Thursday, March 22, 2012

We got a new puppy finally! We've named him Shenzi, after the hyena voiced by Whoopi Goldberg in "The Lion King" because he's kind of mangy like a hyena.

Our Water

The water comes out of a tube in our yard every couple days or so. Normally it's pretty gross, but this is a picture of the water that came out Tuesday, which was particularly nasty. And this is the water we bathe with, wash our faces with, wash our dishes with, wash our hands with, and put into the water filter to drink, cook with, and brush our teeth with. Awesome.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Yesterday one of our neighbor kids cried/screamed bloody murder starting at about 5:15am and continuing on-and-off all day. In America this might have been annoying, but here in Mozambique it was actually kind of scary and concerning—Mozambican kids don’t really cry, it really takes a lot to make one cry like that.
So we finally got keys to the office and with our keys and logins we were happily working in the office every day. But then our IT guy for Peace Corps went on vacation until the end of the month and, as if on cue, things began to malfunction. First one computer wouldn’t turn on, then one internet cord wouldn’t work, then the phone stopped working, then another computer wouldn’t let us access the internet or the server, then the other phone stopped working (actually it still works to call the Maputo office, but they can’t hear us, we can only hear them). So we (the three of us who share the office) are really scraping with two computers with internet connections and one computer that has only Microsoft office until our IT guy comes back!
Two weekends ago I went to a bar with Anna and another PCV. “Can I please have three beers and…” I eyed the delicious looking samosas sitting in a container on the counter “do you have hot sauce?” The 20 year old boy waiting on us froze and a look of panic crossed his face. Following his train of thought I quickly explained, “for samosas, I want the hot sauce to put on samosas, not for the beer!” Looking EXTREMELY relieved, he nodded and served us our beer. Everyone who had witnessed this interaction, the two other PCVs and three bystanders, doubled over in laughter. They had all seen the panic in his eyes as he tried to decide whether to please his customer by giving the crazy white girl hot sauce to put in her beer, or to refuse to aid in this insanity.


This morning I was jamming out to Katy Perry on the home stretch of my run when four dogs came tearing of out a yard surrounding me and barking at me. I yelled at them and kicked two of them and after a few seconds they drifted away. If you had told me two years ago that I would one, hate and be terrified of dogs, or two, ever kick a dog, I would have thought you were crazy. But I didn’t know Mozambican dogs.
Speaking of dogs. When I took Amendoim (our dog) in to get his annual vaccines, I mentioned that we were looking for another dog, and if the people there could keep an ear open for us and call us if they heard anything we would appreciate it. The guy who works there called us last week and said he had found a dog and we should come into the district office of agriculture (and animals, I guess). When we arrived he didn’t have the puppy, but told us to come back the next morning to pick it up. When we returned the next morning he was not even in Namaacha, so the woman who works there said to return at 3:30pm to meet him. But he hadn’t returned to town by that point, so I told the woman that we would meet up again the following week (because this was right before we left for the beach). We got a call while we were at the beach that the puppy was there in the office. We explained to the lady that we actually weren’t at home (and asked her to please not publicize that fact) and we would meet Monday morning at 8am. Monday morning I showed up and—yay—there was actually a puppy there! The man gave it vaccines, filled out the paperwork, explained to me how to apply the medication for the infection it has, and I had managed to calm it down by petting it (seriously what do people here do to dogs that one can be so terrified—shaking and whimpering—of humans at only 3 months?). We were good to go. Until the man said “okay, that will be 1,500 Meticais” (about $55). I had asked other Mozambicans beforehand if I should expect to have to pay for a puppy—I didn’t want to pay, but I also wanted to be aware of what is the norm here—and they told me no. So I told him no, I didn’t want to pay for a puppy, and there was no way that I could pay something like that. He explained that it was because of the puppy’s breed that it was so expensive, so I explained that we had no interest in a particular breed, but only wanted a dog to protect our house. So then he told me of another person who had a dog for 300 Meticais. I was tempted, but Anna put her foot down, so I told him we didn’t want to pay for a dog. I told him that Mozambican dogs are always having puppies nobody wants (none of the dogs here are neutered/spayed), so we just want one of those. So he said he would keep an ear open. I was retelling this story to the woman from Peace Corps who works in the Namaacha office three days a week. She agreed that 1,500 Meticais for a puppy was ridiculous and then told me that her parents’ dog had puppies that were about 6 weeks old and she could bring one to the office with her on Thursday! So cross your fingers that that works out.


This weekend we traveled up to Xai-Xai beach to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with about 20 other PCVs. We had green food coloring for our drinks and food, two houses on the beach, almost enough sleeping spaces for everyone, the sun, and almost nobody else on the beach—it was a great weekend. It’s still weird to me that most of my closest friends are gone, and it hits me hardest on weekends like this when they don’t show up…because they are actually back in America.
When Anna and I were leaving our house on Friday the two little boys who live directly in front of us ran up to us. Normally whenever we are leaving or entering our house they excitedly scream “olá!” repeatedly until we are out of sight. They ran behind us for a while, “olá, olá!” and babbling in Changana (the local language), and then eventually held our hands and walked with us. We appreciated the attention until we had gotten a few hundred yards from our house, at which point we started trying to convince them to return home. They probably are about 18 months and 2.5 years and as far as I can tell, neither speaks much Portuguese. “Go back to your house! You can’t come with us, go home!” I said to the older one. He responded with one of the only Changana phrases I know, “nayala,” (which means “I don’t want it”) and a small stamp of his foot. We continued walking holding their hands until we reached a group of people sitting outside a shop of a woman we’re friends with. “Can you please tell them to go home? We don’t want them to get lost” I asked. Alternating between Portuguese and Changana one woman told the boys they needed to go home; they couldn’t continue walking with us because there was a big dog up ahead. The boys gave us one more smile and then turned and ran home giggling.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Today Jonathon came to visit, he is a PCV from Moz 17, the newest training group that only arrived in October and lost two wonderful girls, Alden and Lena, in the accident in December. Jonathon has been in communication with Alden’s mother who wanted to set up a phone call with Alden’s host family from training, so Jonathon volunteered to help facilitate this. We stopped by Alden’s homestay house to confirm with her host mother, and then went to the internet place to email Alden’s mom to let her know we were ready whenever she called. When she was able to call (also conference calling Alden’s sister who is currently in Berlin), we went to Alden’s homestay house and turned on speakerphone. The electricity was out and since the house is right behind a hotel, there was a large and very loud generator going, so we went inside the house where it was quieter. Since it was already evening, we lit the one candle she had and sat in a small circle—Anna, Jonathon, Alden’s host mother, her host brother, and I—with the phone and speakers in the middle. Alden’s mother had practiced how to say a few phrases in Portuguese, and we translated the rest of the questions and conversation. I had been dreading this a little, I was afraid of how emotional it might get. But though there were a few moments I had to hold in my tears, it was overall an incredibly happy two hours. Alden’s mother and sister wanted to learn more about Alden’s life during her three months in Mozambique with her homestay family, so it was really a celebration of her life during that time. It was a truly special experience that I felt honored to have been a part of.


Yesterday Anna sent me an excited text: she has just witnessed a man give up his seat on a bus for a woman with a baby! She was clearly shocked enough to send a text about it and I was shocked reading the text. One doesn’t often see here what we might call “acts of chivalry” in America—a man letting a woman walk first, holding the door for a woman, giving up his seat for a woman. Whenever I do see these kind gestures I am always overwhelmed by the desire to praise them or express how much I appreciate them! But I haven’t figured out a way to do this yet that isn’t a little strange, creepy, and disarming.
This morning when I left the house to walk to the office Amendoim, our dog, started to whine and bark, as he does every single time we leave. When I was almost out of earshot I heard our neighbor directly in front of our house call out to him, “quiet Amendoim, your mommy will be back soon!”
Last year I had one REDES (Rapariga em Desenvolvimento, Educação e Saúde—Girls in Development, Education and Health) girl in twelfth grade who had taken on a leadership role within the group, so I encouraged her to start her own group in the primary school and helped her facilitate it. She is a really fantastic girl. She was set to graduate in December 2011 and when I left for my home leave in America her plans were to attend the teacher formation institute a few hours north of Inharrime. When I returned last weekend I asked the girls from the REDES group about her: where was she, what was she doing, how could I get a hold of her. I found out that she was still at home, rather than studying as I had expected, and nobody knew how to get a hold of her. A few hours later that afternoon I got a phone beep (where they call you and let it ring once before hanging up, so they don’t use any phone credit. Then you are expected to call them) from one of my REDES girls. She said that there had been reported sightings of Marcia in the tiny village a few kilometers north where they live. I asked her to put the word out that Marcia should contact me or come to the school to see me. I have no idea what the process was, but someone eventually found Marcia and passed along the message, and a few hours later a girl from the orphanage found me to say a girl was waiting at my old house to speak to me. After a big, happy hug she updated me on her life. Her grade average had been 11, not the 12 required to enter into teacher formation institutes, so now she was exploring other options. She wanted to attend police school to become a policewoman, but when she had met with people from there, they had informed her she was too short. “What?!” I exclaimed, thinking of Inharrime’s police chief who might be pushing 5’1” if she’s lucky. “No,” Marcia explained to me, “it’s just a manner of speaking. It means they want more money.” I.e. a bribe, the popular currency of Mozambique. The police chief in Inharrime is a wonderful woman; she spoke to my REDES group during a celebration on Mozambican Women’s Day last year and she has always made sure I knew that I could call her if I ever needed anything. I instructed Marcia to go to her office on Monday morning to ask if she could help her with this process. I told her to be clear that I had sent her and that I would personally vouch for her if she needed and that the police chief could also contact any of Marcia’s former teachers at the secondary school who would agree that Marcia is a dedicated, hardworking student. The police chief is notoriously hard to get a hold of, so I instructed her to go prepared with a piece of paper and pen so she could leave a letter and contact information in case the police chief wasn’t there. I gave her money to cover her chapa ride that day to come find me in the school, and for Monday to get to the town of Inharrime and back and wished her luck. Cross your fingers.


Last month I needed to pay the rent (which is deposited into my account along with my salary), so I went to the one and only ATM in the town of Namaacha. My bank is Barclays, and there are two other main banks in Mozambique, BCI and Millenium BIM. There is no Barclays ATM in Inharrime so during the last two years I always withdrew from these other two banks’ ATMs without problems. The ATM in Namaacha is Millenium BIM, so I went one day and tried to withdraw 5,000 Meticais. It told me that those funds were not available at the time. This happens often at the end of the day when there just isn’t sufficient cash, so I asked for 3,000 Meticais and received it. The next day I returned and asked for 8,000 Meticais. It told me my card wasn’t working (which was slightly strange, I’ve never been told that before). I came back again the next day, requested 8,000 Meticais and received it. But then a few weeks later I realized my account was much lower than it should have been. I went to Barclays and requested an account statement and found that the 5,000 and 8,000 Meticais that I had requested but never received had still been removed from my account!
So today I took the chapa to Maputo (140 Meticais roundtrip) and spent the entire morning trying to recover this money. The people at the bank were nice and helpful, but restricted by a system that is less-than-efficient sometimes. At the end of the morning I was assured that they had contacted Millenium BIM to request the return of my funds and thus the process had been started. I was assured that the process should take no longer than 45 days, and was given a letter to bring back to the bank, should the funds not be returned at the end of 45 days. I was floored. 45 days?! I am currently, through no fault of my own, short 13,000 Meticais. At today’s exchange rate, this is $480, a notable sum of money for most people. And I am not most people—as a Peace Corps Volunteer this is almost TWO of my monthly salaries! Luckily I have a safety net to fall back on—money saved up, my bank account from America, friends and family who can lend me money—but what about all the people in Mozambique (the majority, surely) who don’t have these options? What are they supposed to do for 45 days in this situation?


Cyclone #4 of the year (and it’s only march) hit Mozambique over the weekend, causing many power outages in the southern region of the country and knocking out our internet for four days. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as originally anticipated to be, but there was still severe rain and wind and all PCVs in the south weren’t allowed to travel for a couple days.
Being back in Inharrime was really wonderful. People in Namaacha are getting to know me little by little—the people from my church, the guard at the gas station I walk by every day, the woman who sells produce on my way to the office, the neighborhood kids, the man we buy eggs from—but it’s still not the same as it was in Inharrime. I was a teacher there, which meant that instantly thousands of people knew who I was and why I was there and gave me a certain amount of respect. It was great to walk down the road, into the market, into the school, and into the restaurant and have tons of people greet me by name with big grins and waves again.
There are a few girls from the orphanage who didn’t return after the holidays. The littlest one from last year and her sister are reportedly living with family in South Africa now. This troubles me because these two girls were not in great shape when they arrived at the orphanage last year, the little one had a stomach full of worms and the older one was a little off cognitively and socially. I hate to imagine that they are likely returning to that same environment.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Once the baby of the orphanage, Margarida is now a proud first grade student!

My weekend in Inharrime involved many English lessons. On the left, Isaura, my star English student from last year.

The orphanage has a new baby!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Yesterday I caught a ride up to Inharrime, my old site, with the Peruvian engineer who works for the Salesian sisters in Namaacha and Inharrime. We had only gone about 60k (of the 350k) and I was starting to nod off when he pulled over. There was a hissing sound coming from beneath the hood and steam rising out. When we popped the hood it wasn’t the radiator as we had expected, but it seemed like a tube or attachment was loose and allowing steam to escape. He called the mechanic who works for the construction company, who was apparently 1.5 hours behind us on the road. We refilled the car radiator with water and cautiously drove some more. We stopped twice more to fill the radiator and then refill those water bottles before he decided we should pull over in the shade and wait for the mechanic to catch up with us. I read for a little while and napped. Eventually the mechanic and driver pulled up in a mid-sized flatbed truck and fixed the problem, though apparently we still needed something because we stopped in four construction stores along the way before we found it. I was glad to be moving again—I had people to see in Inharrime! But in the next big city we stopped to eat lunch. It was 3pm, I just wanted to go! Luckily we just got the meal that the kitchen had prepared that day (a huge pot of beans served over rice) so the whole lunch break only took about 20 minutes—the least of our worries today. We got back on the road and caught up with the guys in the flatbed, who had waited for us. We were cruising along and I was content because, although we were getting in much later than I had planned, we would be there in time for dinner. Suddenly there was an explosion and water covered the front windshield. We pulled over, popped the hood, and saw that a large tube (not the one that had been having problems before) had burst. We tried to call the guys in the flatbed who had been right in front of us but hadn’t seen us stop. They were in an area without service so it took a few minutes to get through to them, and then they had to backtrack. They pulled a long rope out of the back of the flatbed and tied the busted truck to it. I switched seats and sat in the flatbed so that the mechanic could do the steering and braking of the truck being towed. And that is how we drove the last 100k of the trip. We finally got in at 8:20pm, but I was just pleased that I got there before the girls went to bed.
It’s been wonderful being back and seeing everyone again, from the sisters and girls living at the mission, to my former students, colleagues, and REDES girls at the school. People keep asking me if I am back for good now and they are disappointed when I say no, I am only visiting. Everyone is extremely pleased (and vocal about it too) by how fat I got while back in the states. Except one colleague who took it kind of personally, “you gained all that weight there? So you eat more there than here? What’s wrong with Mozambican food that you gain more weight in America?”


Last night I walked into our outdoor bathroom. I was about a stride in when I squealed and ran back to the house yelling “cobra, cobra!” As you may have guessed, cobra means snake in Portuguese and there was a black and bright yellow striped one sitting in the entryway to our latrine. We all agreed that bright colors on a reptile are never a good sign, so we took care of it and disposed of it. Growing up in central Illinois all we had were garter snakes, and I used to catch them and play with them for fun. My mom didn’t think it was as funny. But here in Mozambique, where the national soccer team is the Mambas, I am a little more cautious.
We are logged into the computers here in Namaacha, but due to a shortage of office keys (one set, to be exact) we can only work there Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, which is frustrating. My favorite part of the office is the sign on the back of the door that informs you that it is “EXTREMELY PROHIBITED” to poop in that bathroom.
The other day Anna and I met a man who was originally a Rwandan refugee who ran away from there when he was 14 and lived in a camp in the Congo for a few years before running away to Angola and living there for a few years before running away again to Mozambique, where he has been for the past 11 years. I asked where he had citizenship and with a smile he replied “I’m a citizen of the world.” He has a refugee passport and has applied to become a Mozambican citizen, but has not yet been granted citizenship. He must be very good at some things, because he owns a small store in the town over from ours, which is a huge deal here. I’ve said this before: one of the best things of this experience the past 2.5 years is the all of the incredibly interesting people I have met and their stories.


This morning at church a bunch of the girls from the orphanage here in Namaacha sat with me. There is one little girl about two years old who doesn’t live in the orphanage, but who I recognized from church. She walked over and stood in front of me. Unsure of exactly what she wanted I patted my lap and she nodded, so I picked her up and she sat on my lap for mass. They aren’t MY girls, but it was nice and almost felt like I was back in Inharrime again.
When I went to my first mass in Mozambique back in October of 2009 I hated it. I think that I had expected mass to be the one thing that stayed constant when I left America, so I was devastated by how different it is here. I quickly grew to love it though, it wasn’t mass how I expected it, but it was a beautiful different version. That said, I was excited to go back to America to experience the mass I had been missing for two years. But when I went back to America…things were different. The priest in my hometown’s church has retired since I left, as well as the priest in the town where I went to college. And there have been some other changes. So I was left with the very depressing and possibly most frightening feeling for people who have left a place for a while—that the thing we were missing so badly all this time no longer exists.