September 27, 2013

America love.

Crazy to think I've been in Mozambique for a year, and the members of Moz 19 are no longer the babies of the education volunteers in Mozambique.  Moz 21 arrived in Maputo yesterday, and will be heading to Namaacha to start their 10 weeks of training on Saturday. Unbelievable.

Though I love it here in Mozambique, there are a number of things I miss about life in America.  Here is my list.

10. My bed.  The mattresses in Mozambique leave a lot to be desired.  About a week after moving to Messica, I realized the mattress that I bought (basically a foam pad) was not going to work with my back, so I moved my bed into the extra room in my house and now sleep on the floor on a bamboo mat.  It is a lot better for my back, but I still have saudades for a good night sleep in my bed.

9.  Hot showers.  One of my favorite parts of Peace Corps conferences/staying in hotels here is having a hot shower.  Sometimes the water pressure isn’t great, but a trickle of hot water to get clean is better than no hot water.  Can’t even wait to take a hot shower every day when I’m in the US.

8. Good coffee.  They have instant coffee here.  Enough said.

7. Grocery Stores.  So. Many. Options.  There are two grocery stores in Chimoio, Shoprite and Spar.  Shoprite is good for buying cheese and chocolate, and Spar is good for buying other random things from the US (sometimes they have m&ms!) but on the whole, Shoprite and Spar aren’t really Peace Corps budget friendly, so I just miss US grocery stores – and I can’t wait to check out Jungle Jim’s in December!

6.  Fall.  Pumpkin flavored everything, jeans and hoodie weather, leaves falling off the trees, bonfires, apple cider.  Man, I miss fall.

5.  Mass in English! (with Communion).  I’ve already mentioned in other posts that we don’t have a priest in Messica, which is definitely  a struggle for me.  I get communion maybe once every 2 months, and mass is in Portuguese and Shona, so sometimes I can understand  some minimal things, but on the whole, I don’t take as much from mass as I would like.  I’m so excited to visit the Newman Center when I’m home and go to mass in English. J

4.  So many food options!  I already have a mental list of what I want to eat in the US.  And it’s LONG.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to fit it all in to three weeks, but I’m sure going to try.  Mom, get ready to make some delicious foods!

3.  OSU Sporting Events (Live & on TV).  There’s nothing like some Ohio State love either in the Shoe, the Schott, or sitting on my couch in the living room.  I miss all the hype and being in the know about what’s going on.  I miss singing Carmen at football games, and seeing campus blow up with people on game day.  Peter, I’m counting on you to get me a basketball ticket in January so I can get my fix before coming back to Mozambique.

2.  My car/transportation.  Transportation in Mozambique leaves much to be desired, and the thought of getting in my car (or any personal car for that matter) and driving myself to my destination without stopping countless times to let people on and off sounds glorious.  Having a seat to myself, what a luxury!  Can’t even wait for the plane ride.

1. Friends and family.  By far, the thing I miss most about America is the people that I left there.  My friends and family have been so great and supportive, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since I’ve seen them.  I can’t wait for all the hugs and the love that will be shared in the month of December.  Loving Mozambique, but literally counting down the days until I get to see you all again.  SAUDADES DEMAIS!

Oh and for those of you that don’t know, I will be in the states from December 16th – January 6th.  I will be visiting my family in California December 19th-22nd, spending Christmas in Cincinnati, and hopefully New Years in Columbus.  Plan accordingly, my friends!

September 23, 2013

Moz love

It's extremely hard to believe that I've been in Mozambique for about a year.  I left my family and friends on September 25th and headed to Philly for a day of meeting my to-be friends and support system in Mozambique. We all flew together from NYC to Johannesburg, connected to Maputo, and arrived in Mozambique on September 27th.  Wednesday marks my year mark from leaving friends and family, and Friday marks my year mark of being in Mozambique.  I figured in honor of this large benchmark, I would make a few lists.  So today we have my 10 favorite things about being in Mozambique.

10 Favorite Things about Being in Mozambique

10.  Capulanas - Capulanas are an all-purpose piece of fabric that Mozambicans wear as skirts, use to carry around babies on their backs, use as padding when carrying heavy things on their heads, make clothing out of, etc.  They are so versatile.  I own probably about 10 capulanas and I have capulana pants, a capulana shirt, three capulana dresses, capulana purses, capulana wristlets, and will soon be adding a capulana hoodie to the mix.

9. My students - There are some days where I hate teaching.  There are some days where I have absolutely no patience.  There are some days where I want to quit.  But then there are the days where my students don't want to leave after math class because they are so excited to have me check their work and tell them that they got the right answer.  There are the days that I stand and talk to my students for hours in the shade about America and answer all of their questions.  There are the days that I am walking around Messica and a student excitedly says "Good Morning, Teacher!"  There are the times that my students are shocked to realize that I know their names.  All of their names. "Teacher!  Ja me conhece?!" ("Teacher, you already know me?!")  Though it can be a struggle at times, my students have made my time in Mozambique unforgettable (along with my birthday), and I am so grateful for them.

8.  The Mozambican Landscape - Mozambique is absolutely beautiful.  I have been to 8 out of 11 provinces, and each one is beautiful in its own way.  I am so fortunate to live in Manica province, where temperatures are a little more tolerable, and I'm surrounded by beautiful mountains and gorgeous views everywhere I turn.  Mozambique has some of the best beaches in the world, and before the end of my Peace Corps service, I hope to explore lots of them. I am so blessed to live in a country where everywhere I turn, I am reminded of the greatness of God.  God's presence can't be denied in a place this beautiful.

7.  Experiencing Mozambican Culture - Throughout the past year, I have learned so much about Mozambican culture.  There are some things about Mozambican culture that drive me crazy.  And then there are other things about Mozambican culture that inspire me daily.  There are so many things I will take from this experience, especially how giving Mozambicans are, despite what little they have.

6. Learning Portuguese - When I arrived in Mozambique, I had briefly looked through at Portuguese for Dummies book, and listened to some Brazilian recordings of Portuguese.  I was scared to try to learn Portuguese in the US, because I didn't want to learn something wrong or in the wrong accent and then mess it up for my two years of service.  During Pre-Service Training (PST), I struggled at the beginning with Portuguese.  I would speak to my host family in mostly Spanish.  I even heard myself say "Gracias" on the first day, and I was so embarrassed that I hid in my room for about an hour.  Throughout training, my language skills drastically changed, and since being in Messica, they have gotten even better.  I am now confident in my abilities to speak Portuguese.  Though I make MANY grammatical errors, I can communicate.  I have been told that my accent is great.  I have been asked if I am Brazilian or Portuguese because otherwise there is no way I could speak Portuguese this well.  I am so grateful for the experience to learn and use Portuguese on a daily basis.  I teach in Portuguese, and am constantly learning new vocabulary.  Learning Portuguese has been something that I've enjoyed greatly.

5. My Host Family - During PST, every trainee was placed with a host family.  My host family happened to be the bomb.  Seriously, though.  I have two host sisters, Dadinha and Nucha, my host mom, and my host nephew, Walmer.  I have mad saudades for all of them.  I really wish Namaacha was closer, but I visited once in April, and will be visiting again in December when my family is here to visit.  They really have been a support system for me while in Mozambique, and though I live far away from them it always brightens up my day to get a call or text from them.  I can't imagine my experience in Mozambique without them.  They are my family and I love them.

4.  My Placement -  Where you are placed and who you are placed with can basically make or break your service.  I mean, many volunteers are placed in sites that are less than ideal and they make the best out of what they were given.  I am extremely blessed to have been placed in my ideal Peace Corps site.  Messica is between the two largest cities in the province, Manica and Chimoio.  There is constant transportation from Messica to both cities.  I have running water and electricity in my house.  I can buy food, clothes, and all necessities in Messica.  I can go into Chimoio and use free internet at the Peace Corps office whenever I want/need. The direction of the school in Messica is supportive and helpful.  The people in the community are excited that we are here, and are all super friendly.  We are the first PCVs here in Messica, so the community doesn't have preconceived notions about Peace Corps Volunteers..  I get along with my roommate extremely well, and she puts up with my crazy.  Honestly, I could have not gotten any luckier on my Peace Corps placement.  Every PCV that's been to Messica raves about what a great site Sarah and I have, and we know that we are extremely blessed.  I couldn't be happier in Messica.

3.  Peace Corps Community - Honestly, when I joined the Peace Corps, I didn't really think about the community I would be entering.  I thought more about the Mozambicans I would befriend than the other American volunteers and what an impact they would have in my service.  I don't know what I would do without my Peace Corps support system.  These people know what I'm going through.  They understand the cultural differences.  They understand when I'm craving Chipotle so bad I want to cry. (And they don't judge me for it.)  I've formed friendships that are life-long. I am so blessed.

2.  Witnessing the Universal Church - Being in Mozambique and being a member of the Catholic church in Messica, I have met incredible people.  I have become close to a small group of ladies from the church that are part of the Legion of Mary.  They are just incredible people that inspire me daily.  They make me feel welcome, and treat me as family.  I am blessed to be on the other side of the world, and still feel at home in my church.  Mass might be in Portuguese, we may not have communion on a weekly or even biweekly basis, but I have a home in the Catholic church in Messica, and for that I am extremely grateful.

1.  Expanding Horizons - My comfort zone has been stretching and expanding over the last year.  Not just in social situations, but in every aspect of my life.  I eat foods that I never thought I would.  I can comfortably travel by myself.  I can stand up for myself in Portuguese.  I am content with no personal space on chapas. I have danced in public (wish less embarrassment). Seeing my personal growth over the last year is something I am proud of.  I have been open minded, and because of that I have transformed.  I hope to continue this transformation, and go back to the US in 2014 with a new outlook and ready for anything.

September 17, 2013


This past weekend, I went to meet up with one of my best Peace Corps friends in Quelimane. There was also a Peace Corps event in Quelimane over the weekend that was the National Science Fair.  My plans were to have someone buy my bus ticket on Thursday, go into Chimoio after class on Thursday, stay up all night, and sleep on the bus that departed early (4AM Friday morning).     My plan went about halfway smoothly.  A friend bought my bus ticket on Thursday, I got into Chimoio Thursday night, and that’s where my plan went downhill.  I should’ve known I would be able to stay up all night.  At around midnight, I could barely keep my eyes open and decided to take a nap.  I set my alarm for 4AM (because I had found out the bus really left at 5AM), and fell asleep. 

Around 4:20, I got a call from Jamie, another volunteer that was also traveling to Quelimane for Science Fair.  I was excited to have someone to travel with, so we made plans to meet up at 4:20 to walk to the paragem together.  Whoops!  I hurriedly got my stuff together and walked super fast to meet up with her.  Just as I met up with her, I got a call from the bus driver saying that I needed to get to the paragem immediately because they were getting ready to leave.  Of course the only time Mozambicans are ever early is when I’m running late.  I told him I was coming, and Jamie and I picked up the rest of the science fair goers and booked it to the paragem.

Upon arriving at the paragem, we were greeted with a mini-bus to Quelimane piled with both people and other things to transport.  I’m pretty sure there was at least 6-8 feet of additional baggage piled on top of the bus.  In front of the mini-bus there was another almost full chapa.  I was with about 8 other people for science fair, and they promptly told us that our group would be split up into two groups, one to go in the minibus and the other to go in the chapa.  Me, being the lucky girl that I am, got immediately chosen for the chapa. 

Let me quickly explain the difference to you:  Minibuses are exactly that, small buses.   They normally have one comfy seat then an aisle followed by two more comfy seats.  In the aisle, there is one more seat that folds down (notably less comfortable than the other seats) and allows at least 6 more people to sit in the bus.    Chapas, on the other hand, are more like minivans that at least 18 people are shoved in.  There are normally 4 rows of seats.  The back row is a bench that seats 3 people comfortably (and according to Mozambican law), but 4 people must sit in.  The three rows of seats in front of this back bench include a half-bench and a fold down chair bench-extension thing.  Four people also must sit across each of these rows.  Finally, there are normally a few pieces of juttng out plastic behind the driver’s and passenger’s seat.  There are normally 4 people sitting on this piece of plastic with their legs intertwined with the people sitting in the first row of benches, leaving zero personal space or room to breathe.  There are also 2 people put in the front seat.  And you can’t forget the cobrador that normally stands by the door, hunched over the second row of passengers.

Now….which sounds more comfortable to you?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  And I was pissed when I found out my friends had arranged an actual seat on the bus for me, but I had no proof and I didn’t want to be that white girl that was too good to sit on a chapa.  So I sucked it up and got in the chapa.  After an uneventful and very crowded trip to Inchope where the turnoff is located to go to the north, our chapa stopped.  We were told we were going to wait there for another car that was pre-arranged to pick us up and continue to Quelimane.  After for waiting about a half hour on the side of the road, people started to get angry and pretty vocal about their complaints.  They decided since there were enough of us to fill a chapa, we might as well get in one and start on our journey north.  Soon after, we all piled in the chapa (I luckily got in as one of the first people and didn’t have to sit in a fold down seat), and proceeded to wait at least another half hour for them to switch all of the things tied on the top of the chapa from one to the other. Throughout this long and drawn out process, our original “pre-arranged” ride showed up.  It was the “maningue nice” bus from Beira to Quelimane.  We had a discussion in the chapa about how we should get out and switch because it would be much more comfortable, only for our original cobrador to come over and tell us the maningue nice was full and we’d just have to go in the chapa.  Outrage doesn’t even begin to cover it, because this dude took our money not even knowing that we would have been able to get to Quelimane.  How irresponsible!  What a jerk! Seriously.

So that’s how I was in the predicament where I ended up sitting in a chapa for 12 hours.  At first, it was pretty miserable with my huge backpack on my lap, no air, and lack of sleep.  At our first stop to go to the bathroom I rearranged my stuff, putting my backpack under the seat in front of me, and giving myself a much more comfortable rest of the ride. 

After about 6 hours in the chapa, we arrived in Caia, Sofala.  We all got out of the chapa, and people took off in different directions to find something to eat.  I went with three other people that were on their way to science fair, and we found a little barraca that sold chicken and rice/xima to go.  They decided that we had enough time to sit down and eat quickly.  That’s about when I looked up and saw our chapa driving off.  I immediately called it to their attention and they didn’t seem fazed.  “It’ll come back,” they said.  “It won’t just leave us.”  I tried to play it cool, like the whole situation wasn’t putting me on the edge of an anxiety attack, but what I really wanted to do was run after the chapa and at least get my backpack (containing my laptop) out of it.  We continued to sit at this barraca for at least another 15-20 minutes as my colleagues leisurely ate their lunch and I sat waiting in anxiety, not even eating my lunch because I’d lost my appetite.  When they finished, I nonchalantly suggested that we should probably go find the chapa that abandoned us, and they all slowly agreed.  After walking to the main road and looking around for a little while, my colleagues started to get worried, therefore causing me to be in full-out panic mode.  One of my colleagues made some calls as we continued to wait around and wonder how the heck we were going to get our stuff back.  About 5-10 minutes later, we looked down the road and saw the chapa coming towards us.  I honestly don’t know what the heck they were doing during the time they disappeared, but I was so happy to see it at that point that it really didn’t matter what the heck happened.  I got back into the chapa with an unbelievable sense of relief and feeling a lot cooler, since I used the break from the chapa to change into some athletic shorts instead of the jeans that I was wearing before.

About 4 hours later, we made our last chapa transfer with just a little over an hour to go.  After about 30 minutes of transfer time, we headed out on our last leg.  I was noticeably more comfortable since I was sitting by a window and could control the air temperature.

At around 5 pm, I rolled into the central market in Quelimane.  After getting out of the chapa, immediately a man tried to reach into my purse and grab my phone.  I caught him and gave him a nasty look/lecture about how he can’t steal from me.  He reluctantly gave my phone back, and I got on a bike taxi and headed to meet my friend.  I promptly got a beer and tried to forget the previous 12 hours.

Besides the rough time getting to Quelimane, the weekend was great!  I got to see lots of PCVs that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it was really interesting to attend the science fair that I might be helping with next year.  The trip home was much less eventful - in a good way.  I hitchhiked back with another PCV that lives in Chimoio, and we scored a good ride with a Mozambican chefe (boss) all the way to Inchope.  From there we got another ride to Chimoio, and I made the final leg of the trip by myself to Messica from Chimoio, arriving at about 4:30 pm.  I spent today catching up on some sleep, grading tests that I gave last week, and preparing my lessons for the week.  

September 7, 2013

O Happy Day

Sorry I've been a little MIA for a while.  Motivating myself to write blogs has been kind of difficult lately. It’s not like I haven’t been happy or happy to be in Mozambique, but I've just been in kind of a homesick funk, especially for the last couple of weeks while one of my Peace Corps besties was  back in the States for a wedding.   I miss my friends and family, and am literally counting down the days until my visit home in December.  This is the longest I've ever been away from home (almost at the year mark), and I honestly can’t believe I've made it this far.  But I think yesterday finally broke me out of the funk.  Yesterday was just a great day.  It might sound like nothing special, but to me it was a picture of a perfect day in Messica.

I woke up to freshly made cinnamon cake.  Enough said.

I went to calamidades with Sarah and we literally bought two full bags of clothes for under three dollars.  I bought some Nike’s for 200 mets (about 7 dollars). I was so excited!  We also found avocados at the market which is pretty impressive because avocado season is over.  Overall it was a very successful  market trip.

When we got home, Sarah and I had a fashion show with all our new clothes. We can now kind of wear the same-ish size pants/shirts, so we have some clothes we’re going to share!  Seriously, this was the best news of all time because I never thought this would happen. Yay Africa diet!

Then one of the Pedagogical Directors from school came over to fix our sink that hasn't been draining for awhile.  He is the best and always comes to our rescue.

After an amazing lunch of guacamole and homemade corn chips, Sarah and I set out to go see the modista (seamstress) that I had dropped capulanas off with the week before to make a dress, a pair of pants, and a purse.  I was super excited to see how they turned out, and though they needed a few alterations, they looked great!  I will go back to pick them up on Tuesday.

On our way back from the modista's house, Sarah and I stopped by our friend Otilia's house to invite her over to work out with us.  We had been talking about working out with her for awhile, and we downloaded this new workout/dance program called Hip Hop Abs that we thought would be fun.  On our way home we stopped by another friend’s house and invited Vovo Gida to join us in our workout as well.  I honestly wish we would have taken pictures, but literally this 45 minute workout was probably the highlight of my Peace Corps service thus far.  They really enjoyed it but it wore them out.  After the workout ended, we put on music and just had a dance party in our living room.  Hilarious and awesome don’t even begin to cover it.  The whole neighborhood knew something crazy was going on in our house and I bet they were all super jealous.  Hopefully they’ll come work out with us more often, or at least come over for more dance parties.
After Hip Hop Abs, the over-achievers that we are, Sarah and I did day 3 of Insanity.  It was tough, but I’m super proud of us for staying motivated and sticking to our workout plan.

Sarah and I then made a very Mozambican dinner of fried fish, rice, and salad.

I went to bed early and fell asleep after watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

So in general, life here in Messica is going well!  The third trimester is about halfway over.  This week I will be reviewing with my students and giving tests.  Next weekend I’ll be going to Quelimane to visit one of my Peace Corps besties and also to check out the National Science Fair. Lots to look forward to!