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.