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