Saturday, June 30, 2012


            This bush hen landed on our fence this morning, just out of reach of the dog and sat there screeching/squawking (bush fens make the most terrible sound) until I chased it away.

 As I write this, there is a bird that accidentally flew into our house and is now trapped, so it’s flying back and forth in our common room in a panic. It is unbelievable how much a tiny little bird can poop and pee, and it’s pooping and peeing ALL OVER the common room. I guess it’s just one of those days. 


            Liz, Anna’s friend from home, is here visiting! A few days ago we went into Maputo so that we could leave early in the morning for the beach. We were standing at a bus stop in the city when I felt a gentle tug on my hair. I turned around and gave the woman standing behind me a quizzical look. “It looks like extensions, I wanted to see if it was” she explained to me. “Well that’s not a compliment!” was my response, even though she assured me repeatedly it was.
            We piled onto an over-stuffed chapa, the kind where you are more dependent on other people’s bodies to keep you upright, rather than your ability to grab handholds or maintain your balance. We were finally able to get Liz a seat, so we felt better after that, until the young man next to her took a picture of her with his phone. “Hey!” yelled Anna “what are you doing? You can’t take pictures of people you don’t know! Give me your phone, I’m erasing that!” She grabbed for his phone but he pulled it out of reach so we turned to the woman sitting next to him and asked her to monitor him to verify that he actually deleted the picture. The other woman sitting in their row started loudly scolding him about how rude and uncultured he had been. Then the man standing next to me started loudly scolding him and addressing the bus about how he had taken a picture of Liz and how rude he was. Within 30 seconds everyone on the bus was talking about it. The young man called for a stop and got off as everyone scolded him, and I wondered to myself whether he actually needed to get out there, or if he had been shamed into it.
            We went up to Casa de Mar for a few fantastic days at the beach with Mary and Des, the wonderful people who own it. (Check out if you ever want to visit an amazing beach in Mozambique!) We got to spend time talking to them, reading, playing card games, and watching the sunrise—exactly how beach days should be spent (it’s “winter” here, so warm enough for swimsuits, but too cold to get in the water).
The sun rises within about 15 minutes here

You can almost see the sun moving, it's incredible

Saturday, June 23, 2012


A few days ago I passed a group of men on my way home from the office. “Good afternoon” I greeted them, as I greet every person I walk past. “Good afternoon!” one of them said, leering at me, “you are very pretty!” I continued walking quickly by them. “Hey!” he yelled at me, his tone changing to reprimanding and angry, “when someone tells you you’re pretty, you say thank you!” Hmmm, so now you’re lecturing me on manners?
I ran into a few of the trainees yesterday and they said “we rode the chapa here with your friend, he kept saying he knew Anata.” I had no idea who they were talking about, so they elaborated “he’s the border police who climbed the mountain and took pictures with you.” I laughed, his memory is a little different from the version I remember. The way I remember it, I climbed the mountain with Andrea and got harassed by this guy and another border police when I was returning. Apparently he learned my name when he took my passport and remembered that I had said I climbed the mountain that day to take pictures. I laughed and wasn’t surprised slightly that we would recount the encounter and our relationship so differently, but the trainees seemed a little more put off and puzzled by this.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Last night Anna and I were in Maputo and we met up with some other PCVs who were also in town. We left the bar at around 10:30pm and went to the spot in front of the hotel there where taxis wait to split one home with Gracey, an RPCV (Returned PCV) from Moz who is back this summer with an internship with USAID. Where she is staying is very close, actually on the same road, as where we are staying, so although the taxi would make two stops, we knew that they shouldn’t charge us more than normal (and we have done this before). Per usual, we haggled with them before getting into any car, and actually getting out of the first taxi when he wouldn’t negotiate his price (since at this time of night it’s easier to just get taxis in front of this fairly posh hotel, it’s customary that they try to charge us a ridiculous price at first, but then we tell them no and what the normal price is, and they concede). One guy said he would take us for our price, so we got in and he drove us to where Gracey is staying. When we reminded him of the second address, he told us it would be an additional 50 Meticais to take us there. We began to argue with him, saying we wouldn’t pay more, since we had discussed the price prior to getting in the car. He was being a pretty big jerkoff, so eventually (after discussing with Anna that we were a couple blocks from where we were going and the road was well-lit and lined with guards) I threw the money at him and informed him that we would just walk. As we walked away from him, he got back in his car, drove up behind us, and hit me from behind with his car, knocking me on the ground. Either he only intended to scare me and didn’t actually mean to hit me, or he has done this before and is really good at it, because he hit me perfectly—he hit me enough that I fell down, but not hard enough or straight-on enough to hurt me. Then he sped away. Anna, a good friend, was primarily concerned with me on the ground, so in the aftermath she bent to take care of me, not try to get his license plate number. Of course as soon as I hit the ground I was incensed and all I cared about was getting his license plate number, but he sped away too quickly. Again, I am NOT hurt, I didn’t hit my head or anything. I landed on my butt and my back is a little sore, that’s it. That said, hitting someone with your car is ALWAYS an idiotic and unacceptable move. Immediately after it happened we called our Peace Corps Safety and Security Coordinator, Alfredo and he said that we would go back today to try to find the guy. When we arrived I recognized the driver whose taxi I had gotten out of last night because he wouldn’t lower his price (turns out I probably should have just forked over the extra 50 Mets…then I wouldn’t have gotten hit by a car), so Alfredo talked to him and another driver. Alfredo asked if he remembered us and when he did, asked the name of the guy who eventually took us. He then asked when he would be back at work next. Alfredo explained that this man had done something bad while he was out driving and he just wanted to talk to him. Alfredo was really good at this, he approached the topic very gently and slowly, because you would expect these guys’ first reaction to be to stand up for their buddy. Alfredo reminded them that having a guy like this driver do something bad would reflect negatively on all of the drivers and impact their business. They agreed with him, told us that the guy had never actually returned after he took us last night, agreed that he couldn’t do things like that, and told Alfredo when this guy would come back to work, as well as when the chief of the taxi drivers would be around. This will be Monday, so on Monday Alfredo will return to try to sort out the situation. I really appreciate Peace Corps’ support in this situation, Alfredo is not only always working hard to take care of us, but also demonstrates that he is good at what he does. Things like this blow my mind really. I was pissed at the taxi driver, but never in a million years would I be tempted to hit someone with my car out of anger, and it never crossed my mind that someone else would. In what world is that okay? Anna reflected afterwards that it’s likely the reason he reacted so strongly was that he couldn’t handle two women standing up to him. But again, because the phrase “I got hit by a car yesterday” seems to elicit a strong response from people, I want to stress the fact that I am not hurt!

Friday, June 15, 2012


Last Saturday I hiked up the “Three Points” mountain with Andrea, and Ecuadorian volunteer who lives with the sisters in town. The mountain is so named because the very top point marks where Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa all meet at Swaziland’s northeast corner. It was a beautiful day and, aside from the small run-in with the police on the way back, a great hike! Above picture: looking up the “mountain” (I’m from Illinois), the point we are hiking to is right in the middle. Above: Andrea hiking. The line/fence that starts on the right of the picture is the Mozambique/Swaziland border. Namaacha is to the left in the distance. Above: Me at the rock pile that marks where the three countries meet. Above: Andrea and me, with Namaacha in the background. Above: Behind me is the Swaziland (left) / South Africa (right) border. I am actually in South Africa in the picture I think.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I recently read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an incredible man who helped revolutionize the public health system worldwide, specifically, what things people accepted as dogma or possible. I heartily recommend it. There was one phrase from the book that stopped me in my tracks. At one point, frustrated with life in Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer says: “Clean water and health care and school and food and tin roofs and cement floors, all of these things should constitute a set of basics that people must have as birthrights.” And it was then that I realized that perhaps I have become too complacent with the way things are here in Mozambique, my very intimate 2.5 years experience with the developing world. Our water isn’t very clean. We usually just joke about it, and I posted a picture a few months back when it came out particularly dirty. In Mozambique there aren’t nearly enough health posts, especially the more rural you get. A lot of my neighbors don’t have tin roofs, and I just read a malaria study conducted in Zambezia province (central Mozambique) that found that 77% of the families had thatched roofs. Many of my neighbors don’t have cement floors. What really rattled me when I read this was that I had forgotten that I used to also consider these self-evident truths, but over time and through my experiences, I have come to accept a lower standard of reality. It hasn’t crossed my mind in a long time (many months? a couple years?) that people should have cement floors—having packed-mud floors here is just the way life is, just how all the kids run around barefoot and play with trash they fish out of trash pits. It’s shocking how drastically your world view can change. Now I am searching for some happy medium, because life here is simply life: there are good aspects and things that need to be improved. I know many happy people here and I often find comfort in how not-materialistic people here are, in comparison to America. But at the same time it’s good to be reminded that we can’t just accept things as they are, but should always aspire to at least minimal standard of living.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The other night the electricity went out. No huge surprise there, I lit a candle and finished my night routine by candle/flashlight. The next morning when I left for the office it still hadn’t returned. I noticed that our neighbors two houses uphill (who also own a little shop right by our houses) had power, though it seemed like everyone downhill (our house included) had lost power. I got back from the office in the early afternoon and, finding it was still out, went to talk to some of our neighbors. I asked two men I ran into and they confirmed that their power had also been out since the previous evening. They told me that they were working to get it back, so I shrugged and went home. About 30 minutes later one of the guys stopped by to ask if the electricity had returned—it hadn’t. Then another 30 minutes later it came back on, hurray! A little while later I went up to the little shop to buy some things for our house. The lady who owns the shop (our neighbor whose house had never lost power) and I were having trouble seeing and counting our money in the twilight, so I told her that the power had actually returned, so she could turn on the light. She shook her head and told me that power in her shop hadn’t returned yet, and flipped the switch on and off to demonstrate. So her house never lost power, our house lost it and regained it, and her shop lost it and hadn’t regained it yet—and all of these buildings are within a 50 meter radius. This is one of the things that I find most puzzling about Mozambique. In America sometimes things happen or don’t work, but it seems there is generally a tangible reason—a fallen tree took out the power line, a water pipe is broken, etc. But here in Mozambique sometimes things happen with no apparent cause— the electricity will go out in all the houses at a certain point on the hill and return to only some of them later, the electricity will go out and come back multiple times on a sunny day, the water will come out muddy brown some days and crystal clear other days, the internet in our office will go out and return multiple times.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Baby Anata and our host brother Aiton


A big welcome to Moz 18, the newest group of Peace Corps Trainees who arrived in country a little over a week ago. Despite a small mix-up with their arrival time at the airport and three of their colleagues going home already, they seem to be adjusting well. They live in Namaacha (where Anna and I live) during their ten-week Pre-Service Training, so we have run into them around town a few times. Thankfully, Namaacha is geographically huge and the area where they have their classes and most of them live is about two miles from our house. As much as it’s fun to see other Americans, learning how to do things on their own is a crucial part of their process of learning how to live and work in Mozambique, so I’m glad we aren’t always available to answer their questions. The downside: I have already noticed more people in town greeting me in attempted English, likely thinking I’m part of this new group. I ran into a bunch of them Saturday afternoon, after having gone to Maputo for the first time that day, to practice riding chapas, buy things (namely, phones), and eat some good food. When I saw them, they were incredibly excitement, trying to activate their phones, exchanging numbers, and making contact with family, friends, and significant others for possibly the first time since arriving. One of the trainees returned from talking on the phone with a big smile on his face. “Was your mom able to get through to you?” I asked. “Yes, it was so great to talk to her, she’s such a tiger mom, she’s so funny!” “What’s a tiger mom?” I asked. The two trainees I was talking with chuckled and gave me a look that mixed amusement with a tiny bit of pity, “oh, you weren’t there when this happened.” So they proceeded to explain the tiger mom phenomenon to me, yet another thing that happened since I left. This happens often. Anna and I constantly have to remind people that we’ve been gone from America since fall of 2009—a really long time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The view from our front gate

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Yesterday Anna and I spent most of the day at the house, since we had our girl come to wash our laundry in the morning and we can’t leave the dog at home alone with the washing hanging or he’ll pull everything off the line onto the ground. We were sitting in our front yard reading when heard some kids at our gate calling me by name—turns out it was my host brothers and sister (baby Anata). Their mom had sent them over to play, so I spent a couple hours with them. They climbed our tree and fence, ate lemons I picked them off our tree, and sported the new sunglasses I had bought them a few days earlier.
Our dog has been acting strangely ever since we returned from Swaziland after last weekend. On two consecutive nights he ran away (jumped our fence), which he has never done before while we are in the house (only when we left and he ran after us). Since then we have kept him on his lead or locked in the house 24/7, which has resulted in incessant whining, crying, and barking. Really, incessant, as in non-stop. All day and all night. As much as I would like to let him go have fun (it was undoubtedly a female dog in heat that lured him out), I refuse to start paying for any damage he might do in the neighborhood, like killing chickens or running over a kid. Last night he was outside on his lead and we were in the house when Anna said “weird, he’s being quiet, I’m going to check on him.” Then from outside I heard, “Scooter, he hung himself!” I ran out and we were relieved to learn that he hadn’t actually hung himself, but had jumped over an impossibly high wall and was now outside our fence, luckily his head was long enough! So I had to climb over the fence, Anna unhooked his lead and handed it to me, and then I dragged him (as he clawed and thrashed maniacally in the other direction) back to our yard, apologizing to our neighbors whose yard I was tramping through. Below is a picture of the wall he jumped with me (I’m 5’6”) standing by it for comparison. If I don’t look very happy in the picture it’s because I’m not.

Friday, June 1, 2012


So much to catch up on these past few weeks! April was Blog About Malaria Month, as I’m sure you noticed, with the goal of raising awareness about malaria that culminated with World Malaria Day on April 25th. I was incredibly busy during that month checking in with all the PCVs who told me they were doing malaria activities to hear how they went, get information for write-ups, gather pictures, and post all of this on the webpage. Somehow I thought that things would calm down after April ended, but instead my job finally kicked into full gear and I have been crazy busy. But in a good way, because I love what I am doing and it has been a great learning experience for me. I was traveling back down to Maputo from Massinga after the PIRCOM training sitting on an extremely “cozy” bus when I felt something brush against my leg. I jumped, then shrugged it off and ignored it the first few times. Eventually I was curious enough to try to find out what it was, but between all the bags, sacks of coconuts, people, more bags, and bundles of cassava, there was no way I could see under my seat. “Is there an animal under my seat?” I asked the woman next to me. She laughed at me and assured me that no, it was just baggage or maybe the person behind me kicking me. She announced this exchange in local language to the people around us on the bus and everyone got a good chuckle. Hours later (probably about 400 kilometers later) whatever was under my seat had brushed against my leg too many times to accept that it wasn’t alive, so I wiggled my arm down and felt around, probably not as nervous as I should have been about what I would find. “There IS a cat down here!” I exclaimed to my seatmate. She was surprised and asked if I was sure. Only at this point did the guy behind us decide to speak up and confirm that yes, he was traveling with a cat he had put under the seat. A few weeks ago on our way to Vilanculos for a beach weekend we caught a ride with a very nice and interesting Zimbabwean man who works in Mozambique and was on his way home to visit his family. About 20 minutes after he dropped us off Maddie, another PCV, said “Scooter, why are you calling me?” I reached into my back and realized, with a sinking heart, that my phone was still in the nice man’s car. I talked to him and we arranged to meet up when he returned from his holiday 10 days later. I shrugged, “oh well, I guess I won’t have a phone until then!” One of the other PCVs there, who only just arrived in October of the past year, shook his head at me, saying “you have been here too long! You should really be more upset about losing your phone!” Fast-forward 11 phoneless days (during which I only missed it a few times) and I successfully got my phone back! It’s nice not to have to spend money on a new phone, but it was truly a blessing to not lose all my contacts. On one of my travels north of Maputo I arrived at the “Junta” (literally the joint/connection) which is the Maputo bus terminal. Which in this case means a large, chaotic, trash-covered, unpaved area where 50ish buses cram in and move around and bus drivers shout and people are trying to sell you everything from earrings to toilet paper or friend chicken meals. It’s a very aggressive scene, you have to be aware of your bags at all times and guys from different buses will fight to get passengers on their own vehicles. I dread going there because it’s even worse for me, as a fairly small white female. When I arrive the normal chaos ensues, guys are grabbing my arms and bags, pulling me, yelling and trying to convince me that their bus north will leave soonest, and everyone is shouting such that I can’t really tell what anyone is saying. Then suddenly a man in an orange reflector vest came up and barked at everyone to get away from me. Two of the guys had gotten into a physical fight over me and I reached out at one point when one guy shoved the other one into the road. “Leave those idiots” the man in the orange vest said. “You are the customer, you get to decide which bus you get on. You can see each bus before you make a decision, they can’t force you to get on any of their buses. So, now, which bus would you like to see first?” It was such a bizarre and wonderful moment of civility. I thanked the man profusely and climbed onto the bus of my choosing in relative peace.