does a WAAAAYYY better job keeping up with his blog. He’s an astute observer and takes the time to write it all down…. check out his blog, especially his post on transportation here (horrendous), ive definitely gone through this insanity more times than I would ever wish on my worst enemy (If i had any) 

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COMIDA (FOOD)

Written 12/29/2013

I promised a food entry MONTHS ago…but I have also been a major slacker in
general lately. This has been explained by the fact that the past few
months have been busy conducting research and writing my Masters paper,
studying, a trip home and the usual work and travel grind, ….

Anyway, excuses aside, I had another one of the quintessential food
conversations at work the other day. Now granted, I work in a nutrition
center so I am ALWAYS talking about food but this day was something to
write home about…. In 2013 this means blog about it or rather give me the
impetus to actually finally blog about what I talk, dream, think about all
the time.

So Mozambique was the crossroads of the spice trade. It s unique location
and history has made its food and culture an amalgamation of Portuguese,
Arab and Indian influences. The use of certain spices and plates are a
clear indication of that. Mozambique also used to be the largest exporter
of coconuts and the coastal towns enjoy fresh seafood. ( In Manjacaze,
about an hour from the coast we really only get one kind of fish from the
sea…carp and the lagoon offers a small fish that people usually dry and
sell on a stick). There are a few staple dishes in Mozambique that people
enjoy on a rotation with little to NO variation. They are the following:

Matapa: I compare this dish to a Mozambican creamy Pesto…it’s a ground
green,+ garlic+nut+coconut milk…conceptually like pesto right? What makes
it matapa is that they pound the leaves of cassava (mandioca) with garlic,
then simmer coconut milk and ground raw peanuts adding the leaves when the
base is thick and adding dried shrimp (if available) or even crab
(specialty on the coast). This is my favorite Mozambican dish. One of the
things Evan my sitemate has talked to people about is adding thehighly
nutritious plant moringa or swapping the cassava leaves for leaves of
another highly nutritious plant, that’s available year round and drough
resistant, called Chaya, but this raises a flag…” um that’s not matapa
then…” despite the similar taste results (or to us even better) that come
from adding another leaf this is not a really welcome change. While we
Americans might be open to an Arugula Walnut Pesto or whatever
fusion/modified classic, an Italian grandmother would probably say the
same.. That’s the thing about food, it carries with it cultural or
familial pride that when altered makes the product disingenuous. You really
just need to call it something else because otherwise its insulting…So we
refer to the matapa made with Chaya as machaya to indicate that its not
what they are used to but delicious in spite of the audacity and creative
license we took to mess with a challenge. We once told friends that we put
piri piri (pepper) in the matapa and were laughed at…then they said, “but
you americans are always inventing things!” I replied that may be, but also
someone here had to come up with the idea to use raw peanuts as a thickener
for stews….

Couve.. Similar to matapa, but uses collard greens, cut into rhythms.
Everyone literally does it the exact same way…down to the way they hold the
knife. Couve is joined with peanut flour and coconut milk and dried shrimp
if available.

Matsawu/Mboa- Again, like matapa, just using the greens of sweet potato or
a bean called nhemba. Cooked with coconut milk and peanut flour.

Feijoada- This bean dish is also popular in Brasil. Made with butter beans,
chicken feet and/or meat (if available), cabbage, carrots, peppers (some
combo of these veggies) and stewed low and slow for…ev…ver. Quite delicious

Xima- One of the staple carbs (besides rice and bread) a corn pap eaten
with stews, very filling but also often, served by the plateful (people
always look at me funny when I serve a fist sized portion of xima and 3x as
much stew)

Peanut fish/chicken stew- Chicken or Fish cooked in a stew with a base of
coconut milk and peanut flour or just peanut flour. Does not look too
appetizing but delicious!

Fish or chicken boiled with onions and tomato and potato- Pretty standard,
no frills.

Piri Piri- This pepper is made into a sauce/paste and added to dishes, and
though Moz is famous for it a lot of people don’t actually like it….I LOVE
IT.

Piri Piri Chicken- One of the most famous dishes, grilled chicken with piri
piri basting. YUM!

Pao (bread)- Portuguese rolls are all over and are usually what people eat
for breakfast with tea (cha). The bread is usually eaten plain or sometimes
with margarine if people can afford it, or salad with lettuce is in
season. Jam is a luxury item and peanut butter largely unknown.

Mozambicans enjoy their own PB sandwich which is comprised of Pao (bread)
and Badjias (fried bean mini patties). I LOVE PB sandes, but I have been
told that eating Pao and Badjias na rua (in the street) is something most
Mozambicans don’t do. As a matter of fact I mostly see men who work in
taxis or young boys eating it, and I RARELY see women eating in in the
streets like I do. Street food/eating on the go is not a thing here really.
A guy who works at an INGO said its kind of beneath them and they were
taught (by Portuguese he said) to be refined when eating, meaning sit down,
with utensils and eat off a plate. He also said we would never catch him
eating market food either. We as volunteers make outings out of eating
market food and PB is our standard travel food. I was standing roadside
the other day with Thomas, another volunteer, traveling home and we stopped
at a stand to get Pao e Badjias for lunch. A Mozambican family walked by
and the dad said to the daughter, “look at that white man eating pao e
badjias ” and the girl looked up and laughed.

That’s basically it for where I live. My province is the cashew and peanut
province. Peanuts are used widely in cuisine here and often when coconuts
are expensive people use peanut milk instead of coconut milk to thicken the
stews. Cashew trees abound in this region and my town used to have a large
cashew factory that employed over 500 people. The process of processing
cashews is time consuming and not easy. Raw unprocessed cashews are sold in
town but I have yet to see them sold processed in the market as in other
towns in my province or neighboring province and I have NEVER encountered
them in a prepared meal…. Cashews are my vice. For a while my addiction to
them had me spending about a third of my food allowance on them. I have
prepared them a few times and anyone who comes to visit me has as well
because it’s a fascinating process to experience and will change your view
on them. See this article for more…

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Visits from my Family!

9/7/2013

I left PST for Maputo to meet my sister who was in Mozambique for about 2
weeks. I met her at the airport Friday morning. I was SO happy to see her
when she came out in arrivals. The weeks leading up to her visit I hadn’t
fully registered that she was going to be HERE in MOZ until she was
actually here in moz. We left the airport for the hotel then headed
straight to the Fish Market, a tourist landmark, in a tuk tuk. There we
selected our fresh seafood lunch of crab, prawns, and squid, served with a
salad and fries. It was delicious. From there we headed to the French
Cultural center for an exhibit and some shopping- unfortunately a
“Bridesmaid” moment ensued….despite the “thunderbucket” (no doubt from the
salad at the fish market) situation, our stay in Maputo was simple and
short.


The next morning we got in a bus headed to north to head to my site.
We spent a few days in Manjacaze making rounds visiting my host families
and friends, worksite etc. It was wonderful to have her see my life. She
liked my humble abode and said “even though you don’t have much, you seem
to have everything you need” which was true. I wanted for almost nothing
(this being said, I have a trunk of chocolate and Guatemalan coffee I have
to ration) and had built something out of literally nothing….my first solo
home. She was warmly received by everyone in town and we were always
approached with the words “PARACIDAS” (look-a likes) or GEMIAS (Twins)
everyone was taken aback by this. We both had our hair in twists and wore
glasses and are the same height. Others remarked about how much lighter my
sister is, and how much my skin has been burned (this also equated youth
for some, and one person even said I didn’t grown up as well as she did
because her skin is lighter and clearer…ermmmm 0_o. )


We left my site to go further north, first to have a layover after 5
hours of travel in Maxixe with Lisa (a PCV from my group) then another 3
hours to Vilanculos, a beautiful beach. We made it there for the 4th of
July and spent it with Redeana (PCV and one of my best friends from my
group) and her brother and friend from home, Lauren (PCV from my group) and
2 other education volunteers. We had lunch at an RPCVs café, a delicious
burger, then an amazing seafood grill out of tuna, barracuda, shrimp and
squid that Readeana’s friends made. It was a chilly night but we managed.
The next day was even cooler so we walked about town and got some clothes
made. We tried lying on the beach but it was too cool. The next day was a
bit nicer so we went on a dhow (sailboat) safari to an island to go
snorkeling then have lunch. It was a day long trip. The snorkeling part to
me was cool for a few seconds but was kind of like a fire drill over all
because of the strength of the current and all. It was a bit hectic for
me. The island was beautiful though and we got to swim then have lunch and
then crash for a nap in the shade. We spent our last night dancing til the
sun came up at Afrobar then headed back south to Inhambane city/tofo for a
few days. Our days at tofo were spent relaxing and of course eating more
seafood. From Tofo we headed back to Maputo .


Travel was exhausting and a bit dramatic on this final leg but we finally
made it for a quick round at the craft market then a tearful goodbye…saying
bye was just as hard as it was last year but it was an amazing trip and I
am so glad she got to experience the good , bad and ugly of my life here!

A few weeks later, it was time for me to head back to the capital
to pick up my parents for a whirlwind week in Mozambique. Just like with my
sister, it had not really clicked within me that they were going to be in
my life here in Mozambique. I had a tight itinerary planned for them as
there was little time and I wanted them to see as much as possible and
suffer little on the transportation front. Because of this, we rented a
car for them to drive. I met my mom on a Sunday morning and was overcome
with happiness to see her. We went to the fish market for lunch but steered
clear of the salad this time. I even informed the waiter of our plight the
last time, because he remembered me and courted me back to his restaurant.
I even pleaded with him not to price gauge us on fries like before and he
agreed. It was again a delicious meal. We then headed back to the hotel
for a bit then walked around a little more before dinner. After a luxurious
night’s sleep and delicious buffet breakfast, we went to the airport to
pick up my dad. He strolled out into arrivals looking like Indiana Jones of
course, in his safari shirt, khaki pants and archaeologist/safari hat. I
couldn’t believe my parents were with me in Mozambique! From there we went
to pick up the rental car and make our way to Manjacaze.

We caravan-ed with my host family who happened to be returning to Manj that
afternoon too which was good because when the sun went down it was great to
have them as a guide. We went straight to the Nuns house because Sister
Alice (my supervisor) was leaving the next morning for dinner. She was
pretty shocked when she found out that they would be sleeping in my little
house, so much so that she looked to the other nuns and offered up rooms in
their house instead because my house with so small and she didn’t think it
had the conditions for them. I thanked her and said we might take her up on
it the next night. The look on my parents face when they walked in to my
house was pretty priceless and the quotes were quotable. They had a
different perspective than my sister’s first reaction for sure. As we
prepared for bed I showed them my ways in the evening and escorted them in
the dark of the night to my latrine and shower house to wash up (*note: I
still do not leave my house at night to go there alone*) They were in awe
of the brilliant night sky as stars you may never see in America were
shining bright like diamonds. My mom told me how brave I was to be living
alone in such a big yard, and yet understood why I pee in a bucket at
night. The next morning they saw my life in the limelight. They helped
fetch water from the well for their bucket baths and we set out to meet the
townsfolk, all excited to meet them. We walked my route to work, greeting
people as we made our ascent to the nutrition center and then to the
hospital to meet my colleagues and see my work.


That afternoon we visited the Indian family I spend quite a bit of time
with for lunch, then my Mozambican host families for the rest of the
afternoon. That evening, one of my counterparts prepared a grand Mozambican
meal featuring the traditional dishes for them to taste and they got to
help roast and de shell cashews, a very labor intensive process that will
change the way you think about cashews. The food was excellent and we
shared it with her, Evan, Ivy (my new Canadian sitemate) and another
neighbor/friend. That night they slept at the nuns house to be well rested
of the next day’s drive to Inhambane/Tofo. We stopped in the city for lunch
with Adela and Thomas, a quick walk around the city then headed to the
beach. We had an amazing room facing the ocean. We had a full day at the
beach the following day. They really enjoyed it and thought it was worth
the drive. They also got to meet some other volunteers from my group,
Alden, Lauren and Dan (whose family was also visiting). It was overall a
fantastic day!

The next day we unfortunately had to make the long haul drive back to
Maputo which is about 7hrs. Only our trip was prolonged with an inevitable
travel hiccup. We finally made it to our hotel late evening, in time for a
final dinner (seafood feast) together. The next morning we had a few
errands in the city then I said a very tearful goodbye to my parents.
Having them come experience a bit of my life here was incredibly profound
and the love and support they continue to give me while here means so much
to me. I was so happy they got to meet my friends and family here as they
have made such a permanent imprint in my life. I ultimately consoled
myself with the fact that I can and will in fact make it through another
year healthier and happy and that I will be coming to America this November
for THANKSGIVING!!!

0 notes &

Year one, Done

Started on…9/7/2013

Year one, done.

Well ladies and gents, I have been a PCV for one year…my one year
anniversary at site came on August 12th. It’s amazing to think about how
time has passed in this first year. An epic year, full of experiences to
fill a lifetime in some respects. It’s been an emotional roller coaster as
they say, highest highs and lowest lows, without a doubt. In my metaphor of
peace corps service as a lifetime, 2 years per month, I will finally catch
up to my actual age this month- 26 (on another note, how is this happening?
I don’t even remember feeling/being 25 and 24 was kind of blur too because
of this Peace Corps life cycle). Truth be told in some ways I feel more
like my actual age too here. I spent the first year growing up again in a
different context. From being a scared young child, to a teen mom (with a
puppy) to a more matured, learned young adult I am what could and can be my
prime, in the real world and peace corps world. I have learned the ropes of
life here and am un-phased by much. Furthermore, now that I have
established a groove, I can be a more productive volunteer in this next
stage, knowing who to work with, how to work with them and always reminding
myself not to want it more than others do. My expectations have been
appropriately managed leading me to have few real disappointments and let
downs which is good. My overall lack of planning has had both advantages
and disadvantages but overall it suited me for my first year at least. I
know can set more attainable goals here and for life after PC.

I have been MIA the past few months because I have been pretty busy. I
will give a quick update of what I have been up to,

· &;&;At the end of June I attended the new health cohorts training for
a week as a peace corps training leader. I went back to our training
village, Namaacha, during HIV week, to assist the new volunteers during
their training sessions. It was a great experience and I was honored to be
selected to assist and to share a bit of my story. To me, volunteers’
presence during PST was one of the best parts. I never had many dire
questions because I knew their experience would be totally different from
mine, but listening to their stories and strategies was very valuable. As a
visiting volunteer you have to be conscious about the way you describe you
service so I took care to give a balanced yet honest perspective. I got to
go back to my host moms house and visit her (she went on and on about me to
the new volunteer staying with her and I had to assure her that its just
because I was her first) but it felt good to hear how proud she is of me!
She’s a wonderful woman. I also got to meet an outgoing volunteer (Moz
16er) from the north and we shared the week in the little visiting PCV
cottage. I really enjoyed meeting Moz 20, they are a wonderful, dynamic
group that I am happy to share year 2 of my service with!

· &;&; Saying goodbye to the Moz 16ers…. They were my big brothers
and sisters in this crazy mixed up life here.

· &;&;Visits from my family!! (see other post)

· &;&;&; Coming together with the rest of my group for our mid-service
conference in August in Maputo, was a great week. It gave us an opportunity
to reunite and share experiences of our first years and help each other
plan for a second year of service. We also went through our rounds of
doctors and dentist appointments and a chat with our directors about
whatever we wanted to discuss. Apart from admin stuff, we got a chance to
catch up with each other, eat ate our favorite restaurants and indulge in
capital luxuries.

· &;&; I started planning my final masters project. As a Masters
International MPH volunteer, I will finish my last few credits with a
directed study project. I decided to do a Knowledge, Attitudes and
Practices survey on HIV knowledge and the traditional practice of Kutchinga
(widow cleansing). I wrote the survey with the help of one of my
counterparts and a neighbor and then set about deciding on a community to
work in. My neighborhood chief, and a manager at a health NGO helped me
decide upon a community (see notes from the field for more).

· &;&; Peanut Butter making…working on the community outreach element
of the center supported by making and selling peanut butter.

· &;&; Writing the final report for our embassy grant.

· &;&; I am between houses, early precipitated but it’s happening. I
have kind of been an IDP but the conditions are the best case scenario! The
surreal life. I have been living with another volunteer from Canada. It’s
been fun and definitely a 180 from my early chapters here at site.

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