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


            We were sitting in the Maputo airport waiting for Anna’s dad to arrive. At one point I looked over at Anna to see her giving a passing girl a really strange look. “Why are you looking at her like that?” I asked. “How do you spell Bowdoin?” Anna asked, “and you guys are the Polar Bears right? Well that girl who just walked by is wearing Bowdoin sweatpants.” I fervidly watched the bathroom so I wouldn’t miss the girl when she reappeared and, when she did, saw that she was in fact wearing Bowdoin pants. “Excuse me” I called out “do you go to Bowdoin?” The girl looked very surprised, “yes, I’m a junior there.” “I was Bowdoin ’09!” I told her and she laughed. She had been studying abroad at the University of Cape Town and had now come to Mozambique to visit. I told her we were in the Peace Corps here and wish wished her a good rest of her trip. Bowdoin College is a tiny liberal arts college in Maine with about 1700 students, but so often I find that this is indeed a small, small world!