21 December 2011


Thank God I'm Home.

There was a terrible chapa (mini-bus) accident in Gaza province yesterday that injured three volunteers and killed two others.  One of the volunteers that died was going to fill my position teaching biology in the Chimundo secondary school.

It's so tragic, I can hardly believe it.  It's just sickening that in Mozambique, car accidents kill more people than AIDS and malaria combined.  I am grateful to have made it home safely, and almost feel guilty that this happened to the young woman that was going to replace me, that she was robbed of that experience and the innumerable others that happen throughout a lifetime.  I ask that you keep these volunteers and their families in your thoughts and/or prayers.

Much love, and happy holidays.

13 October 2011

Isn't It Pretty to Think So?

At last, here we are; Erica and I are in Maputo, on our way up and out. Our National Science Fair was a success, my beach vacation with my brother and sister-in-law was delightful, and my last trimester disappeared in a haze of grades and goodbyes. Everything is unraveling and wrapping up, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. As it should be—I am leaving behind two years of teaching, bucket baths, latrines, Portuguese, malaria prophylaxis, unbearable heat, and unforgettable events, taking with me my memories, my souvenirs, my remembrances, my extensive capulana collection, and my… favorite clothing. (After all, I wasn’t planning on coming all the way to Mozambique and looking like a die-hard hiker/camper/REI model for two years.)

To respond to the yet-unasked question that I’m certain to hear, I can’t say that this experience has necessarily changed me, but instead, it’s made certain beliefs and characteristics stronger, like the single frown line inherited from my father that has been etched deeper by the African sun. I can probably say that I’ve become more myself, as we are all wont to do with time, and yet looking at the experiences that tie together all humanity, African, American, Asian, or Australian, I imagine I’ve also become more like everyone else. Which is just fine with me; for the most part, I’d say I’m in good company.

25 August 2011

Pre-Exodus Plague

On Tuesday, the day before Erica and I would be leaving to put on our first-ever National Science Fair, the first words I heard upon waking were Erica's, "You have got to be kidding me."  The second thing I heard in my semi-conscious haze was a low buzzing noise.  And thus began Tuesday's adventures, or as I like to think of it, the first omen telling us to go home.
We found a small swarm of bees congregating on our windowsill, and since Erica's allergic to bee stings, I started a small fire in our living room to smoke out the suckers.  Once they dispersed and began moving more slowly, I gave them a good dousing of insect killer and kept it up until just a few strays remained.  Not the most humane solution, but what else could we do?  There aren't a whole lot of extermination services in the area; as a matter of fact, there are exactly zero.  Thirty minutes later, reeking of a toxic combination of smoke and hazardous chemicals, with smoke-induced tears streaming down my face, I thought I could claim victory as mine, but it was not so.  Within the hour, we saw a new regiment of bees entering one by one through the metal roof of our excellently-constructed [sarcasm] home.  Going outside to investigate, we saw a much larger host of bees congregating on our roof, presumably building a nest there.  For the next hour and a half, the dull, growing buzz grated on my nerves until they were whittled to a fragile switch, which is always a good way to start five hours of teaching [more sarcasm].  Erica and her school director hunted down a beekeeper, but he didn't make it to our house until we'd already left for Science Fair.  Our empregada Luisa informed us that the bees had already moved out by the time the beekeeper came today, but we won't really know for sure until returning home on Monday.  Our backup plans are either to stay at the nearby Millennium Village (a quiet neighborhood lacking shrill banshee children) or book it out of Chibuto and bum around the beaches for the next several weeks.  It almost certainly won't come to that, but it's nice to have a battle plan.  Flight.

15 August 2011

The End Has No End

The final trimester has begun! Summer is coming around again and Mozambique is slowly warming up. I'm making packing lists and getting things ready for the next volunteer. Everything in our lives is leading up to our homecoming in another two months. We will be leaving Mozambique in the third week of October and I should hopefully be home just before my 26th birthday. Words can't express how happy I will be to be home for my birthday; the prospect of spending three birthdays in Mozambique was dreary at best. After spending a weekend with family, I'm flying back to NYC to spend a week with Erica, where we'll pamper ourselves, get haircuts and buy new clothes that aren't threadbare from handwashing. These efforts will be preemptive actions to prevent hearing, "You were in the Peace Corps? I could see that."
We have a few more events to squeeze in before saying our goodbyes. I finally made it back to Namaacha to visit my host family this weekend, which was nice. Our first ever National Science Fair will take place in Beira in another week, and things are finally coming together. It will be nice to have an opportunity to make it up to central Mozambique, because with our teaching schedules, we haven't done as much traveling in Mozambique as we'd hoped (this country is huge, and I haven't made it past the southern region since training). My brother and sister-in-law will come to Mozambique in September, and I am thrilled to have one last beach vacation before heading home, especially since Erica and I were sick and didn't get to do any traveling during our week-long trimester break. Hopefully we'll get together with our nearby PCVs for one last get-together in Xai-Xai, and then we'll be packing up our things and our animals, homeward bound!
Thankfully, I think I can say that I'll be leaving Mozambique with few regrets; I wish I would have taken more pictures of my colleagues and students during the first year, I regret not eating more mangoes during the last mango season (neighborhood kids stole all of ours), I wish I would've practiced violin more often, I regret not writing letters this year (postage prices tripled), and I would have liked to spend more time with some PCV friends, particularly those that are already stateside. But, c'est la vie, assím é a vida. So it goes. On the flip side, I learned how to play guitar, did some drawing and painting, baked a cake every Wednesday, read 57 books (and counting), made several pieces of clothing by hand, and formed rewarding relationships with colleagues, neighbors, and students. After two years here, I think that's a respectable assessment.

Things I am looking forward to at home (in no particular order):
  • hot showers and baths
  • cheese and milk
  • ice cream!
  • not feeling like I've narrowly escaped disaster every time I step out of a motor vehicle
  • white Christmas
  • celebrating holidays with friends and family
  • Target
  • coffee
  • public radio
  • fun restaurants
  • snack food, granola bars, and breakfast cereal
  • not having a trail of children asking me for candy and money when I leave the house
  • not having a group of children hollering for candy and crayons when I'm in the house
  • punctuality and accountability
  • playing piano (and on occasion, the accordion)
  • having more than two friends nearby
  • leaving the house past 6 PM
  • having things to do past 6 PM
  • not needing to do sweeping cockroach extermination on a regular basis
  • watching media on something other than a 10-inch laptop screen
Little things I'll miss:
  • the occasional lost chicken that waltzes into the house and sets the dogs into a frenzy
  • walking through the beautiful, underdeveloped matu for 40 minutes every day on my way to and from school
  • the vibrant colors--rust sand, sky blue, verdant fruit trees
  • having ample free time
  • feeling comfortable with silence and utter inactivity
  • fresh papaya, mango, passionfruit, pineapple, tangerines, oranges, coconuts, and... all of the other yummy fruits that don't even have names in English
  • brushing my teeth under the stars every night
    And here's a brief look back, a few pictures from the last few months that fill in some of the gaps:  my boyfriend serenading Erica and the dogs on her birthday (he doesn't actually play the guitar); my students tearing it up with a cultural dance; a woman in the market selling papayas the size of basketballs; Erica cooking by headlamp on a night with no electricity (my headlamp bit the dust--I unfortunately dropped it in the latrine); my Geração Biz students performing their theater piece; three of my students who dropped by for a visit.

    14 July 2011

    My Extraterrestrial Mozambique

    Suddenly, I have just three months left in Mozambique, and I once again have to borrow from Kurt Vonnegut, once again from Slaughterhouse-Five, to best describe the feeling. This passage comes from the extraterrestrials’ description of their reading experiences, and aside from the context, it relates pretty well to how I feel while looking back at my time here.

    … There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.
    I’ve been feeling nostalgic for the last two weeks, caught in a wash of moments and memories. I am typically awakened from my reverie either by an inquisitive cockroach edging towards my glass or by a small neighbor child hollering for candy or crayons in a shrill voice at our door. So while I am seeing my time in Mozambique slip away, day by day, part of me is also racing towards my imminent return home. I’ve learned and enjoyed many things here, but I’m looking forward to going home and feeling like a whole person again, a fully-functioning member of society, back in the comfort of my familiar cultural context, back in the company of family and friends.

    Things are going just fine here. The second trimester is wrapping up—the exams have been given, the averages have been calculated, and we’ll have our conselhos in another two weeks. We’ll have our provincial science fair this weekend and start planning for the national fair, coming up on its heels in August. My Geração Biz students have been presenting at school events and will do their theater pieces and lectures during their biology lessons next week. When we’re not doing something with our projects or schoolwork, we’re typically just trying to keep warm—this winter has been downright chilly! Fifty degrees Fahrenheit feels much colder when it’s damp and windy and there’s no insulation or heating. I’m going to be in for a brutal shock when I face the first Midwestern winter in 3 years. Good thing I’ll be too busy soaking up everything America to notice.