January 18, 2014


In Mozambique, December is the tempo de ferias or time of the holidays.  I did mine up well with my visit from my Mom, sisters, and Jamie to Mozambique followed up by my three week vacation to the land of all the food, people, and delicious drinks I've been dreaming of for the past 15 months.

 Well, let's back up.  All the way to Thanksgiving.  Sarah and I hosted Thanksgiving in Messica.  We invited everyone nearby to come over and eat delicious food and just hang out as our central Peace Corps family.  Coesao!  It was so much fun to show off our site!  After our turkey finding and killing adventure on Wednesday, on Thursday everyone showed up ready to eat, and we feasted away!  After our dinner we took a walk around Messica, and ended up at the school where we tossed around a football for awhile in the field.  Everyone around thought it was hilarious to see a bunch of white people throwing around and dropping a weirdly shaped ball.  Eventually our small circle evolved into a bigger one with some Mozambicans thrown into the mix.  They really enjoyed tossing with us, even if some of us -- mainly me -- were not so good at throwing.  Though I must say, I improved a lot as we continued tossing!

Everyone at the waterfalls of Namaacha

A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I flew down to Maputo to meet everyone.  My flight got in around 11 am and I sat around in the airport for what felt like eternity until 2:30ish when Mom, Frances, Claire, and Jamie came out of the international terminal.  Our hugs were a little awkward with all of our baggage on, and a little short-lived because our ride to the hostel was already taking bags and whisking us away to his van.

It was a quick and scary ride for the new-to-Mozambique Americans in the car.  I was used to the crazy driving of Mozambicans, especially in the city, but it's not something normal to the average American.  After putting our stuff down and settling in, I made water and bank runs, and eventually we headed off to dinner.  Immediately after dinner, we all headed for bed, excited for the next day's adventure: Namaacha.
A little Ohio love from Mozambique!

Since my family refused to get in a chapa, I organized a private car to take us to Namaacha.  After a leisurely breakfast, I called our ride to pick us up.  He appeared shortly after and proceeded to drive at a snail's pace to Namaacha.  No joke.  It was ridiculous.  It took us close to three hours to drive what should have taken us an hour to an hour and a half.  I arrived in Namaacha with mixed feelings, thrilled to see my family (and Walmer!!), pissed about how long it took us to get there, and extremely hungry.

The visit in Namaacha was great!  My family's meeting was absolutely surreal, but made a little difficult with the language barrier.  I did my best to translate important things, but I am by no means a translator and had never tried to translate before.  Regardless, my Mozambican family had provided a feast for my American family that truly showed off the Mozambican hospitality that I love so much.  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity for my families to meet and it was truly an experience that I will never forget.

My host sisters Veronica and Dadinha, Claire, Mae, Walmer and I, Frances
The following day we spent in Maputo at the craft market, and exploring the city a little bit.  It was nice to have a day to relax before more travelling the next day: on to Beira.

Neck pillow toss...it's a thing now.
On Wednesday morning, we had our flight scheduled for Beira at 7 am.  We got to the airport around 5 to make sure there wouldn't be any complications, since I was the one speaking for our whole party.  After checking in and waiting around for a few hours the flight was delayed, now to depart at 11 am.  When 11 am rolled around, the loudspeaker came on yet again: cancelled.  Our flight was cancelled.  We were supposed to be arriving at the beach that day.  We were in trouble.  I raced down to the desk and was one of the first in line to get on the next flight: at 9 pm that evening.  All of us got on the flight, so we set off to a long day of...waiting in the airport!  By the end we were going stir-crazy, mom and I had invented a game of neck pillow toss, and the restaurant in the airport had run out of food.  We had to get out of there, and around 11pm, we finally got on our plane and went to Beira.

Arriving after midnight in a city that I am not familiar with was not ideal.  Arriving during a political parade because the newly elected mayor was on our flight was not ideal.  And furthermore shoving ourselves and all of our baggage into one of the tiniest cars of all time to get to our hotel was not ideal.  But we did it, and we made it to our hotel, got into our hotel rooms (with air conditioning!), and fell asleep after a long and stressful day.

Rio Savane Beach.  Simply gorgeous.
Thursday morning we woke up, went shopping for food, and went immediately to the beach.  When we arrived at the river that we had to cross to get to where we were staying, we were told we had to wait a few hours for tide to come in for the boat to be able to cross the river.  Waiting: every American's favorite thing to do.  Eventually we made it into our chalet, and were instantly happy to be in our own space with the gorgeous view and nearby beach.  We stayed at the beach for 6 days.  It was absolutely beautiful and I can't wait to go back this year.

When it was time to go home, one of my pedagogical directors from school picked us up and drove us to Messica.  We stopped in Chimoio on the way to eat lunch at one of my favorite spots and to see the Peace Corps office.  We finally arrived in Messica in the afternoon.  I was stoked to be home and to finally be able to show my family what my actual life in Mozambique is like!

Claire, Mom, Otilia, and I in Messica.
Messica was by far the best and most rewarding part of the trip for me.  I got to see my family interact with my family in Messica.  My family in Messica absolutely LOVED having my family there and received them extremely well...as if there was ever a doubt about that.  My best friend Otilia made us dinner the first night where my family was intrigued to eat gazelle for the first time. It's delicious, by the way.

The next day, my church had planned a big ceremony for the highlight of the trip: turning the statue of Mary and rosary twine over to the Legion of Mary, who up until that point had not had a statue of Mary.  One of my neighbors, Mama Berta, and the rest of the Legion had been planning the party ever since I mentioned the statue to them, and they were so excited about the entire evening.  They sent us a car to pick us up at my house, greeted us at the church with singing, and planned an entire prayer service and following reception for us.  I did some translations throughout the prayer service and introduced all of my family members to the church.  Then the gifts were exchanged.  For my family:  capulanas and lencos (the traditional Mozambican wrap/skirt and head covering).  For the Legion of Mary:  a two foot statue of Mary, twelve rolls of rosary twine, and a prayer book for each of them.  There was crying, dancing, hugs, and praising Jesus, and I couldn't have been happier or more proud to be an American living in Messica, Mozambique at that moment.  Pure joy, pure bliss, pure blessings from God.

Some ladies dancing around Mary and the rosary twine
in thanksgiving.

Claire, Frances, Jamie, and Mom with their capulanas and lencos!

Some of the Legion of Mary of Messica.

The table for the reception after the prayer service.

On our way to Casa Msika.
Our final full day in Messica was spent at a resort called Casa Msika about 7 kilometers from my house.  They have a pool, a restaurant, and some animals, and it seemed like a great way to escape the heat.  It was a great day to spend the rest of the day with my family (and my best friend Otilia came too!) in Messica.

Saturday had finally rolled around again and Jorge was taking us back to Chimoio to the airport.  We had a terrible case of deja vu when our flight was delayed and then cancelled that evening.  The next flight would be the following day; one flight in the morning with limited space, and one in the afternoon.  Our problem was that the day after we had our flight to Ethiopia and continuing on to DC, so we had to make it on the morning flight or we would have been stuck.  Luckily, I made a friend at the airport and told him that we were going to America and he said he would vouch for us and said that we should have priority.  In the mean time, Mozambique's airline put us up in the nicest hotel in Chimoio.  I had looked in the lobby of the hotel before, but had never dared to go inside.  SO NICE.  I was so happy to have a hot shower, comfy bed, and a nice meal.  Literally, it was the cleanest I had felt in 15 months since coming to Mozambique.  I was still nervous about the flight situation the next day, but I tried to make the best of it.

Leaving Messica.  Me, Otilia, Frances, Jorge, Claire.

The next morning, the day of our flight, I got a text from the airline saying:  "This text is to inform you that you have been place on the afternoon flight."  And that's when I started freaking out.  I immediately called the number that had texted me and frantically explained to them our situation.  They claimed to understand and asked for all of the names that needed to be on the first flight.  After hanging up the phone, I immediately sent a text with all of our names written out confirming that we were placed on the first flight.  When I got a text back saying "yes" I was able to relax a little.  But not much.

We decided to go to the airport on the first shuttle anyway since we were already awake and we figured there would probably be some confusion.  We were very right about the confusion part.  So many people crowded around one desk as the one clerk called out one name at a time to print boarding passes for the morning flight.  No semblance of order whatsoever.  Frances, Mom, Claire, and my names were called out towards the beginning and together, which made us feel a little better since we had boarding passes in hand, but Jamie still had none.  I waited with her for what seemed like ages, still in the cluster of people, until her name was called.  When we had her boarding pass in hand, we took a breath of relief.  But we still had to wait for the airplane to show up...and then take off.

Frances and I boarding the plane to Maputo...finally!
Eventually we made it to Maputo and had about 2 hours before our next flight to Ethiopia.  In Ethiopia, we had about an hour before our long flight from Ethiopia to DC, with a stopover in Rome.  That 17 hour flight turned into more like a 19 hour flight with some problems with the plane, and when our stopover took longer than expected.  I didn't mind, really.  The flight was glorious compared to the transportation I am used to in Mozambique.  I slept most of the time, and just woke up to see the Vatican all lit up while our plane was taking off from Italy.  Not too bad, huh?

In DC, I got my first Starbucks in 15 months, and we parted ways with Jamie, who was flying back to California.  I would see her a couple of days later, so it was only a brief separation.  Eventually it came time to get on our last flight to Dayton!  Back in Ohio after 15 months!
First Starbucks!

I'm not going to describe my visit home in detail.  It was a great trip.  I honestly couldn't have asked for anything more.  I had three days in California visiting my babies, a week to spend with my family and to get to know my nephew, and about a week in Columbus to visit friends and enjoy Ohio State sports again.  It couldn't have been any more picture perfect, and I am so so grateful to my parents for making it all happen.

Three weeks after arriving in America, I took my leave.  I wasn't as sad to leave as I'd thought, I was ready to come back to Mozambique and finish out my service.  I love my life in America, but I also love my life in Mozambique.  They are very different, yet they both have molded and changed me into the person that I've become through this PC experience.  I was relieved to know that my life in America was still there when I got home.  My friends were still there, family was still there, and piece of my heart was still there.  Even knowing this, things back at home have changed, just as things in my life have changed.  I've formed a home in Mozambique.  I speak Portuguese.  I have a different outlook.  I have a new normal.  And yet I slid back into my old normal so easily.

New Years Eve in Columbus with my besties!

It's going to be different when I go home for good.  I will never forget this experience, these people, this country, and I will find a way to merge that with my America life.  But for now, I have a Moz life and an America life, and I'm stoked to be back in Moz and start the next school year.

So for the next week I will be in Maputo for my group's mid-service conference.  We have made it more than halfway!  School starts at the beginning of February, so I'm gearing up for another year of teaching, another year of making mistakes, and another year of students trying to cheat by whatever means necessary.

I hope everyone has had a blessed and renewing holiday season.  I know I have!

Have a blessed new year!