Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11/8/2013: Game Changer

This past week we were sent throughout the country for site visits—to spend some time with a current volunteer and get an idea of a daily routine and what a site is like….etc. I think for most of us (and I know especially for me) site visits came at the absolutely most perfect time and for me they were quite a game changer. Training is exhausting and overwhelming and at times discouraging and I was honestly starting to wonder if I had made the right decision to move to Africa.
For my site visit, I went to Manjangue, Gaza, just a little north of Maputo. My site visit partners were Lauren and Colin—math teachers and we visited Nick—also a math teacher. Our first night, we went out to Xai-Xai (the capitol of Gaza) and visited the beach with a couple other site visit groups from the Xai-Xai area. I finally got to see the Indian Ocean. The next day, Lauren, Colin, Nick, and I began our adventure to Manjangue. It was HOT. It took us 3 crowded chapas and a couple of hours to get to site but it was so worth it. Upon arrival we found that Nick’s cat had some new kittens! So adorable. And we finally got to cook on our own! I think that’s what we miss the most at training, having control over what we are cooking, when we are cooking it, and how much of it we eat. It was so nice to finally have that freedom. We made veggie stir fry, brownies, homemade pita, and homemade humus—not all in one day of course. But it was surprisingly rejuvenating to have control in the kitchen and the ability to experiment with cooking in Mozambique.
Nick lives on the school grounds, which is pretty cool. We were able to interact a lot with his students. Its around the time of the National 10th grade exams so a lot of kids were out of school, but they still came by the house and students would stop in on their way to take their tests. Because he lives so close to school, we were also able to help him with some paperwork (paultas are giant grade sheets and he needed to digitize them) and talk with the school directors and other professors. Its great in theory to hear about schools here in class, but it is just so great to actually experience the school and spend some time there.

During our visit, Nick took us to his closest city—Chokwe—so we could do exploration and buy some capulanas. We also got lunch there and I finally got to have a hamburger!! I mean—no place does hamburgers like America, its just a fact, but man I was craving one and it certainly fulfilled that craving. On the return from Chokwe, we had 23 people + 4 babies stuffed into a chapa. I think the next day we actually broke that record since we had people sitting on laps and more people standing, but none of us were really in position to count heads so the record is questionable. It was pretty overwhelming, but also made me feel like I live in Mozambique—I am no longer in position to get rides in an empty Peace Corps car, but am actually part of the local culture of over crowded, HOT chapas.
We left Nick’s site a day early to return to Xai-Xai and hang out at the beach with the other groups again. I have finally swam in the Indian Ocean! So cool!!! I know it’s just another ocean, but its just so awesome to say I’ve swam in it! After, we went out to chique restaurant that is a favorite of the health volunteer we were visiting. Just a little taste of America with some pizza and beer.
To get home, I left with my friends Deej, Arden, Fei, and Jen and we took a chapa to the site where Arden and Fei were staying so they could get their stuff. We then, from there, boleaed (flagged down a free ride) a truck to go to Maputo. 3 hours in the back of a pick up truck later—totally wind blown and sunburned—we landed in Maputo on a crowded bus to Namaacha. By the end of the day I was so exhausted, hot, tired, and dirty I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to travel again in Africa. Now, clean and refreshed, I think it was probably one of the greatest travel experiences I’ve had here—it was all just so typical Mozambique and because of that, I feel a little less like a strange visitor.
Over all, just getting out of Namaacha and having a chance for smaller groups to hang out as we would at our sites when we are spread throughout the country and experience some independence we are not afforded at training helped us all regroup and come back to training to hopefully finish strong. Assuming we can get our language up and not get scolded again for our lack of Portuguese (but that is whole different and unnecessary story).
I think definitely the biggest highlight was visiting the beach. I know that sounds so cheesy. But I grew up going to beaches ALL THE TIME and I even went to college in a location that would be close the beach. I LOVE beaches. And just being around the sand and smelling the salt air and having sand in my hair and clothes for days reminded me of home and made me feel like home here. Namaacha—for all of it’s beauty—is extremely landlocked and for someone who seeks out shorelines, being landlocked sometimes makes me restless and upset.
Now Monday we have our site interviews and Thursday we find out where we will be living for the next 2 years. Praying I get a great site, but more so praying that wherever I go I make the best of it and get everything from this experience that I can.

Um pouco cross culture: just a small observation about some cultural differences in my family. I have recently discovered that my host pai cooks, cleans, bathes the kids, and serves all of us before he himself eats, he also will tell my mãe he loves her in front of family members. Now, in America this all seems like a “duh…what else would a pai do??” but here, it is quite unusual. They also pressure Betou into getting higher than a 10 on his exams, in Mozambique everything is graded on a scale of 20 and 10 is considered passing, 12 is considered good. Betou got a 12 on an exam and my host parents told him they knew he could do better and needed to try harder. It’s pretty cool to be staying with a family that seems to moving away from the very traditional Mozambican life. I haven’t quite figured out why my family acts differently, the only thing I can think is that my pai spends a lot of time in South Africa which is a fairly progressive country and has the western influence from there.
Just a small cross culture experience for you to get a peek into how life is here in Mozambique.

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