Friday, December 14, 2012


            Yesterday I was taking the elevator in the building in New York City where I’m staying. The door opened to a middle-aged man and his mother already on the elevator, so I greeted them “good morning” and got on. The man greeted me warmly back and then asked me where I am from. Well I have absolutely zero idea how to answer this question and got extremely flustered. “Do you mean where do I live? Or where I grew up? Or what my heritage is?” He was probably equally confused by my discombobulated response, so he settled on heritage. After I answered he told me, “I just wanted to say that I really appreciated you saying good morning to us.” He explained that he’s from Eastern Europe from a culture that values greeting others, but he’s often disappointed by how few people respond to him here in New York. I excitedly explained to him that I spent the past three years living in Mozambique in a similar culture, so I also appreciate greeting others. We chatted for a few minutes about our experiences because wishing each other good days. That’s one of the things I thought I would miss most about Mozambique/Africa—those momentary but wonderful connections you make with strangers who you’ll never meet again.
            I’m posting this from a bus, on my way from NYC to Boston. Wireless on a bus? America is blowing my mind. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I'll be back soon enough!

            After a layover at the incredibly shiny Heathrow airport, I landed safely in New York City last night! Actually it was late afternoon but apparently it’s winter and far from the equator here, so the sun was already down. Oh brave new world! I’ve already gotten to eat some delicious food (Mexican!), indulge in some guilty pleasures (McDonald’s breakfast and a Twix bar), see friends from high school and college, and run into someone I knew on the street! I’m amazed by the bright lights everywhere—Christmas decorations and otherwise—and all the multitudes of well-dressed people. I’m surprised that everyone just waltzes around casually holding their big smartphones to their heads without worrying someone might snatch it. And I was under the impression that Americans and New Yorkers especially were rude, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how many people have smiled and greeted me back! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012


            Anna, Val, and I arrived safe and sound in Johannesburg at 4am this morning and have been spending the day with the wonderful John and Yvette. For those of you who have been with me for the past two or three years, they used to own Tsene Lodge, our little paradise on earth. It’s been great to see them again and know that even after the terrible situation, they have begun to make, and find themselves happy in, a new life for themselves here.
Now that I am no longer a PCV I am free to traipse about Johannesburg as I please (deemed too dangerous, it’s off-limits for PCVs except in transit). After all of the terrible things I have heard about it, and my limited interactions that were mostly restricted to the downtown areas around the bus station and airport, I have gotten to see a whole new side today that is really quite nice. Organic markets, African crafts, farms, and nurseries. Tomorrow night I fly out and I will land in New York City on Monday!

Friday, December 7, 2012


            I am now officially an RPCV—a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer! After arriving three long years ago in October 2009, I am finally no longer a PCV and moving on to the next part of my life. Below: Jordan, Valerie, Anna, and I—the last four standing from Moz 14. Now that we have all COSed, Moz 14 is officially done with PC/Mozambique.

            Tonight I take the bus to Johannesburg, where I will get to visit some old friends until I fly out on Sunday night. It’s hard to wrap my mind around, but on Monday afternoon I will land in New York City! I will hop from there to Boston, to Toronto, to Chicago, to Madison, to my hometown, to Ohio, to Chicago, and back to my hometown again before I fly back here to Africa. That will be one adventure, and then on January 16th begins the next one—my short stint in Swaziland!


            I’m down in Maputo this week for my COS (Close Of Service) processing. Lots of forms to fill out, and final medical check-ups before we are officially done!
            A few things from the past few months I never got a chance to write about. Back two months ago when I was writing grad school applications all the time, I had spent the entire weekend shut in the Peace Corps office working on applications. Early afternoon Sunday I decided that I deserved a break, so I went home, grabbed my book, sat on the porch and propped my feet up, and settled in for a relaxing few hours. This lasted about 5 minutes before I heard a pounding at my gate and children calling out “big sister Anata!” A handful of neighborhood kids had gathered at my gate and asked me to give them an English lesson. So before I knew it, I had about 13 kids sitting on the concrete slab inside our yard and I was conducting an impromptu English lesson. Not quite the relaxing afternoon I had envisioned, but a nice one nonetheless.
            Once when Anna was returning to Namaacha from a trip I took a book and went out to the main road to meet her and help with her bags. As she got off the chapa I greeted her with a big hug, then she went around back to get her bags. A man on the chapa said “oh, I don’t get a hug too?” I might get asked this 4 or 5 times a day, so I shook my head at him and thought nothing of it. “Don’t you remember me? I’m your cousin” he said. He told me who his parents are—Anna’s host parents—and reminded me that he had met me when I was visiting with my dad the day after Baby Anata was born. “Wait, so you are Anna’s brother?” I asked, pointing across the street to where she stood…talking to her 11 year old host brother. “Oh, that’s my brother!” he said. He explained that he had been living in Maputo and had never actually come to Namaacha while Anna lived with his family, so he had never met her, he only knew me from when I came back to visit. It was funny because they had sat almost next to each other the whole chapa ride, but it was me he recognized, not his own “sister.”
            One day Anna and I were walking home from the Peace Corps office through Namaacha. We passed a group of high school girls and said hi to them. They said hi back, and one gave us a particularly big smile, maybe you could even call it a knowing smirk. “How do we know her?!” Anna and I asked each other, and it was clear that she knew us. This drove us crazy for a few days until I a light bulb went off in my head and I went back to the photos from the 2011 REDES southern region conference at Barra beach last year. And there she was, smiling in pictures of the “blue group,” representing her REDES group from Namaacha at the regional conference. It still blows me away on a regular basis what a small country this is!

Monday, December 3, 2012


            Today I officially left Namaacha and came to Maputo to begin my COS (Close of Service) process. On Friday, after three whole years, I will officially become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV—some people call it “Recovering” Peace Corps Volunteer). And I think the timing is perfect. I’m not too jaded, I don’t hate Mozambique and I wasn’t itching to leave. At the same time I am 100% happy about leaving (okay, maybe 99%. I am sad to leave Baby Anata). Yesterday I had no mixed feelings as I walked away from my house and neighborhood children calling out to me, nor when I boarded my chapa. I was purely excited—excited to close this amazing chapter of my life, excited to go back to the states and see all the people I miss dearly, excited for all the fantastic things America offers (so basically food), and excited to move on to the next step in my life!