Thursday, November 29, 2012


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


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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


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

Thursday, November 15, 2012


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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012


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

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Happy Halloween!

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

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

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


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

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

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