We all crammed into our colleague’s house on the other nights to stay within our Peace Corps budget, but we spent New Year’s eve and New Year’s day at a wonderful backpacker’s hostel on the beach called Baobob’s, so called after the tree with an absurdly huge trunk, I have never seen anything like it in my life. We really won the lottery of Peace Corps. I could be stuck in the middle of the Sahara for the next two years and instead I am spending my holidays at world-famous beaches. 12 out of the 14 of us in the province came and it was great to see everyone after being at our sites for three weeks and to see how everyone is settling in and to hear all the stories. Some stories are hilarious, other make you cringe. Colin was robbed on Christmas Eve while he was at mass in the church about 100m away from his house. They busted in his front door and took about everything (computer, ipod, clothes) but Colin was extremely positive about it because they didn’t take his guitar, books, or camping stuff which are the things really essential for maintaining sanity here.
This story brings me to tears every time. Two of our colleagues inherited a house with a huge bat problem. Everything in their house was covered by a layer of bat poop, the bats would just swarm the house every night—it simply wasn’t fit to live in. So they did a ton of research and tried every method possible to remove the bats. They tried making one-way exits, per the instructions of every expert on the web. They removed and redid their ceiling, sealing it with caulk all the way around. Etc, etc. After trying every existing humane method with no apparent success, they were lying in bed one night. The bats liked to land on the mosquito net, but this night when a bat did, one of them had had enough and in frustration hit the bat with the flashlight they had in bed with them. A light bulb went off in their minds. The next night they went to bed with frying pans. It took them just four nights to get rid of the bats.
One male colleague is living in basically a homestay situation again, magnified by the fact that he is male in a very Muslim community, so nobody wants to let him do anything. He has day-to-day frustrations: cooking is not acceptable for a man to do, he unknowingly pulled down the electricity wire the third time he did laundry (also not acceptable for a man to do) because he had assumed that since his house doesn’t have electricity and in Mozambique many people use different kinds of wire to make their clotheslines and nobody had bothered to tell him the first two times he did it, he hung his clothes on the electrical wire. He also told an amazing story about being asked if he wanted to go to a naming ceremony and accepting, thinking nothing of it. He ended up leaving with his host at 9pm and walking four hours into the bush with no lights of any kind (in a country where landmines are a huge problem). He also got invited to a funeral and went in order to observe the ritual, only to find himself helping bury the body.
We were told a story about two girls who were from previous groups, who people from our group had replaced. They lived in a house that didn’t have electricity, but for some reason was completely wired with light bulbs and outlets. They were sitting in their house one evening about one year into their service, when suddenly the lights came on. They didn’t even know the wires in their house were connected to anything. The lights stayed on for about half an hour, went out again, and never came back on again during the rest of their two year service.