Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our resident frog (who we've named Sheldon) likes to sit in Amendoim's water bowl, just taunting him. Apparently our dog, the master rat-killer, is afraid of frogs.

Our little neighbor fights to get the baby goat, all the while making sure to avoid the horns of the mother

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baby Anata eating cake at our house


Namaacha has a large market area on Saturdays and Wednesday, so this morning Anna and I walked in to get some produce. As we were weaving between the stands we heard a woman talking about us say “mulungu” (the somewhat derogatory word for white people here). Anna turned to her and said “I have a name and it’s not mulungu!” Then, in Changana (the local language here and also where Anna lived the past two years. Sadly it was not the local language where I lived the past two years) Anna told her that she speaks a little Changana. All of the women within earshot squealed with delight and erupted in Changana about what Anna had said. We stopped to buy carrots and green peppers a few stalls away, so they got to talk about us for a few more minutes. As the woman handed us her change she said “tell her your name so she doesn’t call you mulungu next time.” We introduced ourselves and all we heard as we walked away was “Ana” and “Anata.”
Last week Anna and I were sitting inside our house listening to the kids torment our dog, as they often do. Finally he came inside growling and whimpering to himself and pacing back and forth, and we were happy he was able to show such self-control. Then something rolled across our floor. And then another thing. The little idiots were throwing rocks at/in our house. I threw on shorts of an appropriate length and stormed outside. As soon as I was outside our gate I yelled “who was that throwing rocks at my house?!” I was told it was some girls who had perched themselves in the window of the half-constructed house next to ours. “Where do they live?” I demanded. The neighbors instructed an adolescent girl to take me to their houses, so we set off into the neighborhood behind me house, me with the rocks in hand. At one point along the walk I saw them hiding in a neighbor’s garden, they took off when they saw me storming toward them. When I got to their house I encountered only a teenage boy and was told that the parents were at work. I stayed there for a few minutes and meanwhile the mother showed up. I showed her the rock and told her that her daughters had been throwing rocks at my house, which was not only extremely rude and terrible, but also dangerous and she needed to teach her daughters that this wasn’t okay. She said she would, but I couldn’t read her very well. In my experience, with parents in Mozambique you often get two extremes in situations like this—either the parents go all vigilante and kick the crap out of the kids, or they couldn’t care less. As I walked home a neighbor asked me what had happened. I explained that the girls who lived in that house had thrown rocks at my house. “Oh that’s terrible!” he said. I returned the following day and spoke to the father and then on the walk home informed a few more neighbors about how terrible the girls who live in that house are. I am hoping that even if the parents don’t care, the sense of public shame will encourage them to do something.
Our bathroom area is two cement rooms without doors, but configured such that you can’t see directly in. There is a roof that is not attached directly to the walls, but sits a few feet above them.
The next day I was bathing when I saw four fingers curl over the top of the wall. I didn’t completely process what they were until I saw the corn rows on top of a head begin to appear next to them. “SUCA!” I yelled. This is a word that means scram and is generally reserved only for dogs—or people you intend to offend. She did scram immediately and I called for Anna who was in the house. Anna looked over the wall but the girl was long gone or hiding. We have had no such incidences since. In this situation I am hesitant to go talk to the neighbors behind us, the property from where this girl had perched. Because I’m not too keen on reminding (or informing) people that it’s possible to peek at us while we bathe.
Another article about the boot camp I recently returned from:


Pumped up after my two meetings yesterday, and satisfied that I finally had the appropriate authority to do so, I sent out two emails to the health sector PCVs in Mozambique, introducing myself and my position and introducing what I hoped we would do this year.
When I missed my flight to Mozambique coming back from Senegal and had to spend the night in Johannesburg I met a guy, Tim, who was in the same predicament. He spent the past two years working in Mozambique and knows some of my PCV colleagues and, strangely enough, knows friends of mine from Bowdoin, my tiny college of 1700 students in Maine that nobody has ever heard of! He won’t be based in Maputo permanently, but he was still around last weekend so he came out to Namaacha to visit us. It was so nice to have a friend visit and interact with people aside from each other (not that we don’t love each other). Currently we only have access to the office here in Namaacha on Tuesdays Wednesday,s and Thursdays, so we work at home on the other days. And even at the office there is only one other woman who works there. So unlike the past two years when we were teachers in large schools (and I lived in an orphanage with 67 girls), our day-to-day lives are not extremely social this year. On Saturday morning we went walking around town because Tim has never been to Namaacha before. We stopped by my host mother’s house to say hi; she wasn’t there but the kids were. Tim is 6’4”, so he scares people even more than I do. My normally hyper and outgoing 6 year old host brother who might be labeled as ADHD in America was unusually quiet and would only speak in one word answers. Baby Anata was playing with friends so we walked over to say hi. Tim knelt down to talk to her and she burst into tears immediately. We all laughed and I was a little pleased that for once it wasn’t me who made her cry. “Come here and give big sister a kiss” I said to her. She neither refused nor accepted, but tottered over to me and let me pick her up and gave me half a kiss on the cheek. As I put my arm under her butt to pick her up I noticed that it was wet—I hoped that she had just sat in a puddle. When we left and I handed her off to the teenage girl who lives with my family I mentioned that Anata’s butt was wet. “Oh yeah, it’s probably pee” she said. A quick sniff confirmed that yes, it was—good thing I always carry hand sanitizer.
Last week I took Amendoim (our dog) in to get his vaccines updated. When I got to the district animal control building nobody was there, so we walked down the street to the district economics building and I said I was looking for the people who deal with animals. A woman appeared eventually and we went back to her building. I showed her his papers and she got out the syringe and appropriate bottle. I held him still and she gave him the shot. For Mozambique, I was pleasantly surprised by how painless it was. It had rained the previous night, so a small amount of water had gathered in a dip on the step, so after administering the shot she reached over and filled the syringe and squirted the water back out to rinse it. I mentally reaffirmed why I will never get stuck by a needle in Mozambique. After the shot, the woman filled out a form to take with me as proof that he is up-to-date. “What race of dog is he?” she asked me. “I don’t know, African?” was my response. This was clearly not a sufficient answer. The other man working in there looked at him and gave her a suitable answer. “You can tell one of his parents was a wild dog though, from his ears.” He does look exactly like the wild dogs you see roaming around in the bush here.


Things have been creeping along slowly here in Namaacha with my new job (and actually Anna’s too). When I returned from Senegal I sent to my bosses an action plan that outlines what I hoped to do this year. Peace Corps Mozambique has been hit by one crisis after another recently, so the office has been quite busy dealing with all of these. First there was the horrifically tragic accident and that was followed by many volunteers requesting to move sites and some volunteers being evacuated back to the states for medical leave of up to 45 days and they haven’t yet decided if they will return. Then Mozambique was hit by two cyclones in January, requiring the evacuation of some PCVs. I haven’t heard of any volunteer’s houses being destroyed, but I know that there was a fair amount destruction, including a REDES group’s shop that they had constructed when they won the country’s Future Business Leader’s contest. Those kinds of things are the hardest to hear. We were threatened by another cyclone last week, but luckily it changed course and never actually hit Mozambique. And last week a few men with machetes broke into a PCV’s house where four PCVs were and stole things and hit one of the boys a few times with their machetes. In situations like these it is protocol for the PCV to go on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, in case of exposure to HIV from the cuts. It was probably a good thing too, because they heard that these men had hit a number of other houses in that night, and there could have been blood from other people on the machetes. So, needless to say, the Peace Corps staff in Mozambique has had its hands full without me to worry about. I felt that I should wait until I had their approval and support before I moved forward with my action plan, so I haven’t done much while I waited until they had time to spare to deal with me.
I was able to meet with them this morning, which was great. They were supportive of my plans, I was only cautioned not to try to bite off more than I could chew. There are still some things we didn’t have time to address that day, so we’ll need to have some follow up meetings next week, but it was a good start. One big change following this meeting though—once reviewing all of the work my malaria position will entail this year, we decided that I will be 100% Malaria Activities Coordinator now, rather than splitting my time 50/50 with the role of reviewing the HIV-prevention curriculum of the youth groups in Mozambique. I am still interested in this work, but my role in malaria activities is much more pressing. Also, I am currently not remotely qualified to be evaluating the efficacy of HIV-prevention curriculum and activities—I would need to do a lot of reading and studying of behavior change theory first. This afternoon I met with the representative from the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), who I will be working with primarily this year as a liaison between them and Peace Corps—both the administration and volunteers. There are still some questions from both Peace Corps and PMI about how my position will function this year, mostly in regards to funding, but hopefully we will be able to answer these in next week’s meetings.
And great news, I finally have a user login so I am now able to use the computers in the office here in Namaacha.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I'm alive! I'm well. I'm busy and working hard! I don't have the opportunity to blog now, but I promise one on Monday. For now, check out to learn about this exciting new initiative I'm part of. And start gearing up for World Malaria Day on April 25th by checking out!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Boot Camp Press Release

Here's a link to the press release about Malaria Boot Camp III:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Before I went to Senegal I asked my dad to stop by the bank and tell them I would be traveling there, so when I used my ATM card there it wouldn’t put up a red flag and get shut down. They already knew I was in Mozambique and had authorized my card’s use there, so when he told them I would be going to Senegal they responded as if he was being strange: “well yeah, it’s authorized for all of Africa.” Please, pull up a map of Africa right now and find Senegal and Mozambique. I am not pretending that my African geography skills were great before I came here, I had to find Mozambique on a map once I learned I was coming. But Senegal and Maputo, Mozambique are farther apart than Boston and England—there is no reason “Africa” should be considered one entity.
Public shaming is a very normal part of culture here in Mozambique and also apparently in other parts of Africa, from talking to the other PCVs at boot camp. Sunday morning my plane was delayed so I was hanging out in the airport for a while by myself. All of the other boot camp people who had come to the airport that morning had already boarded the flight to Ethiopia, but I had noticed that the plane hadn’t left yet. Though I couldn’t understand the airport announcement repeating because it was in French, I could tell that they were calling for a remaining passenger. Then I heard a commotion behind me and looked to see one man walking defiantly toward the gate, with about six airport and airline staff walking beside, in front, and behind him scolding him for being late and making the other passengers wait on his behalf. When the people working at the gate realized what was happening they too joined in the yelling and public shaming of this man.
One thing I thought was interesting about Senegal was how similar the young male style is to here in Mozambique. The guido shirt, fairly tight pants, long shiny alligator skin shoes, big sunglasses, big watches and other large shiny accessories, and any other flavor of “gangster” they can work in. Kind of a strange blend between the European metro style and American urban hip-hop style.
The flight out of Dakar was about an hour delayed on Sunday and I began to get nervous, since I knew my layover in Johannesburg was only 1.5 hours. When we landed in Joburg I heard a guy say “can you please let me through? I am trying to make a connecting flight.” I asked where he was going and he was also going to Maputo. We (and a few other unlucky travelers) got off the plane and sprinted to immigration to have our passports checked. Then we sprinted to the counter (for some reason in Joburg you always have to check-in again for international flights) and got there at 6:50pm—our flight left at 7:10pm. “No sorry, the counter is closed. She already went home for the day,” we were told by a less-than-helpful attendant for another airline. It was EXTREMELY frustrating because the flight had not even left yet, but we were repeatedly told there was nothing to be done at this point. (In an aside, I don’t understand why the airline, which will remain unnamed, wouldn’t prefer to hold the flight for a few minutes and get the five of us who had been on this DC-Dakar-Johannesburg flight down to the plane, as opposed to paying for hotel rooms and giving 135 Rand per diem to all five of us as they did.) So I started talking to the guy from the plane—we end up not leaving the airport until 9:30pm (yes, a full three hours after we landed) so we had lots of time to get to know each other. And it turns out we have a few friends in common, from Mozambique (he lived up north in Mozambique the last two years and knows other PCVs from my training group) to people from Bowdoin college, my tiny little college of 1,700 students in Maine. Such a small world!


I was pumped to go to Senegal because it meant one thing—I would get to see the Big Dipper. See it I did, and it was amazing. And in all other regards it was a fantastic trip and conference.
This was the third ever Malaria Boot Camp run by Peace Corps as part of this new initiative: “Stomping Out Malaria in Africa.” Stay tuned for links to our Africa-wide websites, as well as the Mozambique pages I will be maintaining this year! This boot camp was definitely the best training I have attended in the Peace Corps. All of my other trainings have been the break-into-small-groups-to-have-a-discussion-and-write-your-thoughts-on-big-paper-and-then-get-back-together-with-the-large-group-and-present-your-ideas-format. And this is really helpful for some situations and topics, or for some kinds of learners. But I much prefer to be told the information I need to know and be expected to learn it, which is exactly what we did for ten days at boot camp. We covered every aspect anyone working in the malaria field would ever want to know about: the science of malaria, behavior change communication, home-based care, prophylaxis and treatment, bed net distributions, health facilities, indoor residual spraying, training other people in malaria prevention, prominent partners in malaria prevention, advocacy, logistics of malaria control programming, marketing prevention programs, programs being instituted currently Africa-wide, monitoring and evaluation, working with local radio stations, supply chain management, care groups, training of trainers, vaccines, and grant writing. Not everything we covered was directly applicable to everyone, but even when I knew I would never use a certain element of malaria prevention in my position, it was fascinating to learn what was being done elsewhere. Most days we had Skype lectures from the experts in that particular field, calling in from American universities or various headquarters in Washington DC. It was incredible to be taught this information not just by someone who has learned it, but by someone who has dedicated their life to working on it. And it allowed us to ask questions that a layperson would not have been able to answer sufficiently.
There were Peace Corps Volunteers and staff from eleven countries: Mozambique, Zambia, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Uganda, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, The Gambia, and Senegal. A really great group of people, I was fortunate to get to meet all of them. And meeting everyone there has never made the world feel smaller. There was one guy who had traveled Mozambique last year with a friend of mine from college, one guy had been living in DC with a Moz 13er (the group one year ahead of mine) who he found through an RPCV network, one guy had served in Botswana with a woman who is now serving here, one guy had served in Niger with my friend from high school before the country was shut down, one girl had gotten her MPH with a girl from Moz 13, and one guy knew a Moz 13 girl from home. It was quite bizarre really, to travel halfway around the world, back a quarter of the way, and then meet so many people you were connected to. There was also an in-service-training for PC Senegal agriculture volunteers going on simultaneously at the training center, so I got to meet a bunch of them too.
The most common response I got when I told PCVs at boot camp that I served in Mozambique was somewhere along the lines of “oh, screw you.” Senegal was pretty, but in a very arid, barren sort of way. One PCV excitedly asked “are there lots of trees there?!” She serves in Mali. The rolling hills, the lush coconut, mango, tangerine and avocado trees, and the pristine sandy beaches I lived in the last two years are quite different from the landscapes of West Africa and cause for a fair amount of envy. The air there was DRY. Apparently during this time of the year a wind blows down from the Sahara, making everything extremely dry and dusty. Everything: tree leaves, tables, our clothes, were covered in a thin film of dust and on some days the air was so hazy you could look directly at the sun!
One girl told me she had gone to Maputo once with her friend. I asked her what she thought of it and her only response was “there are guns everywhere there!” Which is true. Every untrained, drunk, half-asleep security guard of every bank or government building, from the capital to tiny towns of Mozambique, has a shotgun, rifle, or AK-47.
On Sunday we had the day off and all went to a town on the beach. (Pictures coming.) We did a hike up a ridge along the ocean and saw remains of World War II embankments and a derelict church where the Black Madonna had appeared a few hundred years ago. Then we came down from the ridge and walked back along the beach. It was gorgeous and looked so different from the beaches here—huge rocks (boulders even), tall grasses, and dry spiny trees. The staff member from Ethiopia had never seen the ocean before, so it was fun watching him see the ocean and then going down and putting his feet in it for the first time. I giggled to myself at all the PCVs from land-locked countries (or actually, any country that isn’t a tropical paradise like Mozambique is) who happily swam in the freezing cold water, just because they knew they wouldn’t be able to do it again for a year.
Something I found fascinating was how it seemed that all of the PCVs in West Africa (Senegal, Mali, The Gambia, Benin, Togo, Cameroon) had similar experiences, from the languages they spoke (a lot of them spoke languages so similar they could understand each other) to the way they eat (and they even all use the same currency!). Our first lunch they put out mats and large bowls and about four people sat around each bowl and ate communally. I made a comment on how cool it was and how I had never done it before, they thought I was pretty weird. We ate with spoons at the training center, but they said that in village everyone ate with their hands. That was another thing—not that there is anything wrong with it, but a Moz PCV would probably get punched if they ever referred to their life or work “in village.” The PCVs from various countries said that the food we were being served at the training center was very similar to what they might expect at post, while I have never seen couscous or some of the other things we ate in Mozambique. It surprised me that such a geographically large area (from Senegal to Cameroon) could be so similar when I am struck by the differences when I cross the border into Swaziland. Perhaps one reason is Mozambique is an island of a former Portuguese colony in the midst of former British colonies. However, one cool similarity we southern African countries (Namibia, Uganda, Mozambique) had was our Bantu languages. Occasionally words or phrases would be similar or exactly the same.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Made it home!

After a missed flight and less-than-simple process for the airlines to put us up for the night in Johannesburg, i finally just landed in Maputo. The least fun leg of my trip (on a chapa) is still ahead of me, but I should be home in a few hours! Full updates on my last ten days to come tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Day 5 of the Malaria Boot Camp here in Senegal. It's been fantastic so far, I have so much to recount. I was a little worried that some portion of a ten-day conference would be dedicated to stupid ice-breakers, but instead we have just been bombarded with useful and relevant information. It's been wonderful. I will have a lot to say once I have a moment's rest!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Hmmm, it seems that in my excitement to get to Senegal, I forgot to finish my last post. I had some reflections, I'll write them later. I wanted to say I made it here to Senegal safely and am enjoying malaria boot camp so far!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I leave for Senegal in a few hours! The woman I am staying with is an RPCV who served in Ivory Coast. Since she was one of the first groups to go there, they had their pre-service training in Senegal, actually at the same center where my malaria conference will be. There has been talk of political unrest and possible demonstrations in Senegal, so I was worried that the conference might be cancelled or postponed. But we received emails from the Senegal post assuring us that we won’t be near any demonstration sites and will be kept with Peace Corps the whole time.
One thing I have experienced multiple times here, meeting many people who aren’t American: people will talk to me about very personal things as if we met longer than an hour ago. I have had people bring up in friendly conversation their divorce, family tragedies, the time they hit and killed a woman, and guilt from trauma.


I am in Maputo now, following a Friday session about malaria and weekend REDES (Girls in Development, Education, and Health) meetings. This past week was the Midservice Conference for Moz 15 (the group behind me) because they recently completed their first year of service. Friday morning they had a malaria information session and I followed it with an explanation of what my role would be this year and to lead a brainstorming session of malaria activities PCVs could do this year. It was fun getting to see them again, some of them (who live in the north) I hadn’t seen in over a year. And I got to see Erin and catch up with her, her mother had visited in December while I was gone, and to hear about how Inharrime is doing (I hope I get back there soon!).
One volunteer came up to me and asked if I could take something back to Namaacha to give her host family. I said of course so she gave me a sheepish smile and said, “it’s my hair…but I double-bagged it!” People here often braid people’s hair into their own for more life-like extensions. I routinely get asked for my hair. This PCV had just cut her hair short and saved the long braid to give to her host mom and sisters.
Anna and I are both working with what we call the PCV secondary projects this year: REDES, the co-ed youth group, English Theater, Science Fair, and Future Business Leaders. Anna is working with the national coordinators of all of them to try to make them more sustainable and functional as organizations. My role is to evaluate their curriculum and activities and try to improve them so that they are more effective at preventing HIV, since 100% of the funding comes from HIV/AIDS prevention money. Saturday and Sunday Anna and I sat in on the REDES planning meeting. It’s difficult but we are trying to approach these meetings from the point of view of our new jobs, not the ones we used to have, and understand that it’s not our group to run anymore. We feel a little uncomfortable, we don’t want to step on their toes since we were the two who ran REDES last year.


I had been told back in October that it was possible I would be attending a malaria boot camp in early 2012. I had been asking about it fairly regularly since I got back to Moz at the beginning of the month, but all we had been told so far was “sometime in February.” With February quickly approaching, I called our country director again on Monday and I was finally given dates! The conference will be from February 2-11 and my tickets were bought yesterday so I am officially leaving on Wednesday the 1st! I am a little intimidated—I have no idea what we will do at a conference for ten whole days. But I am really looking forward to learning everything about malaria. All I know about malaria I learned in the past month reading a book about it. Here in Peace Corps Mozambique we have never had any formal malaria activities or programs before. In the past everything we do has been heavily HIV/AIDS focused, mostly because that’s where our funding comes from. This year my job is to jumpstart and promote any and all malaria-focused activities involving PCVs, and I am starting from scratch. On the other hand, some West African Peace Corps countries have tons of experience with successful malaria programs and activities. I, representing both myself and Peace Corps Mozambique, will be the ultimate rookie at the conference, but I will be taking furious notes and plan to bring many ideas back with me.