Friday, December 14, 2012


            Yesterday I was taking the elevator in the building in New York City where I’m staying. The door opened to a middle-aged man and his mother already on the elevator, so I greeted them “good morning” and got on. The man greeted me warmly back and then asked me where I am from. Well I have absolutely zero idea how to answer this question and got extremely flustered. “Do you mean where do I live? Or where I grew up? Or what my heritage is?” He was probably equally confused by my discombobulated response, so he settled on heritage. After I answered he told me, “I just wanted to say that I really appreciated you saying good morning to us.” He explained that he’s from Eastern Europe from a culture that values greeting others, but he’s often disappointed by how few people respond to him here in New York. I excitedly explained to him that I spent the past three years living in Mozambique in a similar culture, so I also appreciate greeting others. We chatted for a few minutes about our experiences because wishing each other good days. That’s one of the things I thought I would miss most about Mozambique/Africa—those momentary but wonderful connections you make with strangers who you’ll never meet again.
            I’m posting this from a bus, on my way from NYC to Boston. Wireless on a bus? America is blowing my mind. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I'll be back soon enough!

            After a layover at the incredibly shiny Heathrow airport, I landed safely in New York City last night! Actually it was late afternoon but apparently it’s winter and far from the equator here, so the sun was already down. Oh brave new world! I’ve already gotten to eat some delicious food (Mexican!), indulge in some guilty pleasures (McDonald’s breakfast and a Twix bar), see friends from high school and college, and run into someone I knew on the street! I’m amazed by the bright lights everywhere—Christmas decorations and otherwise—and all the multitudes of well-dressed people. I’m surprised that everyone just waltzes around casually holding their big smartphones to their heads without worrying someone might snatch it. And I was under the impression that Americans and New Yorkers especially were rude, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how many people have smiled and greeted me back! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012


            Anna, Val, and I arrived safe and sound in Johannesburg at 4am this morning and have been spending the day with the wonderful John and Yvette. For those of you who have been with me for the past two or three years, they used to own Tsene Lodge, our little paradise on earth. It’s been great to see them again and know that even after the terrible situation, they have begun to make, and find themselves happy in, a new life for themselves here.
Now that I am no longer a PCV I am free to traipse about Johannesburg as I please (deemed too dangerous, it’s off-limits for PCVs except in transit). After all of the terrible things I have heard about it, and my limited interactions that were mostly restricted to the downtown areas around the bus station and airport, I have gotten to see a whole new side today that is really quite nice. Organic markets, African crafts, farms, and nurseries. Tomorrow night I fly out and I will land in New York City on Monday!

Friday, December 7, 2012


            I am now officially an RPCV—a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer! After arriving three long years ago in October 2009, I am finally no longer a PCV and moving on to the next part of my life. Below: Jordan, Valerie, Anna, and I—the last four standing from Moz 14. Now that we have all COSed, Moz 14 is officially done with PC/Mozambique.

            Tonight I take the bus to Johannesburg, where I will get to visit some old friends until I fly out on Sunday night. It’s hard to wrap my mind around, but on Monday afternoon I will land in New York City! I will hop from there to Boston, to Toronto, to Chicago, to Madison, to my hometown, to Ohio, to Chicago, and back to my hometown again before I fly back here to Africa. That will be one adventure, and then on January 16th begins the next one—my short stint in Swaziland!


            I’m down in Maputo this week for my COS (Close Of Service) processing. Lots of forms to fill out, and final medical check-ups before we are officially done!
            A few things from the past few months I never got a chance to write about. Back two months ago when I was writing grad school applications all the time, I had spent the entire weekend shut in the Peace Corps office working on applications. Early afternoon Sunday I decided that I deserved a break, so I went home, grabbed my book, sat on the porch and propped my feet up, and settled in for a relaxing few hours. This lasted about 5 minutes before I heard a pounding at my gate and children calling out “big sister Anata!” A handful of neighborhood kids had gathered at my gate and asked me to give them an English lesson. So before I knew it, I had about 13 kids sitting on the concrete slab inside our yard and I was conducting an impromptu English lesson. Not quite the relaxing afternoon I had envisioned, but a nice one nonetheless.
            Once when Anna was returning to Namaacha from a trip I took a book and went out to the main road to meet her and help with her bags. As she got off the chapa I greeted her with a big hug, then she went around back to get her bags. A man on the chapa said “oh, I don’t get a hug too?” I might get asked this 4 or 5 times a day, so I shook my head at him and thought nothing of it. “Don’t you remember me? I’m your cousin” he said. He told me who his parents are—Anna’s host parents—and reminded me that he had met me when I was visiting with my dad the day after Baby Anata was born. “Wait, so you are Anna’s brother?” I asked, pointing across the street to where she stood…talking to her 11 year old host brother. “Oh, that’s my brother!” he said. He explained that he had been living in Maputo and had never actually come to Namaacha while Anna lived with his family, so he had never met her, he only knew me from when I came back to visit. It was funny because they had sat almost next to each other the whole chapa ride, but it was me he recognized, not his own “sister.”
            One day Anna and I were walking home from the Peace Corps office through Namaacha. We passed a group of high school girls and said hi to them. They said hi back, and one gave us a particularly big smile, maybe you could even call it a knowing smirk. “How do we know her?!” Anna and I asked each other, and it was clear that she knew us. This drove us crazy for a few days until I a light bulb went off in my head and I went back to the photos from the 2011 REDES southern region conference at Barra beach last year. And there she was, smiling in pictures of the “blue group,” representing her REDES group from Namaacha at the regional conference. It still blows me away on a regular basis what a small country this is!

Monday, December 3, 2012


            Today I officially left Namaacha and came to Maputo to begin my COS (Close of Service) process. On Friday, after three whole years, I will officially become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV—some people call it “Recovering” Peace Corps Volunteer). And I think the timing is perfect. I’m not too jaded, I don’t hate Mozambique and I wasn’t itching to leave. At the same time I am 100% happy about leaving (okay, maybe 99%. I am sad to leave Baby Anata). Yesterday I had no mixed feelings as I walked away from my house and neighborhood children calling out to me, nor when I boarded my chapa. I was purely excited—excited to close this amazing chapter of my life, excited to go back to the states and see all the people I miss dearly, excited for all the fantastic things America offers (so basically food), and excited to move on to the next step in my life! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


            My site—meaning my school in Inharrime—is not being replaced by a PCV this year. Apparently the school said they didn’t want someone, and the PCV who replaced me (but ended up leaving after the accident) was treated so poorly that Peace Corps was hesitant to place anyone there. It’s frustrating because it all basically boils down to one personality and it sucks that one person can prevent what would otherwise be a fantastic situation. I loved my school—I loved my students, my colleagues, and the many extracurricular activities I did there, and I know I was loved by many. I loved living at the orphanage with the girls and I know they loved me. It’s also a slap in the face that the school, or this one person, couldn’t see all the good and hard work I did there, and would say they didn’t want another PCV, presumably because of me.
            The other day I stopped by my host family’s house to say hi. One of my aunts was in town, so she offered me a beer and I got roped into staying. Baby Anata (who is unconditionally obsessed with me now) came over and reached for my cup. I laughed and shook my head at her, “trust me, you wouldn’t like it.” “Oh no, give her some, she totally likes it!” my host mom said. So I skeptically held my glass out to her and yep, my namesake loves beer!
            When we first moved into our house we had a lot of trouble with the neighborhood kids. They would provoke our dog by throwing rocks at it, they would try to provoke us, and they would sneak into our yard when we weren’t there and steal fruit. But slowly we were able to kill them with kindness and get them to see us as real people who live in their neighborhood, not some weird white people. Now they always ask before climbing up on our roof to get papayas, even though the way onto the roof is from outside our yard, they stop by to say hi, and whenever we leave the house we are greeted by a chorus of “Hi! Hello! Good morning!” until we are out of sight or until one of our exasperated adult neighbors yells at them all to shut up. We knew all their names and they greeted us by name—Aunt Ana and Aunt Anata. Life was good, and then school break happened. The family structure is fairly fluid here, so it’s normal for kids to live with extended family during the school year in order to attend classes, or for kids to go pass the holidays with extended family. So suddenly the child make-up of the neighborhood changed overnight and we are back to heathens who don’t know or respect us. “Our” kids have stayed true, running up to tell us about all the naughty kids who climbed on our roof while we were out, but all the other little jerks have been provoking us and the dog non-stop.
            The other morning I was returning from a run and saw two of “our” kids playing outside our gate. As I approached I took out my headphones to greet them. I hadn’t heard it, but apparently a kid farther away had called me mulungu. I had to stifle a laugh as one of “our” kids said, in an impatiently exasperated tone, “she’s NOT mulungu, this is Aunt Anata, yeesh!” 


            I had a few questions about whether we were ever able to buy energy for our house—yes we were thankfully. That afternoon we talked to one of the Peace Corps drivers in Namaacha who suggested we talk to one of the other Peace Corps drivers in Maputo to see if he could buy it there. Turns out he was doing work in Gaza province about 150km away, so I admitted defeat and prepared to settle in for a weekend without electricity. But then he told me to text him the code for our electricity box. He was able to find a cousin who was in the vicinity of the electricity place who he texted our code to, his cousin bought 100 Meticais worth of electricity and texted the code to him, then he texted the code to us and presumably paid his cousin later, then we paid him back the following week. Things are rarely ever simple here, but all’s well that ends well!
            On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we visited Cabrini Ministries in St. Philip’s, Swaziland, where we will be working January-April of next year. It gave us a chance to meet future colleagues, see how and where we would be living, and get a more concrete idea of what our work will be. A mere 100km from where we currently live, it’s a completely different world. The language is different, both the official language (English vs Portuguese) and the local native language (SiSwati vs Changana). The customs and family structures are different. And the superficial level of “civilization” is much higher in Swaziland, there are trash cans, western cafes, and the supermarkets could almost be in America. Also the HIV/AIDS rate jumps a solid 15%. The trip was a really great opportunity for us to get a feel for what our life will be like soon. It also made me less sad about leaving here, because I am now looking forward to Swaziland, the next step in my life. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


            Today was a truly wonderful day. Sad that it will be one of my last ones here, and like this.
            When Julia was here visiting me she jokingly referred to me as the “pied piper” once because anywhere I went at the orphanage, I was followed by a throng of children. This morning I stopped by my host family’s house to pick up the kids for church. All the windows and doors were still shut, so after knocking a few times and not hearing any movement in the house, I went on to church alone. I was a little disappointed because it’s one of the last times I would get to go to mass with them, but I settled into to my usual pew alone and closed my eyes to pray. I felt a movement behind me and peeked back to see a girl from our neighborhood sitting next to me. A few minutes later I opened my eyes again and there were two more girls sitting with us. By the time I finished and sat back my row had six little girls sitting in it, and two more had spilled into the row in front of us. One of the girls was the little one who used to sit on my lap during mass at the beginning of the year when I was feeling incredibly homesick for all my girls back in Inharrime. She’s still just as cute, but now far too large to be sitting on anyone’s lap.
            In the morning Anna and I hung out with a PCV who was visiting from Inhambane province and some of the trainees. Then in the early afternoon some more trainees came over for our weekly cooking—this week’s theme was Mexican. Great food and fun and interesting people.
            I just finished reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” which I highly recommend everyone read. This quote on page 336 really spoke to me during this bittersweet transition time: “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Monday afternoon I arrived at the electricity company at 3:10pm to buy more electricity for our house. The man stuck his head in the door then turned back to me, “sorry, we’re closed.” “But I thought you closed at 3:30pm” I said. He then explained to me that yes they do. Unfortunately for me, they close the selling window at 3pm, then they actually close up and go home at 3:30pm. “So you’re going to be here for the next 20 minutes but you won’t sell me electricity?” I asked him. “Yes.” This country drives me crazy sometimes.

I was with a Peace Corps driver and, since he knew I was leaving town the following day, he offered to buy it for us. I didn’t want to trouble him, so I told him not to worry about it, I would just buy some Thursday. Stupid. This morning I went to buy electricity, but their system is down. And there are currently riots happening in Maputo city due to increased chapa prices, so it seems that the whole city has been temporarily shut down, thus the chances of anything getting fixed out here are extremely low. I was considering going into Maputo tomorrow to run some errands, so I could also buy electricity while there. But I found out this morning that a travel ban has been placed on Maputo, due to the riots, so I can’t do that. I have tried talking to some Peace Corps staff who live in Maputo to see if any of them could buy us electricity and text us the number (to punch into the box on our house), but their travel around the city is also quite limited, so we are trying to find someone who is already in that part of town. Oh the joys of Mozambique.

Monday, November 12, 2012


About 8 weeks ago I wrote about being sick, I had a couple bad fevers and a sore throat. Using a flashlight and mirror I could see white spots in my throat, so I called the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) and was prescribed antibiotics over the phone. I felt better initially, but a few weeks later the same symptoms reappeared. I saw the PCMO again and she said that she wanted to wait to see if it would work itself out. After another week of no improvements I was prescribed to another kind of antibiotics. Last week my symptoms persisted and I happened to be in Maputo, so I was sent for chest x-rays and throat swabs. This morning the PCMO called me again to ask how I was. “My leg is looking better. The bruising is fading and the wound is getting smaller.” “And the other thing?” she asked. “That’s the same” I replied. “Yes, there’s a reason for that. We got your lab results, it turns out you have a strain of strep throat that is resistant to some antibiotics, including the two we already put you on.” She said she would research an alternative antibiotic and send it to me today. Hopefully this time it will work!
My leg. Two weeks ago I was walking and stepped into some grass. Rather than normal grass I was expecting, it was 18-inch high grass, so I fell forward. We all laughed at my general clutziness and I thought no more of it. That night when I took my pants off I realized for the first time that I actually had a decent-sized gash on my upper shin, so I dressed and covered it. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t think about it much, other than when people would respond with shock to the size of the gash. Then about a week later the bruise (already about 6 inches in diameter) started to spread. It spread around the back of my calf and down into my ankle and heel. This bruise not only spread, but quickly turned a dark blue, almost black. When I showed the PCMO she just shook her head at me, looked at my leg and shook her head, looked back at me and shook her head, then sent me to get my leg x-rayed. The good news is that I have still never broken a single bone in my life and the bruising is starting to fade into a nice green!


Today Kyla (the new Malaria Activities Coordinator for PC/Mozambique, ie my replacement) and I had a session with Moz 18 for their reconnect conference. They were the group in training during the (American) summer and are now reconvening after having been at site as PCVs for three months. We did a review of malaria/HIV co-infection and Malaria in Pregnancy, two topics I taught them during their Pre-Service Training, but they probably needed to brush up on. Then in the afternoon we wanted to give them a more practical lesson, so Kyla led a session on creating radio spots. This is something that PCVs in many Stomping Out Malaria in Africa countries have done with their organizations or youth groups and we would love to see more of here. After an introduction to the program, they divided into groups and created spots of their own, which was great practice for them and a lot of fun.

I was also busy the last two days running back and forth between the Peace Corps office and two clinics getting leg and chest x-rays and throat swabs. Still no results yet, but I’ll update when I have them.

I had two more interview tonight. The internet at the Peace Corps office wasn’t very consistent, so I went to the home where I was staying, since theirs is stronger/faster. But it was still out from the night before, so I literally had to run back to the Peace Corps office through the rain. Being a PCV has one benefit in times like this—people almost expect you to look wet and frazzled. During my first interview the internet kept cutting out constantly. My interviewer apologized repeatedly, but I assured her that the problem was on my end and apologized profusely too. For my second interview, the internet actually worked the entire time! There were a few moments the video froze, but it was a huge improvement over the first one.
This week about 10 PCVs from Moz 15 (the group behind me, who I have been with in Mozambique for two years now) finished their service, so I had to say a lot more goodbyes to good friends yesterday and today.


Last night I went into town to stay at Erin’s house for the elections, then I was going to leave on the first bus the next morning for Maputo. There are four Peace Corps Trainees in Inharrime right now doing their site visits with Erin and Jasmin, so we had 7 of us Americans together for the night, which was fun.

Site visit comes in week 5 or 6 of the 10-week training and is designed to give trainees a better understanding of what life as a PCV is actually like. It’s also extremely good for mental health—it’s about the time when trainees start to check out of training sessions, when they are frustrated by having their hands clenched every moment by Peace Corps and their host families, and when they are tired of living every moment of their lives according to their host families’ routines. Site visit is a much-deserved break from all of this, and a reminder that once training is over they will regain some control of their lives. One way this is best-manifested is through food. At this point trainees are sick of the traditional Mozambican dishes (which, for the record, PCVs who don’t live with host families who cook for them everyday miss dearly—these dishes are often just too time-consuming for us to make), the Mozambican amounts of oil and salt used in cooking, and the Mozambican proportions that heavily favor carbohydrates over protein or vegetables. So most site visits include lots of dearly-missed food. Anything from hamburgers ordered in restaurants, to salads (prepared in an “American” style), vegetable stir-fry, hummus, mac and cheese, and pizza.
In this spirit, we made mac and cheese for dinner last night. After chatting for a while we turned on a movie and all took a nap from about 11pm Tuesday night to 1am Wednesday morning (since we are 7 hours ahead of EST here). I had enlisted a few awesome people beforehand, so from about 1am-6am my time my brother and a couple friends were texting me constant updates. We had also bought a bunch of internet credit and were using an internet toggle to stream live from on Erin’s computer. When we woke up we made salsa and homemade torilla chips, then as the sun came up at 4:30am we made onion rings. I thought for sure we would have results by the time I had to leave, but at 5:45am crept up (the latest time I had given myself to leave), Obama and Romney were both still in the low 200s. I was frustrated, but if you don’t catch the very first buses heading to Maputo in the morning, the later ones can take much longer. I needed to get to Maputo in time to do some work in the office and prepare for my interview (including shower, because traveling is no walk in the park in Mozambique, and six hours of it can made one just disgusting). As I walked through town past the market Erin called, “They’re calling it for Obama!” “What do you mean? How did they decide that?” She didn’t know much more, but CNN was calling it Obama. Then she called me again, this time as I was almost at the chapa, “it’s official, Obama got the votes—he won!” As she was shouting excitedly and I whooped in response, I saw the bus I wanted passing, so I waved my arm at them and ran over to it. I put in the very front seat next to the driver—definitely the most dangerous seat, but also the most comfortable, so I was pleased with my timing and pleased with this new news! As we left Inharrime and drove south this message was repeated excitedly from my brother and other friends, both at home and in the Peace Corps. Reading a couple of them I exclaimed out loud. Then I turned and excitedly announced to the chapa, “Obama won!! In the USA we had elections today, and Obama won, he is the president!” I was met with many bewildered and sleepy looks. They were probably wondering who this white girl was yelling at them at 6am. The driver was excited though, and he later woke me up for the radio broadcast about it. For the next hour a flurry of texts flew between excited PCVs and PC trainees across Mozambique, sharing the news about the presidential results, and also sharing the good news from so many state-level results. I kept giggling out loud, my only regret was that I had no one with whom to share this awesome feeling of giddy excitement. I turned my ipod on and put my neck pillow on and settled in for a nap before a rather big day. I thought I would be too excited to fall asleep, but I was out within a few seconds, evidently exhausted.

Tonight I had my first business school interview. I was nervous because it was my first interview since I applied to Peace Corps, and possibly the second one of my life. I got online an hour beforehand to double and triple-check everything, to make sure Skype was working and I had accepted the correct chat invitations, to make sure my sound and video were working, to make sure I had counted the time difference correctly, and to otherwise stress out. All appeared to be in order, so I left to go play with the young girls of the family I stay with in Maputo, to take my mind of it and relax for a bit. Then 15 minutes before my interview I returned to my computer—and my heart sank. The internet was out. No, this can’t be happening right now. I checked the other computer and the American landline phone in the house (also through the internet provider) but they were both out. It had started raining between when I checked everything and returned, and this had proved to be just too much. Typical Mozambique. I got out my little Nokia phone to send an email to my interviewer to let her know what was happening. The internet was working with my normal service provider, so I had to switch sim cards and use a different provider to access my email. I sent her an email, then waited nervously. It turns out that my interviewer is an RPCV, so she was extremely sympathetic and completely understood what I was going through. I was able to reschedule my interview, so hopefully the next attempt will go better!

Monday, November 5, 2012


I'm back up in Inharrime, this time to say goodbye
But for now I'm with my girls, so I couldn't be happier 
Tonight we will have a slumber party at Erin's house (Jasmin, Erin, and me, plus the four trainees who are also in Inharrime right now for their site visits) so we can be constantly checking the results from the elections. It's a very important day, I'm certainly nervous. I have enlisted a few friends to help already, but anyone who wants--feel free to email me with constant updates throughout the elections!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Happy Halloween!

Yesterday afternoon a ferocious storm rolled in about 4pm. The temperature got eerily uncomfortable and the sky and air turned green. Having grown up in central Illinois, my first thought was that it was a tornado, but I’ve been told we don’t have them here, and it was far too windy to be a tornado. It started to pour, the wind picked up, and the power went out. It was pouring so hard that our house started leaking and flooding in multiple places. We had most of our electronics on a table and a chair in our living room and had two open umbrellas over them, because there were so many spots throughout the house that our roof was leaking. Then Anna’s room started flooding. We opened the front door and found the reason—our poorly designed porch had turned into a swimming pool and the built-up water had found a way out via Anna’s room. Our yard slopes down toward the front of our house, and the down away from the back of our house. Because of this, we couldn’t bail the water on our front porch out the front, we had to bail into buckets and run them through the house to dump them out the back. Given the fact that our house was struck by lightning only a few days ago, we thus had to make the fun decision between the certainty of flooding and the possibility of electrocution. After about 30 minutes of this it was clear that we were no match for the buckets of water pouring down from the sky, so we gave up. So Anna and I locked the doors, closed the curtains (because the windows shattering was a possibility that crossed my mind), and settled in on our couch.

At 8pm the power was out, so we had one candle lit and were cuddled on the couch watching a movie on my computer with our headphones in, because the intermittent rain on the tin roof was so deafening we couldn’t hear the sound. Then we both heard something. We paused the movie and took our headphones out to listen better. There was something on our roof. Then one of us said what we were both thinking, “I think there is someone on our roof.” We got up quietly and grabbed weapons. Our roof is made of rectangles of tin, laid from one wall to the other and nailed at intervals to wood beams—I could lift them off or pry them open enough to get a body inside if I wanted to. I said I wanted to call our Safety and Security Coordinator (SSC), but Anna told me to wait—we wanted to make sure it was a person before we made a call. Anna banged the roof hard, since that would have scared away an animal—it’s what we do to scare away the chickens that land on the roof. We continued to listen to the distinctly bipedal sounds moving across our roof. After a couple more minutes I called our SSC. He asked if there were neighbors we could call and I told him I wasn’t sure. The problem is that most of the people we know here are women and wouldn’t be too keen on leaving their houses in the dark and rain. We called Peace Corps drivers who were here in Namaacha to see if they could come. Then I called my host mom and explained to her what was happening—her husband was there, so she told me they would be right over. Throughout all of this we kept hearing the sounds from the roof and at one point Anna saw a flashlight outside. It wasn’t until Anna got the phone call from the Peace Corps driver confirming that we were on their way and would arrive within a few minutes that the sounds stopped. By the time the Peace Corps driver and guard showed up, and my host mom and husband came a few minutes later, whoever it was had disappeared. The driver searched around the house but didn’t find anything. Eventually they left, so Anna and I locked our doors and crawled into the same bed with our cell phones, weapons, flashlights, and rape whistles and settled in for a fairly sleepless night.

The next morning Anna and I took turns climbing up on top of the house to see what a person walking on the roof sounded like. (It is extremely easy to get up on top of our house.) We both agreed that the sound patterns were the same, but we were heavier than what we had heard. We didn’t see other signs up there. At one point in the morning some neighborhood kids came by and asked if they could come pick papayas. They always climb up on the roof to do this. I was in the kitchen, “Anna! Come in here!” When she came in she nodded, “yep, that’s it.” Whoever was on our roof last night was either a child, or a light person who is better at walking on roofs than we are. But the sounds were the same, it was definitely a human. It seems like they were on our roof because they thought nobody was home (since the power was out and we were being completely silent), either because it was a kid playing around, or people wanted to rob the house while nobody was home. We hope so. This is better than the alternative of someone wanting to come in because they knew we were in here.


We celebrated Halloween this past weekend. Anna and I went as Thing 1 and Thing 2 from the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat.” Here’s a picture of us with Kaitlin, another PCV who was our Cat in the Hat.

I’ve been offered a couple of grad school interviews, which is really exciting!

And here's one of us with a trainee dressed as the Statue of Liberty:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cooking in the Peace Corps

A few months ago an RPCV (a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, which I will also be in one month!) contacted me asking if I could help with this really neat project. He had found me through my blog and wanted my help with the Mozambique addition to this cookbook that would feature recipes from Peace Corps countries around the world. Check out to see a really neat cookbook compiled by PCVs from around the world! You can order it online for your Kindle or in print, and when you do, the picture for Mozambique is actually mine, taken of my young neighbor here in Namaacha!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


            Last night our house got hit by lightning. On Sunday when a group of the trainees were hanging out at our house, one of them asked “so with all of the houses having metal roofs, do any of them ever get hit by lightning?” “Hmm I don’t know” I responded casually, barely registering the question.
            Last night, after a swelteringly sunny and sticky day, a magnificent thunderstorm rolled in. The power kept going in and out. I sat on the couch reading by headlamp and noted that, based on the trick I had learned in grade school of counting the seconds between lightning and its thunder, the storm was…approximately four feet from our window. I was sitting on the couch in the dark and Anna was lying in her bed when suddenly our whole house went “ZZZZ-ZAP!” My phone charger was plugged in (thankfully my phone wasn’t) and at that moment it sprang a few feet up in the air, sparked, and went “ZZZ!” Anna came running out immediately yelling “DID YOU SEE THAT?!?!” because the same thing had happened in her room. Thank goodness neither of us had been touching anything metal, including Anna’s metal bedframe. I asked her if she had padlocked the metal grate on our backdoor. Thankfully she had, otherwise it would have stayed unlocked last night, I wasn’t risking touching that! 


            I officially finished and submitted ALL of my grad school applications yesterday! When I told my brother this he said “that’s awesome! I hope the fact that you’re done with your apps means you’ll get to blog a bit more now.” Noted.
Today five of the trainees came over to hang out and cook Pelmeni, Russian dumplings. I’m not exactly sure how the idea started, but two of the Moz 19s were born in Russia and when they mentioned cooking, Anna and I happily offered up our kitchen. Last Sunday after I returned from church I worked on grad school applications, took a long nap, and watched a movie. So hanging out with interesting people, learning to cook a new food, and eating that delicious new food (and chocolate chip banana bread I made) was definitely an upgrade! 
The crew in the kitchen
Men in the kitchen--I got proof! These are our two Russians who taught the rest of us the art of Pelmeni-making. 

Friday, October 19, 2012


Last flashback to Julia’s trip: Cape Town!

When Julia was here we spent three full days in Cape Town and, like the rest of her trip, everything went perfectly! We stayed in Penthouse on Long backpackers, where I stayed last year, and it was great again. Last year we had met some cool people also staying there, including PCVs from Cameroon, but unfortunately it wasn’t the same kind of crowd this year. Our first day we met up with Stephanie, a former Moz 13 (if you’ve been reading since the beginning, almost exactly three years ago I went to stay at her house for a few nights during my Pre-Service Training for my “site visit”) who was in Cape Town for a summer internship, and her roommate from the same program. We did a “hop on hop off” bus that tours all over Cape Town city and some of the surrounding areas and there are many buses running throughout the day so you can hop on and off multiple times. We went to a museum, stopped and had a picnic on the beach, walked around a few other touristy areas, and ended with Thai dinner at the V&A waterfront.

Since we had three full days, our plan had been to do this bus tour one day, do a wine tour the second day, and then climb Table Mountain the third. I kept checking the weather and it looked like it was going to be really nice the second day, then rainy the third day. I didn’t want to be hiking a mountain in the rain and I figured the weather didn’t really matter for the wine tour, so last minute we switched our wine tour to the third day. Like everything else on the trip, it worked out perfectly, our second day was sunny and dry, while our wine tour was cold, rainy, and overcast (which would have been particularly problematic, since many days Table Mountain’s top has a “table cloth” of cloud cover). Things so rarely work out this nicely here in Africa, so it was a pleasant surprise!

The next day Julia and I set out to climb Table Mountain. Somehow I came to Cape Town at exactly the same time two years in a row—right when the cable car was shut down for re-servicing. Last year we had seen the cable car schedule and gone up Table Mountain the very first day, because it was shut down the rest of the time we were in town. I was actually glad the cable car was out this time while we were there. I don’t fancy myself a “hiker” or “mountain climber” and Table Mountain is fairly intimidating looking, so I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me to hike it if the cable car was an option, but climbing it was a truly wonderful experience. We left the hostel right as the sun was coming up, so we got to watch it rise and witness the day come to life as we were climbing. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the top, then we found a nice rock at the top and had a wonderful picnic overlooking the city of Cape Town. Since the cable car was out for re-servicing, everything else (the gift shop, restaurant, etc) on top of the mountain were closed too, including the bathrooms. There were no bathrooms on the whole of the mountain—even the port-a-potties were locked. I thought this was pretty strange, since there were still tons of hikers that day, even without the cable car. Good thing I had a friend with me to stand watch while I squatted behind a rock.

I found the hike down the mountain rather unpleasant. Sure, it was much physically easier, but I didn’t like staring down my potential fall to death with every step. Julia laughed good-naturedly at my suddenly manifested fear of heights, of which I had had none on the climb up. At one point we were going down a narrow series of steps straight down. Since the path was too narrow for two people to pass, a man waited at the bottom for us to pass, getting a chance to catch his breath. This was one of the points where I could just picture my misstep and roll/plunge hundreds of feet down the mountain, so I was a little stressed out. “You look scared” the waiting man said to me. I’m not sure if I got momentarily distracted in responding to him, or if his timing was perfect, because in the next instant my foot slipped and I landed right on my butt. The man of course felt like he had caused my fall and felt terrible—Julia laughed hysterically at me. Over the next two days, she took many opportunities to tell me that “I looked scared.”

When we got down to the parking lot we were instantly accosted by the taxi drivers waiting there. One man wanted us to pay 80 Rand. We had only paid 60 Rand to get up there that morning, so I was trying to argue him down. But since we were stuck on top of the mountain and we were running late to meet our friends for dinner, we didn’t have much bargaining power. I argued with him for a few minutes, demanding only a 70 Rand trip. Finally his friend, who has stepped in to mediate, suggested “70 Rand with a 10 Rand tip?” I shrugged and we were on our day.

Our last full day we did a wine tour, coincidentally (and luckily, because I had loved them) with the same company/guy as last year. It was a great day—our tour guide and the other five people on the tour were really cool, including one PCV from Swaziland. There was one more girl who was supposed to come, but before we left the city she changed her mind, since she didn’t like drinking or being around drunk people. Obviously wine tours are about tasting lots of different kinds of wines, but we thought it was a little strange that she had signed up in the first place. By the end of the day we counted—we had sampled 42 different kinds of wines, and had learned all about the wine-making process and the art of wine-tasting, and had filled up on delicious cheeses too. At one winery we were standing at the counter choosing our next wine to sample and chatting with the middle-aged white South African woman working. She commented on our matching scarves—which I had gotten at the Bushfire music festival back in May. I explained that I had gotten them in Swaziland, one for myself and one for Julia, since I knew at that point that she would be visiting. “Oh, it’s so nice of your daughter to come visit you!” she responded. There was a confused silence and then Julia and I smiled and said “okay…” The woman then must have realized that I was clearly not Julia’s mother, because she then got extremely flustered and apologized profusely. Luckily, after being in Mozambique for years, I am used to people thinking—and telling me—that I am fat, have a dirty face (freckles), and am well into my forties, so there’s no offending me anymore.

The last day I caught a taxi back to the airport by myself, since Julia’s flight was a few hours after mine. The taxi driver chatted with me on the drive to the airport, asking where I was flying to. “Are you going home?’ he asked me. I hesitated, then responded “yes…I’ve been living there for three years.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Denim Day: extremely classy.

What happens when you've been in the Peace Corps a long time....

Last week there were a group of girls from Moz 15 who were finishing their service--they are the first from that group to leave. A lot of them happened to be my closer friends here, so we designated Tuesday as "Denim Day" and Anna and I went into Maputo to see them one last time. See above, we were decked out in head-to-toe denim, including denim flower rings, purses, hair bows, and necklaces.


Apologies again that I have been so irregular recently. I have submitted about half of my grad school applications and should finish the rest within the next few days. Moz 19 is in their third week of Pre-Service Training (PST) and it’s been nice to have a ton of other Americans around to hang out with (as much as Anna and I love each other, it’s always nice to hang out with other people too). Also during PST each week two current PCVs come down to help out with training. It’s been nice to catch up with PCVs who live in the far corners of the country, including one who I hadn’t seen since I came down to his PST two years ago.

Speaking of how much Anna and I love each other. Some of you might already know this: but we are going to Swaziland for 3-4 months next year. Sister Diane, a long-time friend of my dad, runs a mission (secondary and primary schools, orphanage, health clinic, etc) in Swaziland with Sister Barbara, so when my dad came to visit the past two years we would go visit them. I met them for lunch when I was in Swaziland back in May and they asked me if would be interested in working/volunteering for them for a few months next year developing their youth development project. I have about 8 months to kill between when I finish my service here and when I (ideally) start grad school. I asked if they would be interested in having two of us, especially since Anna is interested in a career in youth development. They said yes, so we will be meeting in Swaziland in mid-January of next year (after I go back to the states for about a month and Anna travels Asia) and staying there for at least a school term, so 3-4 months.

Back when Anna’s parents visited we picked her father up at the airport and had the car they were renting meet us there. The plan was to drive directly up to the beach, with Anna’s newly landed father driving. It must have been a lot to adjust to—Mozambique, jetlag, Mozambican driving, driving on the left side—but Anna’s mom didn’t feel comfortable driving and PCVs aren’t allowed to. We were trying to quickly coach him on all aspects of driving here—be aggressive, honking means “move” or “I’m coming,” it doesn’t mean you’re angry, turning your blinker on tells other cars to pass you (it doesn’t indicate that you’re passing). And we warned them about the cops here—they pull the majority of cars over and then look for and point out transgressions so that people will bribe them. I reminded Anna and her father, sitting in the two front seats, to make sure they were always wearing their seatbelts. This is a particularly wicked one, since so few cars here have functioning seatbelts. “I know it’s annoying, but they are always looking for reasons to pull people over, so just make sure you have your seatbelts on.” There was a pause, then, Anna’s father said “yeah…that’s the law in America too.”

When I was in Inharrime last I noticed that one of my good friends there, one of the ladies we buy from in the market and someone we socialized with often, is pregnant. I asked Erin about it and she said she had noticed too, but the woman hadn’t said anything yet. In Mozambican culture you can’t say anything until the woman herself mentions it, no matter how painfully obvious. I just wonder who the father is and what kind of situation that is (because when I lived there she didn’t have a boyfriend). It also reminds me how much my worldview has changed since being here. When someone in the states gets pregnant, it’s a joyous, celebratory thing. In Mozambique it certainly is something to celebrate, but it’s also haunted by a shadow of danger and doubt. The fact is that pregnancy and birth here and in all parts of the developing world are incredibly dangerous for the mother and the child. Also, contraception is not commonplace or well-understood here, and abortion is technically illegal. Sure, in the states there are unwanted pregnancies, but condoms are widely taught as a contraceptive method (in Mozambique condoms are incessantly repeated as a method to prevent contracting HIV, but for some reason contraception gets left by the wayside) and women theoretically have other options. Before I left, I was instantly happy for anyone who became pregnant, as social practice dictates. Here I wonder that perhaps it’s a situation she would have rather avoided and I worry for her health and safety.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Sorry. My life has been crazy recently. Between greeting the newest group of future PCVs (all 68 of them), doing my job (have a malaria session coming up with the newbies on Friday), and grad school applications (officially submitted my first one a few days ago!) I haven't had much time left to write. But update coming!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


            I’m sitting in the office killing time until I leave for the airport to receive Moz 19. A big welcome to all 68 new group members!
            On Tuesday Anna and I went to the office—my first time out of the house since Friday. I had depleted all of the napkins in the house blowing my nose, so I stopped by the gas station to buy more. They never have change, which drives all of us crazy. Unlike in America, having change is seen as the responsibility of the customer. Customer service is not a strong point of Mozambican society. On Tuesday they didn’t have change, no surprise, but my patience was less than normal. I waited while the cashier sent someone out to ask people for change, and another man came in to buy some things. When the woman came back in with change, the cashier counted it out and I could tell she was going to give it to the man, not to me. “No, where is my change? You need to give my change.” She assured me that I would get my change, but I kept pressing her because I knew otherwise the change would go to the man first. “Fine” she said slowly “I’m going to give you your change so you don’t get mad at me with your red face.” Not the least bit ashamed, I thanked her and took my change.
            Yesterday a man stopped by our gate. When Anna went out to greet him he said “I want to come in.” “Nope” replied Anna. “You have to let me in! Here in Mozambican when someone comes to your house you must show them hospitality and let them in!” Anna refused and this argument circled a few times until, exasperated, she left him at the gate. He didn’t leave so I went out a few minutes later. “Do I need to show you my identification?!” he exclaimed. “No, sir, but we aren’t going to let you in” was my response. “I am your landlord” he said, and told us our landlord’s name. I felt extremely frustrated—why hadn’t he told us this ten minutes ago? “In Mozambique you must receive people with hospitality and let them in when they request” he lectured me again. “No” I responded “we are two foreign girls living alone, we absolutely cannot let people in who we don’t know.” “Okay, you’re right” he conceded. He explained that he was just stopping by to check on us, since we live in his house we are like since daughters. He just wanted to make sure everything was okay with the house. I assured him it was and didn’t remind him that we have been living in this house since last November and he has never stopped by before. I repeated this story to a male Mozambican PC staff member later—I was afraid we had been out of line and I little rude. “No” he said “I don’t allow anyone I don’t know into my house, and you guys definitely shouldn’t.” 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


      I’m finally out of the house and back at the office working on grad school applications. I had big plans to come in and work on Saturday, but I woke up twice and felt so sick I had to go back to bed, including the second time when I force-fed myself in order to take my antibiotics and was fevering so badly I was literally dripping sweat. Luckily Anna got home Saturday night, so she has been taking good care of me.

      On Sunday I told my host mom I couldn’t make it to mass (and I wasn’t in a state to be responsible for two small children in addition to myself), so she stopped by again to check on me. This was one of the pictures I had printed and given to her the other night when she stopped by, it is my host brother on one of the days they came over to play at our house.

        My host mom told us the story of how, when she got home she first called him and asked him if, when he went to play at our house, he ever climbed on top of the walls. He solemnly assured his mother that, no, he never did that. “Are you sure? You wouldn’t lie to your mother would you?” she asked him. “Can you go grab my purse” and then she showed him the pictures. “And who is that?” He got very ashamed and quietly said “that is me.” Of course Anna and I were dying laughing during this story because we knew how it would end, while my poor host brother there silently dying of embarrassment.
       This picture was taken while Anna’s mom was here and we went to visit my host grandmother, in the house where I lived during training. Anna’s mom had been taking tons of pictures, so Anna was showing our grandmother and the various grandchildren.

        The Moz 19 group is all gathering in Philadelphia now for “staging” before leaving for Mozambique! I’ll be there to meet them at the airport on Thursday, it’s crazy to think that’s so soon. And even crazier to think that it’s been three years since I was nervous and terrified, on my way to Philadelphia.

Friday, September 21, 2012


            I haven’t been feeling well for a couple days, so yesterday I stayed home all day except for one quick excursion to buy a few things. That small trip nearly killed me and I had to take a nap afterwards—some days I really miss the option of delivery food or having a car. While out I ran into my host mom on her way to work. She was of course incredibly distressed by how terrible I looked and felt, so she said she would stop by after work. That night she came by with Baby Anata and their next door neighbor who also has a daughter two weeks younger than Baby Anata. I had printed a bunch of pictures to give my host mom, and a few of the other little girl, Jusara, so had a good time looking at all of them. After that short visit from these two girls I certainly felt a little better. (This picture was taken when we celebrated Baby Anata's birthday--she is the one on the right--while Julia was here)

Monday, September 17, 2012

17/09/12--WARNING: Graphic Images Below!

Growing up, my dad always said that the worst temperature is 33oFarenheit and raining. It obviously hasn’t been that cold here, but the mid-50s temperatures, combined with the rain, fog, and general dampness the past few days have caused a pervading discomfort that is so much more than the number on a thermometer. Call me a wimp, but it’s been freezing. Sure, some of it has to do with the fact that it’s been 3.5 years since I lived in Maine, where I went to college, and my body has fully acclimated to the climate here. But it also has a lot to do with the living conditions here. Our house, like most buildings here, is leaky and drafty. When it rains we have to be careful not to leave electronics in a few specific spots where the roof leaks. The condensation on the walls causes my pictures to come unstuck, and we have to pick things up off the floor of Anna bedroom, which has been known to flood. And everything is just a little bit damp, so you never quite feel completely warm. Perhaps the worst side-effect of this weather is the stupid drivers. People whose driving would be called stupid in good cars and good conditions are driving heaps of junk metal through six-inch puddles and over tire-sized potholes.

Now for the part with the graphic images. A few weeks ago was Timbila music festival in Zavala, Inhambane province (42km south of Inharrime, where I lived during my first two years). Timbila is a native wooden xylophone-like instrument, and every year Zavala district hosts a festival consisting of timbila music, dancing, and cultural events. Last year JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency—called the Japanese equivalent of Peace Corps by many) had an incredibly popular booth at the festival showcasing some of Japanese culture and their activities in Mozambique. Angela, the PCV in Zavala, wanted Peace Corps and American culture to be represented this year too, so she helped organized a booth that showcased Japanese-American-Mozambican culture. About 20 PCVs from the southern region of Mozambique and Custodio, the Peace Corps Director of Programming and Training, came to help out. We made smoothies to be our “American” thing (we opted for that over hot dogs or biscuits and gravy), but we also included Moringa, a plant endemic to Mozambique with many medicinal properties. We had printed pictures and descriptions of many PCVs conducting all of the activities we do during our service, from teaching to giving health talks to working with our youth groups. We also sold merchandise made by PCV-facilitated youth groups from all over the country, including earrings, bags, and jam. It was a wonderful festival and day and I think we did some positive cultural-exchange!

To feed the thousands of people who came for the festival, food stalls had been constructed all up and down the road. This picture was taken from where I was standing in our booth. I’ve been here long enough to hardly even notice the pig carcasses hanging in the middle of all the crowds of people walking around. But as some point in my life it would have shocked me, maybe even made me queasy. If you want some grilled pork, just walk up and point to which piece—they’ve already got the coals in the grill hot and waiting.

(Look directly to the right of the blue truck)

Later in the day a man pulled up with this newly-dead, four-foot shark in the back of his pickup. He was honking his horn for attention, trying to sell the shark. He pulled up in front of our booths, probably thinking that surely the foreigners would want to buy a shark. “You know,” I remarked sarcastically, “I’ve been totally meaning to buy a shark.” Not surprisingly none of us were interested, so eventually he drove off slowly, honking his horn.

Friday, September 14, 2012


         Yesterday after worked I stopped by the girl’s house. She is—amazingly—okay. One eye is swollen completely shut and that side of her face is really beat up. But she said that isn’t the part that hurts, it’s her body that hurts. She is walking around and talking completely normally. I worry that she could have internal injuries that aren’t being treated, but sadly that’s just life here. Her family was there and it turns out we know her sister and daughter. It seems like the family is taking good care of her. She said they went to the police that afternoon, and the police actually went to the guy’s house that evening and took him away. So he is not currently a danger. She and the situation turned out much better than I could have imagined.

          When a couple of us conveyed the story to other Mozambicans, a couple people’s first responses were “did she betray him?” Not necessarily to say that this would justify his actions. But at the same time, this would allow his actions to make sense in a way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This morning Kyla (another PCV who is the new Malaria Activities Coordinator and will replace me when I leave) and I led a session on diversity, stereotypes, and counseling for the approximately 25 language and technical teachers who will be working with the newest group of PCVs during their ten weeks of training (“Moz 19” will arrive on the 27th of September). It was a fairly intimidating group—only two women—but they were an interactive and responsive audience. My chemistry trainer from when I was in training three years ago was part of the audience (both of my language teachers no longer work with Peace Corps), which made me even more nervous because if I didn’t sound good I was afraid he might blame himself, as my former teacher.

There is a G19 meeting going on in Namaacha currently, so Kyla and I were scheduled to show the U.S. Ambassador my house and neighborhood, then have dinner with him. He was unfortunately forced to cancel last minute, but two other Peace Corps staff were in Namaacha for the day and must have felt bad for us, because they took us to lunch before heading back to Maputo.

After lunch and walk around the market, they drove to our house so see what it was like. We (three PCVs and two PC staff) pulled up a little ways from our house, since the path gets very rocky after. As we pulled up we saw a man and woman arguing, he had his hand on her neck. As we stopped and got out of the car he started to yell louder about his bank card and then began to punch her repeatedly in the face. Once she went down to the ground he started kicking her with all his might, in the face, in the stomach, in the back, in the back of her head. He stomped on her head repeatedly. We were shouting at him to stop, but he had a crazy look in his eyes and kept yelling about his bank card. He finally stopped and a couple of us got physically between him and the woman lying on the group. A few female neighbors had gathered because we had made so much noise, so a few of them got her up and gathered the pieces of her phone that he had thrown against a building and shattered. He stayed there for a few more minutes ranting about why she had deserved it, until finally he took off for the town in a jog. The woman’s face was bleeding and twice the normal size, but she was able to walk herself home. I kept demanding to know why nobody was accompanying her, but the women gathered said she lived right there close, and continued to stand there talking, so she walked home alone. We kept saying that she needed to go to the hospital, but the Mozambican PC staff person who was there said that she would have to go to the police station first, otherwise they wouldn’t treat her. We wanted to help her, but there was a fear that if she went to the police, he would return to actually kill her. We were also in an awkward situation because we had pulled up in our shiny white SUV with the Peace Corps logos painted on the sides and our bright yellow diplomatic license plates. So anything we did to help would be associated with Peace Corps and could potentially turn into a diplomacy nightmare, since Peace Corps holds their pre-service trainings in Namaacha twice a year. If it had been just Anna and me—since we live 30 yards from where this happened—we could have tried to get her to the hospital or police station without too many people taking notice. But aside from rules and diplomacy, the simple fact is that she is a human being and the right thing to do was to help her, to make sure she didn’t die. We kept asking around and eventually we learned that her brother was home and taking care of her and her parents would take her to police station when they got home from work. That man is the father of her son. The way people talked about it, it seemed like this wasn’t the first time he had hit her. At the same time, I am no expert in domestic violence, but what we saw was not a wife-beating—it was one person beating another to death. And I am fairly certain that if we hadn’t pulled up when we did he might have killed her.


Anna’s mom has been visiting for the past few weeks, she went up to the beach with us and has spent the rest of the time in Namaacha living the experience of a PCV. Her father arrived two Fridays ago and we met him at the airport and went directly from there up to spend a few blissful days at Casa de Mar with Mary and Des. Well, more blissful for some than others—I spent a lot of the time writing grad school application essays on my laptop. Though I suppose if one has to spend the day writing application essays, there are worst situations in which to do so...

It was a full moon while we were there and the moon was a breathtakingly brilliant orange. (Pictures can't even do it justice)

Before I moved to Mozambique I never really understood why people in ancient times thought the moon was its own light source. When you see the moon here, you simply cannot fathom that it’s only reflecting light, not emitting its own.
Another beautiful sunrise:

I left the beach a day early so I could visit Inharrime and pass out the infamous t-shirts—the ones with my face on them. The girls absolutely LOVED them, enough that I was actually glad I had acquiesced to getting that design. One girl said “whenever I miss you, big sister Anata, I will just:” and she kissed my cheek and hugged my face to hers.

That night I let the girls in the orphanage braid my hair:

Saturday, September 8, 2012


A few weeks ago everything in Namaacha looked like this:
And each time I braved the windy walk to the office I would dress like this:
After learning to embroider to make the quilt patch for my friend Kristen last year, I thought it would be fun to keep embroidering. I was mindlessly practicing stitches, hoping I would come up with something clever to embroider at some point. Then Micah, another PCV was visitng and made a specific request that I found extremely witty in its juxtapostion. My finished product below:

Friday, September 7, 2012


A new front moved in two days ago and it’s been freezing, foggy, windy, and pouring ever since—not fun. Nothing will dry completely, the power keeps going out, and don’t come too close because it’s too freaking cold to shower…

On a more positive note, I made the Champaign-Urbana (my hometown) Asian Times, check out the link below to read the article:

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Flashback to Julia’s visit: Baby Anata’s second birthday!

Julia had one full day in Namaacha during which we went on a morning run down to the Swaziland border, spent the morning celebrating Baby Anata’s second birthday, visited my host grandma’s house (where I lived during my homestay), and walked around town. It was wonderful having Julia there to take great pictures. So often here I’m the only one with a camera and most Mozambicans haven’t had much practice taking pictures, so you never know exactly what will end up in a picture if you ask someone to take it for you.

For Anatinha’s (diminutive of Anata) birthday I had gotten her a doll made by a woman’s organization I visited while up in Zambezia province, complete with a capulana dress and head scarf; a headband with a flower; a shirt; and (the special gift!) earrings with the letter “A” that I gave her inside a pretty box inside a cute purse. Julia and I baked a chocolate cake and M&M cookies, and brought balloons with “happy birthday” written on them. My host mom and cousins loved the headband and doll and LOVED the earrings. But I should have known—for a two year old just the balloons would have been enough, that’s all she cared about all day anyway.

We had a great time watching the kids run around with the balloons shrieking. My mom was only able to hold Anatinha still for long enough to put in one “A” earring, but I found out that Anatinha and her friend lost the other one within a few days anyway. I had also brought Pop Rocks for everyone—they are a novelty here and I know that my host family loves them. One of the neighbor boys put some in his mouth and made a funny face as he felt them begin to pop on his tongue. “What is it doing?” his mother asked him. “It’s dancing in my mouth!” he responded excitedly.

That was our last night in Mozambique before we headed to South Africa the following day and it ended in fittingly Mozambican fashion: Amendoim caught a rat in our kitchen and gleefully ran with it outside to play with it for the next hour or so as it squeaked pitifully.
Julia and the birthday girl

The birthday girl, SO excited

My host mom and Anatinha
First I let the birthday girl cut her cake...
But then this happened!
So I took over and let her help me instead!
My brother Aiton with Anatinha in her new shirt

Check out the earring
Anatinha (so excited!) and her next-door neighbor Jusara, who is only two weeks younger
The kids with their balloons