December 31, 2012

Finally some pictures!

I thought it would be nice to put some pictures up for the facebookless to see.  I hope everyone has a great New Year!

Also, you all get to read this blog to get updates from me about my life here in Mozambique, but I don't know what's going on in most of your lives.  So you should email me and summarize the goings on of the past few months in America. :) (My email is listed under the 'Contact Me' section of this blog.)

After officially swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers in Mozambique.  These are my two closest friends in Mozambique, Maggie (on the left) and Hannah (on the right).  They are wonderful, but both super far away from me. :(

The Catholic church in Messica.

My adorable neighbors.
Messica! Beautiful views. :)

One of our markets in Messica.

Manica Bread. :)
The town of Messica!
Example of a fully stocked stand in the market.  This is taken at the other market in Messica.

Some random guys at the market that wanted their picture taken.
Also,  this stand is where Sarah and I normally buy  our rice. :)

Messica is on a map! So exciting!

December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!  Since my last post, things have been a little bit crazy.  As I wrote at the end of my last post, there were 15 of us staying in a three bedroom, one bathroom house for 4 days to spend Christmas together in Chimoio.  Everyone left this morning to go back to their respective sites, and I'm just staying in Chimoio a bit longer to milk the free wireless internet in the Peace Corps office for all it's worth.  :)

So in my last post I wrote about half of my trip to the clinic.  After my post, however, things got a little crazy.    I went back to the clinic and the doctor told me that the blood tests were all negative (I think they were checking for infection), so he gave me a prescription for some pain medication that I had to go pick up at the pharmacy.  Ofelio took me to the pharmacy, and got the medicine for me, but when I looked at the medicine, they were in glass vials that were completely enclosed.  I asked Ofelio what the medicine was and how it is administered, but he said that he didn't know and that I had to go back to the clinic and ask.  Upon returning to the clinic, I was informed that the vials were actually injections that I had to return to the clinic daily (for the next 9 days) to have administered.  Icing on the cake: the injections have to be in the ass.   So that was lovely.  Merry Christmas to me.

I went back to Messica on Friday afternoon, and returned to Chimoio bright and early on Saturday for my second injection. I have been in Chimoio ever since Saturday, and will be going back to Messica today (they will administer my last shot at the clinic in Messica).  So the guys at the clinic know me now, and when I walk in they just follow me to the room,  give me the shot, and I'm on my way.

Everyone else started arriving for Christmas on Saturday as well, and by Monday all 15 of us were in Chimoio. On Christmas day I went to mass with a couple other PCVs.  The service was great, but also incredibly long and HOT.  We didn't realize that it would be held outside, so I lacked to bring a bottle of water or put on sunscreen.  Whoops.  Also, there were about 50 baptisms, which added approximately an hour to the length of mass.  It was a little rough.  But it was also really cool.  Throughout the mass whenever I thought about how miserably hot I was, I remembered how awesome it is that I'm able to have this experience.  Also, there was a huge line of offerings and it was truly humbling to see people who don't have much give what they do have to Jesus.  :) Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Anyway, Christmas was very much different than what I am used to, but I had a great time with everyone here.  It was just super strange to Skype everyone while they were together and feel so removed.  It sounds like everyone in Ohio had a white Christmas, while I have been sweating over here like it's my job.

For New Years, Sarah and I are going to stay in Messica and try to find a family to take us in. It should be fun. :)

Hopefully I'll find out what grade I'll be teaching and be able to start lesson planning soon.  Sarah and I are going to help make the teacher's schedule next week, so I should also know my school schedule soon.  School starts in mid-January, so until then I'll be hanging out, reading some books, and washing laundry by hand.  Sounds like fun, right?

December 21, 2012

My first solo adventure

Right now I am sitting in the air conditioned Peace Corps office in Chimoio.  That has a toilet that flushes.  Man, I am feeling spoiled today.  Anyway, I am here in Chimoio because I had an appointment this morning at the clinic to check out some back pain I've been having the past couple of days. Of course, I know that this back pain is probably never going to go away, but it was getting hard to breathe there for awhile, so I figured it would be best to get it checked out.

So this morning I made the trip into Chimoio from Messica.  Alone.  On a chapa full of Mozambicans.  When I got to the chapa stop in Messica at 7:00 this morning, there was an almost packed chapa waiting to head out to Chimoio.  I got the seat right by the door (with a window), so I thought it was a pretty good location.  Boy, was I wrong.  Turns out that whenever anyone had to get out, I had to move.  Also, whenever they wanted to cram a couple more people in, I was the one that had my little leg room robbed from me.  Whenever I thought there was no possible way that anyone else could fit in the chapa, I was proven wrong.  It was quite incredible, really.  Like I've been telling everyone I have talked to on Skype, you don't know what you've got until it's gone.  And when it comes to transportation in America verses transportation in Mozambique, whoa is that the truth.

Anyway, so after about 45 minutes in the chapa, when I was stopping to let the guy next to me out, I realized that the exact place where we were was about a 2 minute walk from the Peace Corps office.  So that worked out well!  Then I proceded to waste time on Facebook and such when I was waiting for PC staff member, Ofelio, to take me to the clinic. 

Upon arriving at the clinic, I realized that Ofelio definitely wasn't going to be translating for I had to figure out how to say everything I wanted to in Portuguese.  So that was a fun realization.  They took me back to get my weight and I promptly heard "Oh, you weigh a lot," which is always super awesome to be told.  They took my blood pressure, and then I waited to see the doctor.  The doctor ordered some x-rays and a blood test, and I was there for approximately 2 hours to have all of that done.  I was pretty proud of myself for communicating everything correctly (mais ou menos) and the doctor couldn't believe that I was 21 years old, from America, and living in Mozambique.  He told me I am very courageous. :)

Anyway, I got my x-rays back and the doctor told me he sees where the problem is, but I am still waiting for the results from the blood tests.  I have to go back to the clinic in about 20 minutes to see if they've drawn any conclusions.  I don't know what the outcome is going to be, but today's been quite the adventure already and it's only noon.

Also, super exciting news!  Almost all of the central Moz 19 volunteers are meeting in Chimoio for Christmas, so I'll be able to see everyone and hear how their sites are! I am so excited.

It doesn't feel much like Christmas here, but hopefully once everyone gathers in Chimoio it will feel a little more Christmasy.  Everyone eat some Christmas cookies and drink some apple cider/Starbucks for me...

December 16, 2012

Some Sounds of Mozambique

  • Freaking goats. All the time. They are loud and obnoxious and EVERYWHERE. Currently our neighbors have a goat that they tie to the tree that is between our front doors. The goat likes to go under our gate and sit in our yard and makes the LOUDEST noises. It also conveniently likes to make the most noise at 5 am. Lovely. I've been told that the goat will only be around until Christmas, when it will be killed and eaten for Christmas dinner. I promptly told my neighbors that I want to help kill it. Never thought I'd say that about a living thing, but that goat just gets under my skin.
  • Roosters. Almost as bad as the goats. They don't just make ridiculous amounts of noise in the morning, it is non-stop. And our fence does not keep them out of our yard, so conveniently enough they can make lots of noise from right outside my window. Excellent.
  • Blasting music. Mozambicans like their music, and they also like blaring it. Most of it is American music, and they probably don't realize that swear words are flying all over the place in the songs.
  • Children. Either crying, screaming, or playing.
  • Howling dogs. These were much more common in Namaacha. They would howl at 10 o'clock at night for at least an hour. It was lovely.
  • Rats/Bats. This is an occurrence in my new house. At night there is a crazy squeaking noise that comes from the ceiling, so I'm assuming it's either rats or bats and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it. I am terrified that they come into my room, so I just hide in my bed with my mosquito net tucked in and pretend not to hear it.
  • Flies. Buzzing around your head, in your ears, landing all over your body. It's especially bad right now because it's mango season. And though I absolutely love mangoes, I absolutely hate the flies.
  • Singing. Lots of times there will be church choirs that you can hear at like 10 at night, which is quite beautiful. There are also lots of people that just sing to themselves as they walk. I like it. :)

December 13, 2012

Chegamos em Messica!

Well this blog post is extremely delayed so I apologize for that, but as you can imagine life has been pretty crazy recently.  Since I've last written a blog post, I have left Namaacha and my wonderful host family, traveled to Maputo and officially swore-in  to the Peace Corps, said goodbye to my closest friends that were placed in the north, flew to Chimoio, met the pedagogical director of my school and had a two day conference with him, was driven to Messica with my roommate, moved into my new house, and am currently securing my house with window locks, new door locks, etc.  Pretty crazy stuff.  So I'm going to try to start from where I left off-ish, and I'll quickly recap what's been going on.

Leaving Namaacha.  What a weird situation.  All of our bags had been picked up prior to us leaving, so last Tuesday morning when I woke up I only had my backpack to bring with me on the chapa.  It was really strange because I felt like I was leaving the house for class.  And Walmer is the cutest ever, so  you can probably imagine how hard it was to leave him.  He was crying as I left, and my family said it was because I was leaving, but I'm pretty sure he was just hungry or something.  Anyway, leaving itself was pretty anti-climactic, I just said goodbye and left.  They don't so much do the hug thing in Mozambique, which was kind of strange for me.  Also, both Didinha and Nucha were taking Chemistry national exams on Tuesday, so they were a little sidetracked by studying and such.

The Peace Corps picked the math people up close to my house, and we headed to Maputo for swearing-in.   There was a lot of traffic going into Maputo, so we ended up arriving  late to our own ceremony.  Swearing-in was held at the U.S. Ambassador's house.  All of the PCT's wore at least one  piece of clothing made out of the same capulana, so we all matched (as you will be able to see when I am able to post pictures).  The ceremony included speeches by the PC Country Director for Mozambique, the U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, one of my fellow trainees,  and a representative from Mozambique's Ministry of Education.   There were a bunch of fellow PCVs (most of them were closing their two years of service in Mozambique) and RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) in attendance.  After the ceremony, we had a small reception, and then were taken to our hotels for the night.

We were separated by region into three different hotels in Maputo, so I was in the central hotel called Villa das Mangas. It was super fancy, and I was really excited to take a shower.  With running water.  Ohhh yeahhh.  After dinner that night, everyone met at a small bar to hang out one last time together.  After a crazy night, there was a sad goodbye with all of the people staying in the southern part of Mozambique for service.  A  large majority of our group is in the northern part of Mozambique, and there are 19 of us in central Mozambique.  I didn't have to say goodbye to the people going to the north until the next day at the airport.
I was freaking out at the airport because my bags were overweight and I was still waiting to get my boarding pass 20 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave.  When I made it through security, I had to say goodbye to my closest friends in Mozambique.  So that was less than enjoyable.  Luckily, my flight left 45 minutes late, so we had more time to hang out in the airport.  Eventually the time came that we had to board our flight.  A bus took us from the gate to the plane.  The plane probably had about 13 rows of seats, 2 on one side of the aisle, and 1 on the other.  The propellers were right outside my window (of course), so by the end of the flight my ears were basically bleeding.  It was an enjoyable 2 hour flight.

When we arrived in Chimoio, we got our bags and headed to the hotel.  After check in, we had a quick meeting,  then had the day to explore Chimoio.  I had some issues with my bank card, so I had to go to the bank and try to  get those resolved (two days later, they were), and then I went to get something  to eat.  I ordered a greek salad at a restaurant and  an hour later they came out to tell me that they didn't have the greek salad.  Umm...really?  Not cool.  Anyway, long story short, I didn't get to eat anything.  So I bought some bread that Namaacha bread would put to shame, and walked the 40 minutes back to the hotel.

The next day, our Supervisor's Conference started, where a representative from our school came into Chimoio to learn about the Peace Corps and how he could help us integrate into the communities.  The pedagogical director for  11th and 12th grade from the Secondary School of Messica came as our representative, and he was a super nice guy.  We got to ask him a little bit about Messica and the school. He told me that I will able to teach math, so that was really exciting news.  We also got to talk to the Peace Corps housing coordinater who told us that our house had three bedrooms, running water, and electricity. :)

While we were in Chimoio, my roommate Sarah and I bought mattresses for our beds, pots, pans, basins for cleaning, an oven/stove combo, an electric kettle, etc.  Basically, just things we knew that we would need because we were opening a new site in a city that has never had a volunteer.

So after Supervisor's Conference, it came time to leave Chimoio and head to Messica.  Sarah and I packed up the Peace Corps vehicle that was taking us, and headed west from Chimoio toward Messica.  (By the way, Messica is pronounced with the emphasis on the i, not on the doesn't rhyme with Jessica...)  After about 45 minutes, we arrived at our house and quickly unpacked everything.  The Peace Corps left, and all of a sudden we were alone in Mozambique.

After cleaning the whole house, we unpacked a little, and headed to the market to get some food and also to find our way around.  Messica is such a cute little town.  It has two markets that are relatively large, and I can get most things here.  If I want specialty items, I might have to make a trip into Chimoio or Manica.  Manica is a city on the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe and it is only a 30 minute chapa ride away.  Chimoio is a little farther, but it is also bigger.  Regardless, if I ever need/want anything I am within an hour from access to it.

That first day,  a carpenter came to fix the locks on our metal grates on our doors to make sure that we could shut and lock them.  He ended up having to come back the following day to finish the work because he didn't have the right tools to fix it.  The next day when he came back, he brought his brother, Inoque, with him.  Inoque has turned out to be a great resource to Sarah and I.  He helped us find someone to fix our window locks and get some screens put in our windows, and he bought new glass for the windows in my room that are currently cracked.  He took us to Manica today to show us around so that we can go whenever we want and be comfortable in the city.  He also said that tomorrow he's going to have us over to his house to meet his family, and he's offered his fridge to us to use whenever we need to keep things cold.

I also ventured to church on Sunday, which was an interesting experience.  I left really early, because I had been told at least 4 different times that church started, and I also had no idea where it was.  In Mozambique, people just know where things are, so they have no concept of giving directions.  They just point in a direction and  say "la"  which is helpful about 10 percent of the time.  After finding the church, I was told it started at 8 and it was 7:20.  The church wasn't even unlocked.  I waited for the church to be unlocked, and at about 7:30 I went in.  The church was a lot different than Namaacha's.  There were no pews, more like benches with no backs and no kneelers.  Also, when I went into the church, I sat down and started reading my bible.  Everyone else that came in knelt down to pray and when they finished, they left the church again.  I was sitting alone for the church for an absurdly long time.  It was really strange.  At about 8:45, people started to come into the church and started singing.  I was really confused again because when mass started, there was no priest.  I thought he was just running late, but it turns out that they can only have an actual mass every once in a while when they have a priest.  The rest of the time, they have a celebration which just includes the liturgy of the word and sign of peace.  I found this really interesting.  After mass, they made me introduce myself in front of the whole church (how embarrassing).  Then when I was walking out, the only other white person in the whole church came up and started to talk to me.  It turns out that he's Portuguese, but has lived in Mozambique for the past 50 years.  He was a really interesting person to talk to.  I also met some of my neighbors that morning at church and walked home with them.  They showed me the shortcuts to my house. :)

Overall, I feel like I will really like it here.  Most of the people I've encountered are very friendly.  I know that my Portuguese has already improved in being here and away from all of the English speaking PCVs.  I am excited to continue to explore and meet new people here.  Also I'm excited to learn to cook!  I really have no alternative considering  there are no microwavable meals here.

I have a new address now that I posted on the Contact Me link at the top of the page.  Beware that I have currently only gotten one package and one letter from the states.  The mail here is slower than the slowest thing you could possibly think of.  So that's frustrating, but it's just one more test of my patience.

Our House! (and my roommate, Sarah!)

November 24, 2012

Model School, Thanksgiving, and Maputo

There is a lot to update about this week.  This past week was our first try at teaching in a Mozambican classroom setting in the form of model school.  The schedule for it was a big mess and changed about five thousand times, but when it was finalized, I was told that I would be teaching a class on Wednesday, one on Friday, and two this coming Monday.  However, when we got to model school on Monday there was an empty slot in one of the 8th grade classes, so I was asked to fill it.  I couldn't exactly say no since I was just observing someone else, so on the spot I went into the room and started giving the lesson that I had planned for Wednesday.  Surprisingly enough, I gave a lesson on slope of linear functions in Portuguese relatively successfully.  Yeah, I was shocked too.  I felt like my class Wednesday went a little worse, because I had time to psych myself out, and I could say the same thing about Friday's lesson.  But after my lesson on Friday, my students knew how to graph a function of the form y = 4 and x = 4, so I felt pretty accomplished.  I have two more lessons to give on Monday, and those are my last big assignments before I am done with training. CRAZY!

All of the PCT's celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday with our language professors, and lots of the Peace Corps country staff.  We had around 100 people total.  10 turkeys, lots of mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, salad, pumpkin pie, brownies (that I helped make), chocolate chip cookies, pecan pie, apple crisp. Yeahhhhh, it was a feast. And it was sooooooooo good. :)  Seriously, such a good day.  We had so much food left over that I brought home two huge tupperware containers of food so that my host family could have Thanksgiving dinner too!  They loved the food, and apparently now I have to teach them how to make the mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Today I went to Maputo with some other volunteers (by ourselves!), and it was a very long but successful day.  First, I bought the modem that I'm using to post this blog.  I can now use my own computer to post blogs and send emails, which is super exciting.  I ate pizza for lunch and bought a donut which was probably the best thing I've ever eaten.  I also bought capulanas for my host family for going away gifts, a surge protector, and I tried to find an external hard drive/external memory for my computer, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't exist in Mozambique (or it's way more than I would ever pay).  My external hard drive is doing crazy things and won't let me take anything off of it, or put anything on it, or do anything with that's fun.  But it's not the end of the world.  I'm going to put some media on the actual hard drive of my computer and call it a day.

So, it was a successful day.  Time is going so  fast now, especially since I'm quickly approaching the time where I will have to say goodbye to my new friends who will be in the northern provinces of Mozambique (days of travel away from me).  But I'm also super excited to be going to site soon, seeing where I'll be living, and getting accustomed to my new life for the next two years.  :)

Important things coming up:
December 4th: Leaving Namaacha and officially swearing in to the Peace Corps
December 8-9th: Messica! :)

November 18, 2012

Pictures and Site Announcements!

November 17th, 2012

It was an exciting week to be a PCT in Mozambique because this week we got site placements.  I found out that I will be going to a town called Messica in the Manica province of Mozambique.   I will be living with another PCT, Sarah, and will be teaching math at the secondary school (8th through 12th grade) in Messica.  We will be opening a site in Messica,  meaning that the Peace Corps has not yet had a volunteer in this town.  Apparently the town has wanted a PCV for a long time, but they never had the means to provide housing for a volunteer.  I am told that our house is "very nice," but I have absolutely no idea what that means.  I am also told that Messica is about an hour from Chimoio, which is the provincial capital of Manica, and also home to one of the three Peace Corps offices in Mozambique (which has air conditioning and wi-fi).  All of the volunteers that visited Chimoio for site visits only have great things to say about the city including that it's a lot more safe than Maputo and has two large grocery stores, which is quite reassuring.  I really have no idea what to expect living  or community-wise, considering we have gotten no information about Messica, but I am just so excited to get there and see what it's like.   

On Monday we start model school which is an opportunity to get in front of Mozambican students that volunteer to attend our lessons.  I will be teaching 4 classes of 8th grade math and giving 2 different lessons.  My first lesson isn't until Wednesday of next week, so I get a couple of days to watch some other lessons and make sure I have mine well planned out.  I probably should be more nervous than I'm feeling right now, but I've already practiced giving my lesson twice now in language class so I'm have a decent grasp on the Portuguese I need to deliver it.

Speaking of Portuguese, I found out that I scored an Intermediate-High level on my LPI practice,  which is good enough for me.  Intermediate-Mid and lower have language class every day from 1:30-5:30.  I'm a little sad that I missed out on extra language help, but I'm glad that my language is progressing.

We leave for swearing in to the Peace Corps on December 3rd.  Whoa, that's coming up really fast.  My host sister, Nucha, says she's going to come visit when I get to site and I really hope she does (even though my site is probably at least 20 hours of travel from Namaacha).  I really want to be the one to cook for her, heat her water for the bath, and do all of the things that she does for me now that she probably thinks I don't appreciate.  I love living here, but I'm ready to have some independence and do things my own way.

Tomorrow I'm going to church with some other PCT's, and then we're going to head to the cascadas (waterfalls) in Namaacha.  Time is flying by here,  but I feel like these next two weeks might be sluggish since I'm anticipating what comes next.

My house!

A chapa.  We fit at least 20 people in this thing.  4 people per row, 4 rows of people, and many times even more.

My host sister, Nucha, killing a chicken.  The other one my mae already killed.

My host nephew, Walmer.  Sorry, I can't figure out how to turn the picture, but you get the idea, he's freaking cute.

The beach at Xai Xai.  First time at the Indian Ocean.

The waterfalls of Namaacha!

November 11, 2012


November 8th, 2012
My site visit was freaking awesome.  I left Saturday for Chongoene.  We boarded a chapa from Namaacha to Maputo at 5 am, and when we got to Maputo it was a little crazy.  We were dropped off at Junta, which is basically an insane chapa terminal with chapas departing for many different cities and people EVERYWHERE trying to sell you things, shoving things in your face, etc.  Luckily, the volunteer that I was staying with (Michelle) was visiting training for the week, so she was traveling back to her site with us.  That made me a little less nervous about the whole traveling around Mozambique thing.  In Junta, she led us to the chapa that was headed to Xai Xai, the provincial capital of Gaza.  We had to wait about 45 minutes for the chapa to be stuffed full of 20 people, and then we headed out.  Let me stress again how uncomfortable chapa seating is.  Luckily, our ride was only about 3 hours to Xai Xai.  Some other volunteers had rides that were up to 14 hours long. No thank you. 
After arriving in Xai Xai, we did some shopping and ate lunch (I had pizza -- it was delicious).  Then we boarded yet another chapa to get from Xai Xai to Chongoene, which only took about 45 minutes.  Michelle lives right on the school's property in a little house, which is both good and bad.  Good because the school is so close, bad because you have next to no privacy.  We were like a tourist attraction for the week.  All  the kids of the town were not shy about coming onto the porch and gawking into the house, checking out the white people in town.  It was cute at first but got old really fast.   Another thing to mention about the house is that it had an outdoor pit latrine/bathroom.  This was not particularly interesting to the other trainees there, but I have been spoiled with my indoor bathroom and toilet, so it was a new experience for me.  When taking a bath my first night in Chongoene by candlelight, I accidentally put the candle too close to the toilet paper and ended up starting a little fire.  Whoops.  I put it out, but it was definitely a memorable experience of tomar banho-ing for the first time outside at night.
On Sunday, we went to the beach at Xai Xai, so we took a chapa into the city and then had to catch another chapa to the beach.  The chapa to Xai Xai was fine, but on the chapa to the beach, there were so many people trying to get there that we ended up standing for over 20 minutes on the chapa.  That was an experience.  I was all up on people I'd never met, and that's completely normal in a standing chapa situation.  It's just something to get used to.
The rest of the week, we stayed in Chongoene.  We met the director of the high school,  some students, and many other community members.  One thing I love about Mozambique is that whenever you meet someone here or whenever you go to someone's house, it is customary to serve your guests tea or a snack/meal of some sort. Even though Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, they want to give what they have to their guests and treat them well.  It is the most important thing to them.  Sometimes it can be a little much, especially when you've just finished a big meal or you just want to quickly stop by, but overall the gesture is one that means a lot and should be appreciated.  We were definitely shown much hospitality in Chongoene and I absolutely loved it.
The past week has been a great break from training.  I got to cook some American food, get out and see more of Mozambique, and get some travel experience without the guidance of the Peace Corps.  I missed my host family, but so far the site visit might have been my favorite part of training.  Just seeing how Michelle interacts with her community and how much she knows about Mozambique makes me so excited to jump in and get my hands dirty.
So now that I've seen a volunteer's actual site, I have a much clearer picture of things I might want for my own site.  We have interviews with Associate Peace Corps Directors on Monday, and then we find out where we are placed on Wednesday.  Training has seriously flown by, but I am so anxious to know where I'll be spending the next 2 years!

November 2, 2012

Quick Update

There are some exciting things going on over here, so I thought I'd write a quick blog to keep everyone informed.  First, we have site visits this week!  I leave tomorrow morning at 4:30 am to travel to Gaza province to a place called Chongoene to stay with a current volunteer and two other trainees for 5 days.  The idea is to get a feel for the site that the current volunteer lives and be able to have a better idea of what we might want/prefer at our own site.  This is super exciting for many reasons, but the biggest ones are the fact that we get to eat whatever we want for 5 days, hang out and see what being a PCV is really like, and get to see what other parts of Mozambique actually look like.
Also, today we had our LPI, which is a language proficiency test, and we also had our round robin test of the technical/safety/medical/cultural information we have been learning since we got here.  I have to say that my LPI went surprisingly well, and my round robin left a little to be desired.  Overall, I don't think I'll have any problems.  This was a practice round, and we take the tests again at the end of training.  From the results of this test, they will probably change around language groups to make sure everyone is still  matched up with people at compatible learning levels. 
This week we also had our practical activities test, making sure we know how to do things like shred coconut, grind peanuts by hand, light a charcoal stove, etc.  I am the only girl in my current language group, so all the guys thought it was super amusing to tease me about the fact that it is most important for me to know how to do all of these things because it's "women's work".  The worst offender was my actual language instructor, because he actually lives in Mozambique and those are his personal beliefs.  He doesn't know how to do the things that we had to do, and he doesn't see anything wrong with that.  I am lucky because in my house, my host nephew Nando does these things with no problem, and in no way thinks that he is losing his masculinity because of it.  That day was certainly a learning experience.
Also, yesterday I got my first letter from the US, which is super exciting.  I was starting to get super frustrated with the mail system, but know I know that it IS possible to receive mail.  So that's exciting.  I just have to learn to have patience with it, which is difficult.  Mozambican time is all out of whack though, so the mail system shouldn't surprise me at all.
That's about all I have to say for now.  I'll be sure to update when I get home from site visits and tell you all about Chongoene. :)

October 26, 2012

Killing chickens and improving Portuguese

October 24, 2012
It's been about a week and a half since I last wrote a blog, so obviously there's been some major things happening here.  Let me try to recap...
Last week the PCT's and their mae's had a cultural cooking exchange.  My language group and I cooked an American meal for our mae's, and our mae's cooked a traditional Mozambican dish for us (not that we haven't been eating traditional Mozambican food for weeks, but still).  My language group decided to make burritos, because it seemed like the easiest/most  practical thing we could make.  What I didn't realize when I got here was how difficult it would be to cook here.  There are no boxes in a grocery store that you just add water to and have an immediate meal.  If you want to eat well, you have to put time into  it.  We started cooking at 7:30 am to have lunch ready by 12. Freaking nuts.  Anyway, our mae's went to the market and bought us everything on our list of ingredients that they could find.  We had homemade tortillas (we used the wrong type of flour, so they kind of fell apart), chicken, beans, onions, rice, tomatoes, piri piri (hot sauce here...clearly I didn't partake), and probably a few other things I can't remember.  I don't know if you guys have thought of this, but chicken doesn't come in a bag here like we're used to in the states.  If you want to have chicken, you go to the market and buy a live chicken.  Then it's up to you to bring it home, kill it, defeather it, and cook it.
My first experience with this was the day that we cooked with our mae's.  At about 9 am, they brought out two live chickens.  The chickens didn't run, they just sat in the yard waiting for their imminent death.  Everyone asked me if I wanted to be the one to kill the chicken, and I just responded with, "NO! I'm going to cry!" So everyone laughed at me, but I was serious.  Tears didn't come, but they were close.  My friend Ryan did actually decide to kill one, though.  So you have to put a foot on top of the chicken's body/wings and literally saw at its neck until you cut it off or just leave it dangling  from the body.  And then the chicken will like bounce around for a little bit until it actually dies.  Pretty sick nasty.  Anyway, then you take the feathers off by dipping the body into boiling water and scraping them off.  They actually come off pretty easily.  Then of course you have to cut open the chicken and take out the insides.  I didn't get a close up visual of that part when I cooked with the mae's, but two days later I could say that I'd witnessed that up close and personal as well.  Then the chicken is cut up and put in this little grate-type thingy that you put on top of a charcoal stove.  You keep flipping the grate until all of the chicken is well-done.
By the time we were eating lunch, I had kind of forgotten about the whole killing process because it was such a long morning.  I didn't even feel bad when I was eating it, so I guess I don't have to be a vegetarian or anything crazy.  Two days later my family killed two  more chickens to have for the next couple of weeks for meals.  They also asked me if i wanted to kill one of them, but I declined.  I will probably end up doing it by the end of PST, just for the experience of it.  The Anna that got here 4 weeks ago would be disgusted with me, but when in Mozambique I have to do as the Mozambicans do.
In other news, my Portuguese is improving every day.  I can finally have conversations with members of my family that don't involve long, awkward pauses and other equally embarrassing situations.  Using the correct tenses is a problem, but I have a basis of verbs and vocabulary that I can definitely work with.  I still confuse Spanish and Portuguese at times, but I'm doing the best I can and my improvement in the past month has been pretty incredible.  Today I gave my first mini-lesson in Portuguese about the slope of linear functions, and I actually thought it went decently well.  I didn't stumble too much with my speech, so I actually think this whole teaching in Portuguese thing is possible.   It might be far-off still, but I know that eventually it will come.
At the end of next week, all of us PCT's get to go on site visits and stay with currently serving volunteers for 5-6 days.  I am so excited to see where I'll be going  and see a real site; to see what my life might look like in a month and a half.  We find out our actual site placement in week 7, and right now it's week 4, so I have about 3 weeks until I find out.  So that's super exciting.
Hmm...what else?  Having whatsapp has been great to communicate with my family and friends back at home.  Also, I now have email access, so feel free to email me if you have questions/comments/anything to say (  I haven't been able to get any pictures on here yet because the computer that I have to use to post blogs is like from the 1990's.  It has a slot for a floppy disk, no joke.  So that doesn't work very well, but my mom posted some pictures on my facebook  wall so you can look at those to see my house and other things I think have been picture-worthy here in Moz.  If you want any specific pictures, let me know and I can try to take some.
That's all for now! :)

October 14, 2012

First Three Blogs

September 29th, 2012
This is my first blog post from Mozambique, and I won't be able to post  it until I have internet, but I wanted to write the entry while the days are fresh.  Um what just happened?  Five long days ago, I was in Cincinnati.  The past five days have been the longest and most exciting of my life.  Here's how it went:
Got up at 4:30 am on Tuesday morning.  Went to the airport.  Cried a lot.  Flew to Philly.  Met lots of awesome people at staging.  Hung out with lots of awesome people after staging.  Took an hour nap.  Got up at 1:30 am. Packed up my stuff and got on a bus with all the other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers). Bussed to JFK airport.   Got there at  5:15 am.  The check in counter  didn't open until 7:30, so just sat there for a few hours in the  airport.  Departed for Johannesburg at 11:15 am.  Arrived in Johannesburg at 8:30 am, their time (6 hours ahead), with feet swollen to twice the size that they originally were and a wicked cold that I didn't have when I left.   At 9:45 boarded a plane to  Maputo, Moambique and by 11 o'clock, I was officially in Mozambique.  After getting through customs and claiming our baggage, all  the PCVs piled into cars and were driven to Hotel Cordano, where we would spend two full days living in luxury.
Hotel Cordano was the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at, hands down.   The view was beautiful, the food was incredible, the staff was super nice.   It was great.  And they had wi-fi.  I wasn't expecting the wi-fi, but I have to say I didn't mind being able to check in with my family and friends and let them know that  I had arrived safely.  Staying at the hotel helped me get rid of the jet  lag and get to know more of my fellow  trainees.  It was a  great way to start the PC adventure.
Now we get to the fun part: My host family.  Today we made the 80 km (1 1/2 hour) journey to Namaacha to meet our host families.  When we arrived in Namaacha, all the host families were waiting for us  and sang us a beautiful song as we  walked in.   It nearly brought me to tears.  Then each host mother/father  held up the name of their volunteer and we just wandered around to find them.  It took  me a few minutes to locate my name, but when I did, my mae (pronouced my, meaning mom) and I locked eyes and I knew I'd found my family.  We don't speak the same language, and today has made me really wish that I had studied more Portuguese during my last few months in the states.  We communicated pretty well, regardless of the fact that I didn't know what she was saying more than half of the time.  We walked back to my new casa together after she found me.  We walked with most of the other math teacher volunteers because we are arranged throughout Namaacha according to what we're teaching. 
I have to admit that I was nervous to see what conditions I would be living in for the next 10  weeks.  I couldn't have been more impressed or excited to live in this casa.  The house is beautiful.   My room is big.  It has a full sized bed, wardrobe, side table, and plenty of extra room for all of my crap.  The casa has electricity, but no running  water.  Water is easily accessible and doesn't take too long to get.  The bathroom is indoor, and the bath situation is interesting.  Mozambicans take baths at least 3 times per day.    Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once at night.   Tonight, my host sister came to get me and told me it was time for me to take a bath.  I undressed and went to the bathroom in my towel with all of my things.  Luckily, they have a lock on the door, so I didn't have to worry about anyone coming in while I was attempting my first Mozambican bath.  There was a bucket of boiling  water, and a bucket of freezing cold water.  In attempts to make warm water, I would dip some out of the hot water, then cold water, and then rinse my body.  Evidently, that was a fail because I burnt the whole side of my arm with the water. Whoops.   When I finished my bath and got dressed, my mae asked me why I bathed with cold water.   In my broken Portuguese/Spanish/English, I tried to explain what happened.  I  got my point across, I think, but it took far too long.
There is so much it seems that I want to say to my mae and the rest of my host family, but I don't know how and I don't want to just speak Spanish to them because that isn't their language.  When I learn some Portuguese, I think I will absolutely love it here.
So let me tell you about the rest of my host family.  I have two host sisters (Didinya, 19 and Nucha, 23), and a host baby, Walmer  (technically my host nephew). :)  My host sisters are wonderful and they are patient with me when I don't know what they're saying, which is almost always.   They have taught me a lot so far, and there is so much more to  come. Walmer is almost 1.  He is legitimately the cutest thing ever. God knows me well enough to know that to make me happy a  baby better be around.  I just love him.  I brought a little nerf football and gave it to him and he happily just throws it and chases it and giggles to himself. It's adorable.
I'll try to write some more in another week or so when I know more.   Thanks for your prayers! Keep them coming!

October 7th, 2012
I can't believe that I've only been in Namaacha for a week.  It's felt like at least a month, and it's been an interesting one at that.  Let me try to recollect what has happened over the past days that I have gone without blogging.
Last Sunday, my mae taught me how to do laundry by hand, which is just about as fun as it sounds.  Actually yesterday I also did laundry and have a huge rash on my wrist/hand from scrubbing my clothes on my skin.  So word to the wise, don't take the washing machine  for granted like I have for the past 21 years.  You are very priveleged to put your clothes in a machine and come back a half hour later with the work done for you, believe me.
Anyway PST (Pre-Service Training) started on Monday, and not gonna lie, these days are forever long.  Some days are HUB days, where the whole group meets, other days are just within small language groups, and some days we will have technical  training within our disciplines  (starting this coming week).  My Portuguese is progressing pretty well, but I'm still not able to communicate nearly as well as I'd like.  My family here has been very good at interpreting my broken sentences and repeating things to me a million times until I just pretend to understand what they're saying.  It works out pretty well most of the time. :) 
I've gotten used  to tomar banho-ing twice a day, and it's not too bad.  Also, my body naturally wakes up at 6 now.  Super exciting stuff there.
I haven't really had my holy-crap-I'm-in-Africa moment yet, but I know that it's coming.
On another note, I went to mass this morning and let me tell you, American's need to see how Mozambican's praise.  Man, they have passion and excitement and everything good.  Some aspects of mass were different, but some were exactly the same.  Their accompaniment was a drum and another instrument that I didn't recognize, but their voices alone were enough to do what we were there for.  It was just awesome.  The mass was in Portuguese/Changana, so I got some exposure to each and actually understood most of the homily.  I always get excited when I can understand things.
I can't think of anything else that's super exciting that you all need to know so far.  I've just been studying, learning about life here (cooking, cleaning, etc.), and living as a local.  It's been a great experience so far.  God knows what He's doing.

October 13th, 2012
Today all the PCVs took chapas into Maputo to explore the city and (presumably) take care  of  things that can't be done in Namaacha, such as phone issues, purchase certain items, etc.  We traveled in to Maputo in two groups, one leaving Namaacha at 7 and the other leaving at 8.  Then once in Maputo, we split up into our language groups to explore the city with our language teacher as our guide.
So my day started at 5:30 am when I woke up and tomar banho-ed like usual.  Then I ate breakfast and met my language group at 6:30 to make the trek from Vila Pouca to the chapa station.   It was raining so that made the walk extra fun, but the chapa picked us up closer than we thought so we ended up only having to walk about 20 minutes instead of the 30-35 we were expecting.  For those of you that don't know, chapas are basically mini-buses that are stuffed full of people.  As a point of reference, imagine any normal mini-van with four benches in the back expected to seat 4 people per row.  Yeah, that's a chapa.  Suuuuuper comfortable transportation.
On our way to Maputo, we had a bigger chapa that was wayyyy more comfortable than the one I just described.  It was a comfortable ride, and I sat next to one of the visiting PCVs for the week, so I got to ask him lots of questions and get some tips about Moz travel and life.  It was super helpful.  When we got to Maputo we got out of the chapa and went to the cell phone store first.  I'd been having problems getting internet on my blackberry, so I had to ask how to get it.  After waiting about a half hour in line, I was told that I'd have to go to a different store because they didn't have the software update that I needed in the store that we were in.   Then we walked to the second store, and after about a 2 hour struggle, I was told that there is some hold on the blackberry that is keeping it from being able to access  the internet, even though I had already paid the 550 Mets (28 Metacais = 1 dollar) to activate the blackberry service.
This was about the time that I had a little tiny meltdown in the middle of the Votacom store.  I tried not to make it too obvious, but after two weeks of hardly any communication with family and friends from home, it's making me a little crazy. 
Not gonna lie, after leaving Votacom I had a pretty crappy attitude about Maputo and just the day in general.  After walking around a little bit, I found a beautiful capulana (piece of fabric that everyone hear uses for just about everything you could think of...a skirt, towel, wall covering, something to hold your baby in, etc.) for 130 Mets.  Then the day started to take a turn for the better.   We went to a cute cafe for lunch, and then had a small history lesson while touring a famous fort in Maputo.  The chapa on the way home was the first that I described, small and crowded.   It was a long 80 km trip.
I just had dinner with my host sister and discussed my phone problems with her.  She is planning on going to Maputo next week sometime, so if I don't get the whole blackberry thing figured out by then, I have enough money that I can give her so she can buy me an internet phone when she goes.  This whole internet thing just doesn't want  to happen for me right now, so I'm just going to the one computer in Namaacha that has the internet which is where I'll be posting this tomorrow (if it all works out). 
So today was one of the rough ones, but through it all it helped me realize that I am not in control.  I'm here for the Mozambicans and my head and heart should also be here.
Lots of love from Mozambique to you all.