Monday, December 8, 2014

12/06/2014: Why I don't say hello

I first need to remind you that this blog is a reflections of my own views and not every volunteer has the same experiences or opinions.

A while back there was a flutter of posts on Facebook about catcalling in the states and I wanted to share my story of being here.

I used to be annoyed by the catcalling in the states, offended and hurt. Then I came here. I'm not even sure my experiences are considered catcalling since at times it has led to me simply just not leaving my house for a few days. It became so exhausting, I did the only thing I could think of. Many people found my behavior rude. But it was all I could muster to enjoy the time I did wander into the village.

I stopped greeting people.

I didn't enjoy being rude. I like talking to people. I like meeting new people. But that was my survival tactic. Sure I never physically in danger, maybe one day someone could have crossed a line but I never felt like they would. But that doesn't make it less exhausting and less hurtful to have to hear crude comments from EVERY guy.

I don't mean a few men hanging out at the bar or the rare whistle from a passing car, or even the student with a little crush. I mean EVERY guy from the second I opened my front door to the second I got to the village and all the way back again. And FYI...there's a lot of guys hanging around out there.

I experienced catcalling in the states. And I hated it. But something about the way many of them talk to me here and the fact that they make it pretty clear it's because I'm an outsider, makes it feel so demeaning and offensive it ways it never felt back home.

My REDES friend and I talked about it because I told her it was one of the truck load of reasons I'm going home. And she even told me a lot of young girls just become used to it. But my fear wasn't getting used to harassment or even really the verbal harassment itself (though believe me, there are days it sent me home in tears hearing them calling out). It's what could potential happen to verbal harassment after one too many beers. Or the fact that these guys really don't have respect for young professional females that even harass the TEACHERS (which generally is one of the most respected professions here).

Maybe it was rude to never say hello, but the fact that going to the village sometimes put me on the verge of me that's more disrespective. A tough skin is important but at somepoint the words have to stop as well. It isn't just on me to develop a tough skin, it's on them to learn how to be respectful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

11/26/2014: Home again, home again jiggity jig

It is with a heavy but relieved heart I share that I have resigned from my service and will begin the process home on December 8.
After months of conversations, debates, meetings, and heartache and additional recent personal struggles I came to the conclusion that I could not continue and be the best volunteer I could be.
Experiences I had during my year changed me, and that is bound to happen, but I was noticing they changed me for the worst, I stopped being the person I used to be and not in a great way. I used to be a person who went above and beyond and loved to be outside interacting with people...something I've hated to do for a while now. And I felt my village deserves someone who will give them 100%.
It is a heartbreaking decision. I love Mozambique and my various surrogate families. And I have been lucky to have 2 great villages of service. Maybe one day I'll be able to return for new service. But until then...Ja tenho saudades for my friends, my kids, and my villages.
I have learned the hard way this job is impossible if you don't absolutely love it and I will continue to cheer for the friends still serving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

11/22/2014: You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

 Hello all, it’s been ages. I’m sorry. There have been a lot of changes. As many already know, I was moved to a new site in Mozambique, and that is where this post is coming from.

It certainly wasn’t easy. For all of the challenges I faced in my old site, it had become home. I made many friends and loved my students there. It was a teary good bye to say the least and my heart is still touched whenever one of my kids sends me a message.

So here I am in my new “home” getting ready to settle in for the school holidays. There were some complications and confusions along the way but we think we have finally gotten everything settled and I know my school and have started to make friends!

My new site is not quite like my old site, but hopefully it will evolve in time.

We will see what the next chapters bring. I should have more ideas come next week, which fills me with relief and excitement. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt this way.

This country is full of beautiful sights

My new reading group 
Some of my old girls

My old school director

Miss these guys!

Monday, September 22, 2014

9/22/2014: 1 Year and It’s Still a Mystery

Just a short update about some changes happening here in Mozambique...

So I’m almost a year into my Peace Corps service and there have been so many mysteries and unknowns. My service has taken an unexpected turn during this past year and has led to me ending my time in Xinavane in moving on to new places.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting my new site and meeting with the volunteers that I will be replacing. I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m sad to leave my home and a little disappointed to not be able to finish the work I have started here. But in retrospect, I have so much hope and excitement for what my site holds for me.

I will be staying in the same province I’m now, thankfully. So I’ll get to continue my work as REDES coordinator for Gaza/Maputo provinces, which was a priority to me for making this move. I also will be inheriting an EGRA group to work with early age children on their literacy skills.  It’s going to be an adjustment after living in what has been dubbed Chicavane for the past year. My new house won’t have running water and I’ll be more distant from my friends. But I’ll still be close to Maputo and have a higher chance doing the work I came here to do, which is very exciting.

There isn’t much else to say, but I am very excited for this new adventure and I can’t wait to embark on it. Meanwhile, I plan on enjoying my last few weeks with my surrogate family and enjoying the place that has become my home away from home.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

9/2/2014: Twists and turns and holidays

I just returned from a two-week escape in Greece (with a few days in our neighboring South Africa) to get away from the stresses and dramas that were weighing me down at our site.
I can’t even describe my trip. What a blessing. I planned it fairly last minute (if you can even call what I had a plan) and spent two weeks traveling Athens and Crete alone…kind of…
I stayed in backpackers the whole time, so I was lucky to constantly meet people to spend time with and go on adventures. I toured the ruins, shopped, ate amazing food, and spent hours on the beaches of Crete. I met some amazing people all around my age from Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada and they made my trip amazing. Even though we only had a day or two together each, outsiders would have probably thought we had known each other for years. It’s fantastic to meet people when you’re traveling alone who are open to just add you into their groups.
I had just finished a Bible study that took place in Greece, so it was so powerful to follow some of the Christian sites throughout the area. I walked a path that Jesus and the disciples walked on…there was nothing marking it, nothing noticeably special about it…but standing on that path I could feel the spirit with me as if He was still walking it.  On my last day, some friends and I also decided to go to Mars Hill. With a shared Christian belief, I think we all appreciated being together for this experience. Not only are the views of Athens to DIE FOR on Mars Hill, but also there is a huge spiritual significance. In the 1st Century AD, Paul brought the speech “Unknown God” in an attempt to bring Christianity to Greece. 9 centuries later is when the first church was built, but the seed was planted on Mars Hill. Again, the views are great but there isn’t really anything visually significant about this place, but standing there and thinking about how this location was witness to so many changes and so much history…I was in awe.
I am still overwhelmed by the beauty of Greece, I thoroughly enjoyed my explorations, both religion related and otherwise. Greece has just built around the history, leaving the old churches and ruins in the middle of this modern cosmopolitan city instead of building over their history.
((I’ve posted pictures on my Photobucket, see a link below))
After traveling around Greece for 2 weeks, it was so refreshing to come back home to Africa. I stayed with some friends who are a huge blessing. They took me into their home and helped me to and from my trip out of the goodness of their hearts and it just helped me relax amidst the stress of traveling. It was through them I got to see my first rugby match! Their son-in-law’s cousin’s wife (yes…that’s a real connection) had tickets and they suggested I go if I felt up to it. I was exhausted after traveling, but I’m so glad I went! I forgot how much I miss sporting events! It was FREEZING compared to Greece (40 degrees Celsius there, 12 degrees in South Africa) but it was worth every second. But it was when we once crossed the Mozambique border that I felt I was home. Somewhere through all of my travels and experiences, Xinavnave has come to be my home.
Right now, we’re in a pretty stressful process. We’re busy trying to move out of our house in the convent into a new house in the village. Hopefully this will all work out and help smooth things over for a better working environment in the village.
Needless to say, I’m so beyond happy I got some time away to recharge and relax before having to come back and deal with all of the dramas left behind in July.

Hopefully my next post will have new and better news! But until then and until my next adventure, I’ll be dreaming of the delicious frozen yogurt and gyros and the wonderful sunny beaches of Greece.

Check out new photos too:

Friday, July 25, 2014

7/25/2014: Goodbye July, Hello 10 Months of Service

July has been a hectic month in Xinavane. Some highs and lows for sure.
But let's not talk about the lows, those are no fun.
Last weekend we held our Gaza/Maputo Province REDES workshop. It was a long weekend for us, but the girls sure enjoyed themselves! We spent the weekend with Forum Mulher and groups from all over Gaza/Maputo working with the girls on empowerment, HIV/AIDS, goal setting, and other important topics for young girls around the world. We even had Ivette, a Mozambican rapper, and a congresswoman come talk to the girls about empowerment and making smart choices for their own futures.
As incoming provincial coordinator, I learned a lot about my goals for next year. But more importantly the girls were very excited and learned a lot. On our way home, the 2 girls from my school started asking more questions from their workshops and have started planning activities to present to our school to share what they learned during their weekend. I was exhausted by the end of the weekend, but seeing the girls' excitement to learn more and share their experiences made all the stress and lack of sleep worth it.

Bem vindo REDES!
Ivette talking to the girls

Gaby and I and our Xinavane girls!

A session about HIV

So we've been in country for 10 months now...time is FLYING. I can't even believe it's already been almost a year.
I'm going to copy the idea of some of my fellow 21ers and make a list of 10s.

10 Things I've Learned to Live Without

  1. Pre-made food (It seems silly, but in college I rarely had much time to cook and so I often lived off of take-out and yogurt. I know how to cook, I just never had the need or patience before)
  2. Easy transportation (Living in a city, I always had access to a bus, train, or car to get anywhere...half the time I could walk to where I wanted to be. But here...transportation is a whole different story)
  3. Personal space (I'm big on the whole "stay out of my personal space bubble" but that is just not in existence doesn't make me so happy, but I'm adapting)
  4. New clothes (Sorry, I had to put the typical American comment out there, I mean, I worked decent jobs and one of them was at a clothing store so I was used to having new clothes way too often)
  5. Cheese (It sucks but even when you can find cheese in this country it is out of the regular budget of a Peace Corps Volunteer, however it makes us appreciate it when we do get a hold of some yummy cheddar or or a container of Laughing Cow)
  6. A variety in my vegetables (Going to a school surrounded by farms and living at home with a large vegetable garden, I was always so used to having easy, affordable access to whatever vegetable I wanted, it's not so easy here...)
  7. A schedule (Yea...that's all I can say about that...schedules are just not really a thing)
  8. Manicures/Pedicures (Again, just about as American as I can get with this comment, but it's true. I was that girl at the salon every 2 weeks...well when I wasn't on a trail crew anyways)
  9. Being busy (Seems ridiculous, but I promise you I hadn't had free time since I was in elementary school, even in the summers I was busy with summer homework or working. It honestly was quite an adjustment to suddenly having copious amounts of spare time and learning how to use my service productively without every minute being pre-planned for me)
  10. Always understanding what is going on (Communication is sometimes not the greatest and often days even I get the idea of what is happening I am left confused about what is going on)

10 Things I've Learned I Can't Live Without

  1. Contact with my family (I love traveling, but I am also a homebody so when my phone was stolen the hardest part was not having a way to communicate with my family)
  2. A support system (From friends in Peace Corps to friends near me in the village to WhatsApping with friends at home, I have never truly valued the importance of support from the people in my life)
  3. Pets (My dogs were so important to me at home, and here I have Katniss, everyday I'm learning more about how much joy pets bring and the calming effect they can have on us after a stressful day, and just how much fun a little baby animal can be!)
  4. Alone time (Spending 30-60 minutes alone locked in my room working out or reading or watching a movie has become pivotal in my matter how integrated I feel or how many projects I have that I love, it's exhausting sometimes and you just got to get alone)
  5. Coffee (Well...okay...I kind of already knew that...but living somewhere where truly amazing coffee is hard to find/expensive, I've learned even more how much I love coffee)
  6. A variety in my diet (Including vegetables...sure I'm used to it now and I am getting creative with the vegetables we have, but I have learned that I really do love having a variety in my diet and a large selection of vegetables)
  7. A schedule (Sure I've learned to live without it for now, but I couldn't stay this way forever, I value my scheduling!)
  8. An occasional vacation (Sometimes you really do just have to get away, even if I'm already away from home it's important to get away from work too)
  9. An English break (I love talking to the other teachers and the people in my village but sometimes I just want to speak my own language)
  10. Chocolate (That little chocolate break is like a little piece of heaven here)
Off to book my vacation for our August break!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

6/22/2014: The Winds of Change Are Blowing

It's been a very hectic few weeks for me.
I'm going to say up front, some of my update news is not great. Some of these winds of change are blowing in some mighty storms and we are batting down the hatches for what's about to come. I won't talk too much about it as it's all still in the beginning process and we don't have many answers and ideas...or unfortunately even knowledge about what's going on.
I'll start with the storm so I can end with the light, fun, sailing winds of change.
Unfortunately for the past few weeks my roommate and I have been having increasing struggles with the people we live with. There have been some cultural clashes with expectations, lifestyles, habits, etc. We had thought we rose above the struggles and were finally finding some common ground and starting to find our place in our housing complex and at school. Sometime last week, we got the news that while on the surface we have found common ground, there is deep negative feelings towards us and we're not really sure what our future is like here right now. That's all I'll say about that because we are seriously lacking in information. But we are meeting with some people from Peace Corps to help us find the best course of action that will work for us as well as our school and our school director. Meanwhile, if you can keep us in your thoughts and prayers. This place has become HOME for both of us, our surrogate families are here, our lives are here, and we love our school. When I came here I said "Yea, I don't know what I'm doing in 2 years" was ok to not have a plan for post Peace Corps, I never thought to have a plan for during my time. So that's what we're getting to face right now. When I have news that we are ready to share, I will.
Onto some bigger and better changes.
I was elected the Maputo/Gaza Provinces Coordinator for REDES. I'm very excited about this opportunity, it's at the root of my real personal reasons for being here. REDES is an organization that works with girls in our villages to teach empowerment, income generation, HIV/SIDA, and independence. To me, yes I am here to teach, but really I wanted to come here to work with these girls and see changes happen even with just one or two girls because they'll be role models for their daughters and so on. I am very excited to be the coordinator and work to increase volunteer involvement, Mozambican counter part involvement, and numbers of REDES groups in our provinces.
I also was SO LUCKY to get to see my best friend in the Peace Corps. Jules lives in the North and because of security travel bans, we can't travel by land between North and South and with school and living on a volunteer income, it is almost impossible to fly without going on official Peace Corps business. BUT. She was brought down to Maputo and I got to spend a long weekend with her! I didn't think I would get to see her until January so it was very exciting!! I was so lucky to get to spend time with her. While we were together we noticed the new trainees (yes, that's a whole different change, hey??) were in Maputo, meaning the training village was empty! (We're not allowed there when trainees are there) and we said hi to our host families. When I left, my host mae and I were still struggling with our conversations, there was still a lot of acting and miscommunication. But when I saw her now we sat and talked for hours catching up about life! She and I were both so proud and excited.
So...that's life here in the village, nice and hectic as usual!
Life is always about the adventure, that's for sure.

Me and Jules, reunited :)

My host mae, irma, and irmao. We were all so happy to see each other
Me and some of my girls from school! They make me so happy, even when they frustrate me

Monday, June 2, 2014

6/2/2014: I have not fallen off of the face of the off

Wow! It has been a LONG time since I have written anything.
I can't say not much has happened, I have been very busy, but nothing super out of my ordinary has occurred.
Let me see. Where can I start?
Since the last blog we had a vacation from school, so I decided to finally make the full day trek up to Tofo Beach in the Inhambane province. During the break we had a volunteer reunion there for a few days. It was FANTASTIC. I not only got to see many Moz21ers but also spend time with 18ers (health volunteers getting ready to leave the country soon), 19ers (other education volunteers like my roommate), and 20ers ("new" health volunteers). It was amazing to be back on a beach, I've missed being so close to the ocean! We just hung out and laughed a lot...that's about all I can say. Except that I NEEDED a vacation. It was reenergizing for sure.

Tofo Beach Sunset
What happened next?
Hm. I went straight down to my regular stomping ground, Maputo, for an inservice training called reconnect. After 3 (ok...4-5) months at site, we 21ers were reunited for a 4 day conference. We talked about security, site, adjustment, teaching, lots of things. But I was mostly extremely excited to see some of my friends that are so far away I probably won't see again until our Midservice training in January. It was important for us to see each other, spend some time catching up, and swap stories about life at site and our schools. It was overall a great 2 weeks of vacation for sure and I came back to site reenergized and very excited for the next few months of school!

In service training 
One of my closest friends (also from the DMV!!) Matt
It's been pretty normal here at school though. Very busy with teaching and spending time with my students, trying to find some time to relax and run again.
Today (Monday the 2nd) was our School's Day so we had a big day long school party--music, food, clubs doing was great fun and a nice time to be around my students and the other teachers without the pressures of the classroom. I however will be in a food coma until further notice as EVERY class wanted me to eat lunch in their room so I ate little bits with everyone and it was still far too much food for comfort.

Secondary school modeling club

Primary school modeling club and dancing
Last but not least on the story front, a couple of weeks ago I went on a drive with one of my friends and we found the graves of the children of the first mill owners. It was sad, the whole family died of malaria about a hundred years ago, but to find a piece of history fairly well preserved is cool!

Que mais? Not much. The factory is in full swing so we are constantly having to clean sugar cane ash off of our clothes and our veranda and the whole town now permanently smells of molasses. But since I previously lived next to Perdue Chicken Factory, I'll take the sickly sweet molasses smell, thank you.

There really isn't much going on as of yet. Like I said, I've been busy and enjoying life, but there's not really anything of note to be honest. Just enjoying the Africa Life.

Until next time, at least for now I'm still around, still kicking it in my village, and still throughly enjoying my adventures no matter how small or large they may be on a daily basis.

Monday, April 28, 2014

4/28/2014: The Case of the Homesickness

Everything about life in Xinavane has just become normal. Running to Maputo for errands, random power and water outages, explaining chemistry in Portuguese...its all just normal life now, which is great. But it gives me more time for a realization of homesickness, most particularly today.
Just little things made homesickness rush over me. And for the most part I see homesickness as a good thing, it means I love my family and I want to share my experience with them, it means things here remind me of home as this place becomes more and more like home.
Today was typical Eastern Shore weather. Had to break out my fleece and a scarf to walk to school but still needed was perfect. But as I was walking to school a part of me just wanted to be walking from my Loblolly Lane casa to Henson Hall with my coffee cup for class, for a moment I closed my eyes and when I first opened them I was almost confused about why it didn't look like campus!
As if that wasn't crazy enough, watching The Fixer (known as Scandal in the states) brought tears to my eyes! Even St Elmo's Fire made me twinge. Images of Georgetown, the monuments, Pennsylvania Avenue...images of home...places I instantly wanted to see again! Don't worry, I promptly remembered that by this weekend I'll be at one of the most beautiful beaches ever and remembered those monuments and Pennsylvania Avenue will still exist, unless the world ends while I'm gone they're not going anywhere.
This evening (I'm telling you, its been random bouts of homesick all day!!) I was listening to Heart Like Mine and I was instantly transported back to the first time I listened to the song and I wanted to be there so bad; sitting in the back of my parents car next to my big brother curled up staring out my window as we cross my favorite Bay Bridge on our way to Fishermen's Crab Deck. Such a simple memory, just a regular activity that isn't a regular activity anymore and such a random song to spark that feeling. And then suddenly my heart traveled elsewhere. Sitting at the kitchen island writing a paper, my little brother energetically telling me all the details of his newest movie plan about penguins taking over Mozambique (this movie was planned shortly after I announced my news that I was moving here). I can just see his face and hear his voice and picture him dancing around the kitchen telling me everything on his mind at a hundred words a second. Oh I just want to hug my little guy, my selfless loving little brother who is to this day researching everything he can about Mozambique, Maputo, Xinavane, Africa and who just had to make a Katniss Care Package to go inside my care package so she wouldn't feel left out. What a kiddo.

Kind of a roller coaster of a day. But the benefit...only while being homesick in Africa can I be on my way to Crab Deck in Maryland AND simultaneously dancing in the kitchen in Chicago with my little brother. And somehow to me, these emotions just make me realize that this is becoming home to me, my life is becoming normal, I'm enjoying what I'm doing...and in no way can that be a bad thing!

So Maryland, California, Chicago, Family...just know you were all very much present in my day today, all of you showed up in my heart no matter what I did or where I went, and that's important.

Monday, April 14, 2014

4/13/2014: Not a City Mouse

I am very much a country mouse, the city (particularly a crowded city like Maputo) really stresses me out and although I live close, I always put off coming to this city. However, I recently decided to start a REDES group in my village…
REDES: Rapariga em Desenvolvimento Educação e Saúde. Ok... so I know for many of you, that means nothing. So really REDES is about developing confidence, health knowledge, and education. We work with girls in our villages to help them develop skills, confidence, independence, and income generation activities. So anyone who knows me could guess I latched on to this idea.
So here I am after venturing into the city for our REDES Training of Trainers. It is technically for our local counterparts—the women we run our groups with—but as this is a new idea in my life and I don’t have one of those, here I am getting information to take back to my village.
I spent the entire day Thursday trying to talk myself out of coming. Why? I don’t know. But I wanted nothing to do with leaving my village. Thankfully my roommate and my friend Jules both talked me into sticking to my commitment to come. What an education! Spending the weekend here has made me even more excited to start my REDES group, seeing the women empowerment in this room and knowing how important it is to take this back to my girls and be a mentor to them, be available to them to talk about things their mothers won’t talk about—HIV, college, jobs, periods, relationships—I can just feel we’re embarking on a very exciting and important mission.
That’s part of my weekend. But wait—there’s more. In true American fashion, we made important “political” leadership decisions while skipping a training session to take a moment for some coffee outside and taking a breather. And that was when I became the “assistant” Southern Coordinator for REDES. It’s not really a position in REDES leadership, but this way the Southern Coordinator isn’t working alone and I can be trained in the job before she leaves Mozambique. I thought…“well hey…we need a coordinator when she leaves and we definitely need more volunteer involvement, so why the heck not.” At least for the beginning I won’t be by myself.
So off we go on this journey. And that’s the only update I have about that.

In other news, I have a friend from middle/high school who lives in Maputo (some of you may remember that but just in case that was your reminder). So whenever I have time in Maputo I try to see him and catch up. This time was extremely special. He had gotten crabs from a local fisher and called me saying “we should make Maryland crabs, are you free?” …Am I free for steamed crabs with Old Bay instead of uber boiled with a bunch a sauce (why everyone outside Maryland insists on things like tomato sauce or something is beyond me) … DUH I’M FREE! So I got to catch up with my friend, have a Maryland style feast of beer and crabs with Old Bay, AND introduce my friend Lauren Maryland style crabs, thankfully she loved them! Guess our friendship can continue.
On our way to my friend’s apartment, I had the strangest conversation…I mean I have these conversations more often that I wish.
Me: “Onde esta Woolworths?”
Stranger: “Eu nao entendo Ingles”
Me: “<<Onde esta>> e Portugues, nao Ingles”
Stranger: “Oh. Tchau”
…So not only was my question not answered, they just assumed I don’t speak Portuguese. In this village, this conclusion makes sense, but there are an awful lot of non-Mozambicans in the city who speak Portuguese, it’s never really a safe assumption that the person you are speaking to doesn’t speak Portuguese and I was a bit insulted.
But whatever, we found Woolworths and thus found a place to get ice cream and a drink and also my friend’s apartment and we got some delicious dinner.

Side note. Everyone should experience the joy of explaining to young teenagers in Portuguese what laxatives are. We were talking about different important bases and what they are used for and one of the examples from my textbook was “laxatives” and I got the strangest looks…”Professora?? Que e isso??” and off I go trying to explain what a laxative is and who would use it and why…I think the majority of my students fell out of their chairs laughing so hard at me, laxatives, the situation, my explanation…I’m not sure what it was but it probably one of the funniest, most amazing experiences of my teaching here so far.

Now I’m ready to return to my simple village life and my kitten.

Monday, April 7, 2014

4/7/2014: Dia de Mulheres

Today was Mozambican Women’s Day, so we had off of school and lots of celebrations!
Women’s Day here is to honor Josina Machel, who was one of the first women dedicated to promoting women’s rights politically. It’s also to pay tribute to women throughout the country campaigning for human rights and fair treatment between men and women.
It’s a very important day here for all and as a female volunteer who is personally very interested in equality for women, it was a very exciting day!
It all started quite randomly (as most of my days here do) and I have to tell you from the start my life lesson—always always ALWAYS carry a capulana and a bottle of water with you, wherever you go, even you’re just going to the bank.
I went out this morning to passear (wander around) and buy credit for some internet binging since I haven’t been able to get a hold of the school’s internet lately.
On my way back to my house, this woman named Julia comes running up to me with an extra capulana and some flowers and pulls me over to the Heros’ Plaza where women are dancing and placing flowers, so she makes me do the same. Next thing I know we’re dancing and singing down the main road past the factory to the hospital to see the baby that was born at midnight today and bless the baby and give it clothes and other gifts.
After blessing the baby, we went back towards the village for a children’s group to do a presentation, they did a bunch of dances and songs about women’s equality and women’s right and decreasing violence against women in this country.
Next thing I know, I’m eating lunch with the chefe de postal and other women in the government here! It was so great to get to know them better and chat about women in the community, in the process I was able to find a counter part who will help me start a REDES group at my school—a group focused on giving a girls a voice and talking about health issues, school, being independent, etc.
It was all around a very random, and yet very exciting Dia de Mulheres and very cool to be apart of the celebrations with the other women!!

Feliz Dia de Mulheres!!

My friend Maryann was also dragged into the celebration!

The lucky baby

The women in charge of the day

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3/27/2014: Don't Blink, no really, don't

Just past my 6 monthiversary and I can’t help but think of the Kenny Chesney song “Don’t Blink.”
“Trust me friend, a hundred years goes faster than you think, so don’t blink”

Ok, so it hasn’t been a hundred years, but time does go faster than you think!

I posted some numbers on my Facebook, I’ll share them here for those of you who are not my friends on Facebook:
8,346 miles, 2 new villages, 150 new students, 30 books, multiple new languages, countless pounds of xima, 50 marriage proposals, who knows how many new friends, and 1 new kitten.
No worries, I said no to all the proposals because they all went more or less like this: “if you buy me a beer you can marry me.” I’m not the biggest romantic, but I do require a little more than that…like knowing my name, my favorite color, my family, and a ring would be a nice touch.
I was talking to my roommate the other day about changes that occur, as I’m in my first 6 months and she’s in her last 6 months here. We realized we sit a lot more. We were making hard boiled eggs and just sat and watched the cold water run out of the faucet. I was watching a snail crawl across our veranda window one afternoon. I sit in the schoolyard and watch the classrooms full of learning. There’s a lot of watching. I never really observed my world before, not unless forced to for my Nature Writing class. Even while studying biology I never really just observed the whole world, I would just observe the fish or plant in the lab. I don’t sit and watch because I’m bored, I do it because I can here, time moves differently here. No one thinks it’s weird if you aren’t always doing something.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of 6 months as most of you know. There have been days where I just wanted to get on the next plane back home and get back to my life before all of this. There have been times I hated my job and felt helpless and scared. There have been thunderstorms that have made me think I was going to die in Africa thousands of miles away from my family. But what is life without the lows? Without those moments, I wouldn’t appreciate the fact that all of the mamas in the market call me amiga, my students get upset when I miss school or I’m sick, my roommate and I pile so much activity into a weekend in Maputo that when we get home we are exhausted but laughing, or I get to take an adventure through this beautiful country and visit a beach. I can’t even begin to imagine/comprehend/explain everything I’ve learned and grown to appreciate in just the past 6 months. It’s one of those things that literally renders me speechless.
I’m positive the next 2 years…no 21 months…will continue to be a rollercoaster and all I can do is try to not blink and take it all in.

Monday, March 17, 2014

3/17/2014: Oh, To Feel Loved

A really wonderful, heartwarming, energizing experience occurred today.
Sometimes I think my students hate me. They mock my accent, talk during class, have moments of being indisciplinos and not listening. But I kept going because I'm not going to let me them break me.
But all changed. They still mock my accent and talk during class and don't always listen but I know they love me.
After being gone a week because of flooding I walked into the school yard today and within 2 seconds of being spotted a horde of students ran over hugging me and screaming "teacher jess! We thought you left us!!" And I realized they don't act the way they act because they hate me. They act this way because they're kids and they've never had an American teacher. But at the end of the day, I know from personal experience you only get excited when a teacher returns when you love them. And now I know my students love me as much as I love them, and somehow that makes a world of difference.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

3/14/2014: Rainy Day Inspiration?

Just some continuation on my last few blogs...a little inspiration for all of us.

"Your job at any given moment is to bring all your gifts, all your talents, all your propensities, and all your passions into this thing called life and believe that they are good enough to produce the fruit that is expected of you" -The Resolution for Women

"He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten for us to do, work we have better be doing"
Ephesians 2:10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3/12/2014: Enter Minor Panic Attack about January 2016

“Give your entire attention to what I am doing right now, don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Matthew 6:34

I feel I just blogged on this topic and yet just days later, I have a confession. I may or may not have had a minor panic attack during my time in Maputo…WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NEXT??
I have always had career ADD. Ask my dad…it always depends on my present job. Trail crew: “Dad! I’M GOING TO WORK FOR A TRAIL ASSOCIATION!”; American Eagle: “Dad! I’M GOING TO MANAGE AN AMERICAN EAGLE!”; Environmental Protection Agency Internship: “Dad! I’M GOING TO WORK FOR THE SUPERFUND!”; Peace Corps Volunteer teacher: “Dad! I’M GOING TO TEACH!” or lately: “Dad! I’M GOING TO WORK AT PEACE CORPS HEADQUARTERS”; Watching Devil Wears Prada: “Dad! I’M GOING TO RUN A HUGE COMPANY AND BE FEARED LIKE MERYL STREEP’S CHARACTER!”; and for the times I’m in between and totally lost and confused: “Dad! I’M GOING TO HAVE AN ORGANIC FARM AND COFFEE SHOP AND MAKE MAPS ON THE SIDE!”
So that’s the background with the problem. Fast forward to now. Obviously having career ADD makes it very hard for me to figure out what to even do in Graduate School. How do I know what to study if I don’t even know what I’m going to do??
Insert my panic attack this morning.
With access to internet and copious amounts of free time (because in my evacuation I didn’t think to grab all of my text books so I can’t even lesson plan) I have been catching up on my NPR Environment Podcast (I mean…I gotta stay sharp in Environmental Policy just in case I end up…well anywhere actually as that’s my main passion…hence the 4 years of college in Environmental “stuff”).
Why does any of this matter? I guess it actually kind of doesn’t. Except I finished the work I was doing for a friend and now have time to think and blog…always a dangerous mix.
Sometimes I just wish I could have a flash of inspiration and know what I want to do next. I could study for GREs, apply to graduate school, and know that after Peace Corps I will be moving on to my “dream job.”
But in the middle of panic attack, I decided “hm. I didn’t do my devotional for today yet” and just like God’s perfect timing… I get “Give your entire attention to what I am doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow…” Jesus Today by Sarah Young.  And then I remember the promise I made during my first few days of venturing into The Resolution for Women. I will spend more time being in the now, being the best PCV I can be, the best 23 year old I can be, the best teacher I can be. Because that’s my life for the next 2 years and I don’t want to miss it being so concerned about my job ADD and my lack of concrete inspiration for a career. I’m 23 years old living in Africa…do I really need to know exactly what I will be doing by January 2016? No. I need to experience this life I have right now. 
Sometimes I just need to remember, when the time comes, I’ll know what to do and along the way I have one of the most supportive families behind my back to help me achieve what ever it is I want to achieve and help do whatever I need to do to get there.

No need to have a panic attack about career ADD when I’m only 23 years old and I HAVE a job.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

3/8/2014: Building Our Ark

I have learned that I really feel my village is home.
How do I know?
We got evacuated for an undetermined amount of time for flooding and now I'm not in my house and I don't know what's going on and all I can do is fret. Because that's my house.
I know, I know, I'm safe. And that's a blessing. And we're well taken care of. But it's never easy to leave behind your house and your kitten to evacuate. 
But we are bracing ourselves for we don't know what and enjoying the time in the city as best as we can for however long we will be here. Thank God for emergency action plans and people looking out for us and our little ark! 

The road by the bank and the market
Some factory housing...thankfully not my house!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3/4/2014: Every Moment Counts

i just started doing an independent faith journey study reading The
 Resolution for Women. Reading only one chapter made me feel so convicted about how I have been living my life. I’m always looking at the next chapter trying to peak ahead. In elementary school I just wanted to feel the independence of middle school, in middle school I just wanted to get to high school and be an athlete, in high school I just wanted to move on to college and get away, in college I just wanted to be in the Peace Corps already. And now here I am, having not been fully emotionally present for a good portion of the previous TWENTY THREE years and I’m living the dream I thought I’ve had since I was 8 years old and all I can think is “what am I going to do when I’m done here??” Part of that is our culture, everyone always ALWAYS asks “so what is your plan after Peace Corps” and I supply an answer. But really when I think about it, all I want to say is “woah man! I’ve been in country for 6 months, let me relax and enjoy my job for at least a little bit!” But that’s not what I have been doing. All the questions made me start thinking “well Jessie, what ARE you going to do? Are you going to go back to school? Are you going to go back to SCA? Are you going to go back to EPA? Are you going to try to teach?” Only to realize now I’ve been here for 6 months and it’s already a blurred memory. Because I haven’t been focused on being emotionally present. Here I have the greatest blessing I could ever get, I have the one job I have always wanted living on the only continent I’ve always wanted to visit. Here I am with my dreams a reality by the grace of God and I’m not even allowing myself to be present for the experience.
Don’t fall into this trap friends. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, pause. Breathe. LIVE. Here it is, life happening, 23 years accomplished. I can’t go back and relive those memories and remember everything. What’s done is done and there are some memories I will never have back because it took me this long to get wise. But the good news is I still have plenty of new memories to make because now God has opened my eyes. This is my life and I’m just trying to peak ahead and see what’s next. But why does it matter what’s next? I’m in this little village in Africa for 2 years, does it really matter what I’m doing when I leave or does it matter that I remember as much of this experience as possible? So today, I resolve to be content where I am and thank God for every blessing I receive and LIVE IN AFRICA. I resolve to remember and be an active part of my own life and take the days as they come so I no longer have to look back and think “hm. What DID happen when I was there?” I resolve to remember my experience in Africa and let it change my heart how it will and create memories how it will and map out the course of my life how it will.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2/21/2014: “Education is a work of love”

Life in Mozambique has been absolutely hectic lately. On our school wall, there is a mural that says, “Education is a work of love” (well, really it’s in Portuguese but for your enjoyment I’ve written it in English). I have always admired teachers; many of my teachers are actually my greatest heroes and inspiration.
But during the past 2 weeks I have begun to truly learn the meaning behind education is a work of love. Spending time with my students in the backcountry, caring for their every need and safety I felt the meaning behind this saying. But I never imagined fully learning about the love in a classroom. It’s a whole different vibe but just as important and vital. My students are looking to me for answers, inspiration, knowledge. And I somehow have to translate it to them. I have to be there for them and stay patient when they get too rowdy. When a desk falls on my foot and I’m in so much pain I collapse, I have to look up at my student and say “It’s fine. It was a mistake. No worries” while really I want to scream and cry. When one student starts to get smart and talk back and act up I have to find a way to be nice but firm at the same time. And some how during all of this I have to explain chemistry—something I struggled with myself. But with love and patience and time, I think my students and I will come to an understanding and go down this road together.
I was thinking about the saying “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Whoever said that, I challenge to face the struggles and the rewards of standing in a classroom in a village of Africa teaching chemistry in Portuguese. It’s not because I can’t—I am qualified for multiple jobs, I can do many different things. I CHOOSE to do THIS. I choose to instead help inspire a future generation and hopefully make some movement that I can’t even begin to predict right now. I’ve decided the saying is quite selfish. It is selfish to not want to share passion and knowledge, it is selfish to not want to continue the education in the classroom and feel the excitement of a student finally grasping a difficult concept or the reward of a student saying “thank you.” There are many teachers in high school and college I still visit (well…not presently as I’m on a different continent, but you get the idea) and they are beyond intelligent and able but they chose to share their knowledge with us and often get students like me are forever grateful for their passion and love and because of that I go back often to say “thank you.”
Regardless of what anyone says, education is a labor of love and I am grateful to have the energy and desire to pursue this labor.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2/6/2014: Primeira Semana, this is my life

It’s been a while since I blogged last. Mostly because there hasn’t been much to say. I’ve been melting while folks back home have been buried in snow. I’ve been spending my days at the school organizing various types of school records and just in general helping the secretary get ready for the school year.
But this past week alone has been quite hectic in my little world.
I’m a year older. And for the first time in a long time I didn’t have my best friends around me to help me celebrate. I was kind of hurt and homesick for a bit. And here’s the thing about the new life I’m living. You have to make a new family. You have to find people who will take you in and be your home away from home. And I praise God that I have just that. So I didn’t have my best friends around me and that will always kind of suck, but I’m not alone, and that is just a wonderful feeling. I have truly seen this past week the support system I have. I have my family and friends in the states praying for me and anxiously packing packages to send to me. And I have friends here who graciously opened their lives up to this strange American and helped me create a family away from home, because they also have had to do so and know first hand how hard it can be to be away from home on holidays and birthdays.
 The other big news in the life of me and Katniss is…FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL…in my best Nemo impression. We have survived the insane world of first week of school in Mozambique. By the time we finally got our schedules all finalized (for now) I had 3 termas (classes) of 9th grade Chemistry. Which means 6 hours a week. It took us quite a while and many conversations around a scheduling program to finally get this schedule in place, but it seems to be working.
The first day, I was supposed to teach last period. The way it works here, the students stay in one class room and the teachers move around. And there’s a long morning break for 20 minutes. Well the first day, my wonderful students left school during the morning break. I was discouraged but reminded myself it’s the very first week, much like in the states it’s our time to get back into the routine and introductions (I mean, there’s this white American teaching them in broken Portuguese…a whole class period is spent on introductions).
Among all of this, my friend Kelly, who is in another country for Peace Corps posted a blog that made me realize something. I love my village, I love my job, but it’s hard to remember sometimes that this is my actual life. 2 years isn’t really temporary at all. This is 2 years where I can either be extremely happy and make memories or I can wait for it to be over. But either way, it is 2 years of MY LIFE. She got some advice from a friend that really hit home for me and I just want to take a second and share it, and reflect on it. (We do a lot of reflecting here I think…some days there isn’t much else to do but reflect).
“Don’t bother counting the days. The end will come when it comes and what seemed at the time so far away will eventually be too close for comfort. Enjoy yourself and remember that this is your actual life for two years, not an event for you to spectate. Embrace what’s out there to be embraced while you can. Everybody goes home someday, just make sure you don’t ‘leave’ before you your time’s up”
I personally enjoying counting months (not days) just because I’m a very goal orientated person and it actually makes me proud to take a link off of my monthly countdown chain and I say “yeah! I accomplished another month in my goal!” But my friend’s advice reminds me of another thing. This isn’t a weekend trip or a vacation from life or a break from the world. This is part of my life. When I go home, I will be practically 25. I won’t get 22, 23, 24 years old back. Those years are happening. Here. It’s a nice reminder that life is happening, this isn’t pretend and it all continues on. So I’m here to make the best of it. Do the best teaching I can, make as many friends as I can, create as many memories as possible…because at the end of this, I will have lived 2 more years of my life.

Meanwhile, I am off to get ready for my adventure into the city for some school supply shopping and picking up PACKAGES! Finally :)