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 CNN.com 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!