December 27th – April 27th
As hard as I try to keep up with my blog I’m finding it harder and harder to sit down and write. Mangunde, Peace Corps and Mozambique in general keep me so busy that weeks go by without me thinking to record them.
I left off at the point where my family arrived in South Africa. At this point, April, it seems as though it was a dream. My family landed in South Africa on the 26th of December and we started our brief but wonderful journey though South Africa and Mozambique. Our trip started with us just hanging out at the hotel in Johannesburg, them a little overwhelmed from traveling and me walking through a cloud of excitement and fatigue ( I had also just traveled a ton). It was followed with a whirlwind trip through Kruger park (the biggest and most well known Safari destination in South Africa) where we saw Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, Rhinos, and lots of Elephants. It was quite an experience to see so many wild animals in their natural habitat.
After our Safari adventures we headed back to Johannesburg and hopped on a plane heading towards Vilankulos, Mozambique, my parents and brother were about to set foot in the country I had been calling home for the last year and I was heading back to familiar territory. Once my family and I arrived in Vilankulos I felt an immediate sense of relief. I know Vilankulos and I know Mozambique and though they speak English in South Africa I am markedly more comfortable speaking Portuguese with Mozambicans than English with South Africans. It was then that I understood the importance of culture over language which allows a person to understand people, learning the language is not half as important as learning the culture. So there we were in Vilankulos with it’s beautiful beaches, abundant seafood and hot weather. My family and I spent the next few days there relaxing, taking a small boat out to the islands, and enjoying the ocean breezes.
After a few short, but relaxing, days in Vilankulos we rung in the New Year and then we headed north through Mozambique, with Mangunde, my home, as the destination. It was smooth sailing for the first 4 hours until we finally arrived on the final stretch of 25km dirt road that separates Mangunde from the main highway. Once on that road it started to rain and the chapa(Bus) veered off suddenly and got stuck in the mud. We struggled to get the car out of the mud for over an hour in the pouring rain, ,getting soaked to the bone all the while, until finally one of the mission cars drove past and tugged us out with a makeshift tow. Once in Mangunde we passed the time walking around and seeing the mission. My family stayed with the local group of sisters who live on the mission and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. The highlight of their visit to Mangunde was a dinner that we all had at a friend of mine, Alberto’s house. The dinner included music, dancing, and the killing and eating of a goat (the slaughtering of the goat occurred before we arrived). The festivities were an experience that I think will stay with my parents and my brother for awhile, and I’m happy they got to meet so many of my Mozambican friends and colleagues.
After we all passed a few days in Mangunde we loaded into a mission car and headed to the provincial capital of Sofala (the province I live in) of Beira where my family was scheduled to catch their flight. Traveling from Mangunde to Beira turned into quite an adventure in and of itself given that a bridge was out and my family and I had to unload our luggage from the car we were in, load up into some canoes, cross the river and then wait in the pouring rain for three hours for another car to come from the mission to pick us up. It was a stressful and exhausting experience, but my family handled it like champs. Once in Beira, relieved to have finally made it back, we all went out for some Indian food, and prepared ourselves for our goodbyes. The next day I helped my family pack up and we all headed to the airport where I say them off. I was very sad to see them go.
Once my family left, my vacation officially ended and slowly at first and then with increasing velocity I started to get back into work mode. Early January was filled with planning for the new school year, figuring out schedules, and starting my work on REDES, the female empowerment group of which I am now the central coordinator. In the middle of January I also attended a week long mid-service training conference in the capital of Maputo, Where for the first time in a year I saw some of my colleagues that live in the far north of Mozambique. After the mid-service conference I returned to Mangunde and hit the ground running with a 28 hour in class teaching schedule, extra-curricular activities such as English club, REDES, English and computer classes for professors, as well as all of my responsibilities as the coordinator for the Regions REDES groups. The last 4 months have seemed to flash by and now the date being April 25th I can hardly believe that the second trimester has already started and that in a few months I will either be heading home or making plans to stay for a third year here in Mozambique.
Since it has been so long since I have written many of the smaller happenings from the last few months have already fallen from memory and I have been left with only the craziness of the last few weeks with which to give you. The last 2 and half weeks have been crazy here in Mangunde and in Mozambique in general. For me the last few weeks have been filled with the organization and implementation of a conference in Chimoio. With the help of some other volunteers I set up a workshop for the REDES facilitators (all of the Mozambicans who have and run REDES groups in the three provinces of Tete, Manica, and Sofala). It was a super success. Everything ran smoothly and all of the facilitators left the conference content and well informed. After the conference I headed down south and met up with a bunch of volunteers for a few days in Vilankulos before heading back up to my site in Mangunde. While all of this was going on there was a week where everyone was on edge due to a small politically motivated skirmish in southern sofala, near where I live. There was never any danger for me here in Mangunde or for anyone I know, but there were worried looks and a lot of agitated chatter on the subject. In a country that was at war a little over 20 years ago disagreements between the two main political parties tends to make people nervous. Once again I was never in any danger, but it was eye opening to see people’s reactions to the events.
Now I am back in Mangunde getting ready to start the second trimester. I have been in Mozambique for almost 19 months, over a year and a half, and still I find myself constantly learning and adapting to the now familiar but perpetually different environment of Mozambique. It seems to me that the longer I stay in Mozambique the more I miss my family and friends in America, but the less I miss America for the small things like food, TV, and landscapes, my new “normal” after a year and a half is the active isolation of living in a vibrant mission in the middle of nowhere. At this point I think that when I return to the states whether for a permanent stay or just for a month long visit I will be confronted with the contrary sensations of returning home and entering a foreign country.
Thanks for reading my blog! And Lots of love from Africa! I would like to send a special shout out to my cousin Corrie who just had a birthday on April 21st. Lots of love Cuz.