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 (brandt.169@gmail.com).  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.