Monday, April 29, 2013

The last 4 months in a nut shell!!!

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.   

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PART 2 – Traveling through South Africa!

PART 2 – Traveling through South Africa!
Day 15-December 10th – I get up at an ungodly hour in the morning, say my good-byes to Mac and Dylan who later that day will catch flights back to America and head off to airport where I’m bound for one of the coolest cities in the Southern Hemisphere, Cape Town South Africa!!

December 10th – December 16th – Cape Town!
Cape Town is picturesque city located towards the southernmost point of South Africa.  The city follows the sea coast wrapping around a small mountain chain that creates the dynamic view of seeing ocean and palm trees in one direction and the huge face of Table Mountain in the other.   My time in Cape Town was spent hanging out with a bunch of great volunteers and now returned Peace Corps volunteers, hiking up the mountains, chilling at the beach and eating.  There was lots of eating.  My first day in Cape Town was spent going to the Stellenboch region about 45 minutes outside of the city with Anna, Valarie, and Amanda where we went on a full day wine tour.   (4 fun and animated people + 6 wineries * goat cheese = AWESOME).
For the next few days I found myself hanging out with my good friends Chris and Laurie (yep! Those same two from Mapinhane!), Anna and climbing up Table Mountain and Lions head mountain, going to the beach and in general just relaxing and letting each day take me to the next adventure.

December 17th -19th Parting ways with my fellow PCVs and hanging out in Wilderness South Africa.
  These next few days were a crazy time for me.   I said good-bye to my friends and my security blanket and headed 7 hours along the coast of South Africa which brought me to the town of Wilderness.  Wilderness is a nice ocean side town which has a rich forest that comes right up to the beach making for a dynamic contrast between the ocean waters and the thick surrounding forest.
I ended up spending 3 days in Wilderness (it was only supposed to be two but there was a hic-up with the ride I was hoping to take).  I passed the time running, canoeing and visiting waterfalls.   The waterfalls in Wilderness were my favorite part of my time there.  The first set of falls I saw were fun because the rocks had formed multiple pools of water that one could go swimming in.  And to top it off there was one area which you could jump from about 4-5 meters into one of the pools formed by the water fall, needless to say I spent my afternoon doing that!   The second water fall I visited was a lot smaller but a lot more fun to get to.  The trail I took literally looked like something out of The lord of the rings.   The forest was thick and in some places overgrown so that it felt like you were going into a cave of leaves.  As you get towards the end of the trail you arrive at a small waterfall deep within a rock formation.   The appeal of this waterfall was there was almost no one on the trail and when I finally arrived, I had the whole waterfall to myself. 
My time in Wilderness was also spent getting to know some fellow travelers.   As funny as it may sound I may have met more people from Germany in my 3 weeks in South Africa then I had at any other time before Peace Corps in my life.  On top of Germans I met people from Switzerland, Lithuania, England, a handful of Americans, and of course a bunch of South Africans.   Apparently December is the tourist month for South Africa, and I was traveling in the peak!

December 20th – I spent the majority of the day traveling from Wilderness to Port Elizabeth which acted as a Pit stop on my way to Coffee bay.

December 21st -22nd – I Left Port Elizabeth, bright and early, in the morning of the 21st. And I ended up arriving in Coffee Bay in the early afternoon.  Coffee Bay was an interesting place that I am going to have to visit again at some point in my life.  Coffee Bay South Africa got its name because at some point in its history a boat carrying coffee beans shipwrecked off the coast and for a period of time there were coffee beans aplenty on the coast. 

I got to know a few fellow Americans on the bus that brought me in so I ended up spending a good portion of my next day and a half in coffee bay with them.  Some highlights of the trip were watching the sunrise while doing some Yoga with some South African Peace Corps volunteers, watching the sunset over the spectacular set of cliffs that looks over the ocean in Coffee bay, and going to a dinner/cultural dance that they had going on the night I was there.     My time there was short but memorable,  I was sad when I left that I didn’t get more time there.

December 23rd –December 24th – Left Coffee bay and made my way over to Durban where I spent Christmas Eve.   On Christmas Eve day Clemens and I (Clemens was a German traveler who decided to join me) walked around the city trying to see as many sites as possible.   We went to a huge market where we ended up trying bunny chow, bunny chow is a large piece of bread with the center pulled out filled with an Indian curry,    and it was SO GOOD.  I have a deep love of Indian food and Durban having the highest population of Indians outside of India itself, was a number 1 food destination for me.   After the market we visited the botanical gardens, passed by the huge soccer stadium in Durban and then passed the rest of the afternoon on the beach.  Durban was only a one day stop but I’m happy I was able to pass some time there, though the whole time I was there I was starting to get really excited about my family who were going to arrive on December 26th.

December 25th -  I spent the whole day traveling from Durban to Johannesburg.  Not the best way to pass Christmas Day but I was holding out for my family to come on the 26th.   I ended up grabbing dinner with a mismatch group of travelers,  a couple from Uruguay, a Frenchman, and a Canadian.  Half of the meal was in Spanish, some was in French, and the rest was in English, it was a whirlwind of languages.

December 26th – My family touches down in South Africa!!!!!!   I meet them excitedly at the Airport and we travel to the hotel we would be staying in.    My father, mother, and brother all arrived safe and sound and I couldn’t have been more excited, though maybe a little nervous at the prospect of being their guide through South Africa and Mozambique.   The Skvarchs made it to Africa!!!

To be continued….

Friday, February 15, 2013

November, December, January and all the way to February!
-It’s been almost 4 months since the last time that I wrote a blog!!   Sorry for the long break I was so busy wrapping up the 2012 school year, traveling all around Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa, having my family visit and starting the 2013 school year that it just dawned on me the other day that I should post another blog.  So here goes!

The Agenda
-Finishing up the 2012 school year (includes a brief trip down to Namaacha where I welcomed in the new training group).
-TRAVEL: Starting in Mangunde and traveling through Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa and back.
-The Skvarch’s travel through Africa!!!
-Mid-service and settling back into Mangunde life with a new roommate and a new year.


Finishing up 2012
                It’s hard to believe that 2012 and my first year in Peace Corps have already passed.   It seems like just yesterday I was getting off the plane after a long tiring trip and stepping foot for the first time in Mozambique.
                The year slowly faded away towards the end of the school year as final exams started to wrap up in early November and students started to slowly trickle out of Mangunde.  Mangunde is so incredibly busy during the year that when November rolls around it seems like an odd but peaceful silence permeates all parts of my lost little mission village in Mozambique.
                The school year ended and with it my responsibilities in the community. I hung around Manugnde for about two weeks and helped grade and proctor final exams but soon enough it was the middle of November and I was heading down to Maputo Province, specifically Namaacha, to hang out and impart some Mozambican PCV wisdom on the new Peace Corps trainees who were entering the country.  In mid November I started what would be an almost 2 full months of traveling experience.  I left my site and headed to the capital city of Sofala, Beira to catch a flight down to Maputo.    Beira is the second largest city in Mozambique, busy, congested, not particularly clean, and Peace-Corps-Volunteer-less.  This put staying there a bit on the inconvenient side.  Anyways, after my flight got moved and I spent 9 hours waiting in the Beira airport I finally managed to get on an airplane head down to Maputo (arriving around 1pm). Needless to say the moment I got to the hotel room (an absolutely FABULOUS room equipped with both a FLUSHING TOILET and a HEATED SHOWER)  I passed out.  I woke up the next morning with and, in the company of two fellow Moz 17ers,  made my way to Namaacha. 
                The following week was filled with meeting almost 70 new Peace Corps Volunteers, attending a bunch of practice classes to give everyone feedback, and being overwhelmed with the nostalgia of being in Namaacha.  Namaacha is the place I lived when I first arrived to Mozambique and after a year of living in this country the whole town seemed so startlingly familiar and different that it took me a few days just to find the ground. The whole week in Namaacha was a wonderful experience where I got to check myself and to see how far I had actually come in just a single year’s time, not to mention I got to meet my then soon to be roommate Jonathan Lesko!

Well… this is going to be a crazy ride
Day 0(Around November 28th) -  I find myself back in Mangunde for a brief period of time after having spent a week in Maputo visiting the new soon to be Peace corps volunteers.  I was only able to stop for a day or two to make a whirlwind of arrangements, say some good-byes and do some laundry by hand.  It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day when you put your mind to it.

Day 1 –  I leave Mangunde and travel all the way to Vilankulos about 5 hours south and manage to shoot into the city for just an hour’s time to try and make travel arrangements for my family.  So I just got done traveling for 5 hours.   I was hungry and tired and running around Vilankulos, only to find out that EVERYTHING but a few bunk beds had been booked for New years when my family was supposed to get in.  I make the booking for the bunk beds, pray that they will give us  fans, and that my mother won’t kill me,  and as quickly as I got into Vilankulos I caught a Chapa out to try and get to Mapinhane where two of my friends live.  I arrived at Chris and Laurie’s just a few minutes before dusk and was happy to find myself with friends after a stressful day of traveling and bad news.

Day 2 -  I say my good-byes to Chris and Laurie and tell them I will see them in Capetown and then I head south towards Inhambane city.   Traveling is smoothing sailing from here on out and I make it to Maxixe early in the day.  To get to Inhambane city one has to travel for about a half an hour in a boat taxi from the mainland of Maxixe through a small channel to reach Inhambane city.   Maxixe and Inhambane City are located towards the southern end of Mozambique and seem to be overflowing with coconut and palm trees and of course the general relaxed beach atmosphere you find when you can smell ocean water and eat fresh fish on a daily basis.    I make it into Inhambane city, see briefly a friend who lives there and then meet up with the 4 other people I will be traveling with for the next 2 weeks. The big five as we liked to call ourselves were my friends Mac and Dylan from Sofala as well as Ariel and Leah from the northern province of Nampula.  We all then made our way to the beautiful beaches of Tofo where we would spend the next few days.

Day 3,4,5 – BEAUTIFUL beaches, Swimming, and Scuba diving for the first time.  Scuba diving is a BLAST  and I think it is something I will continue to do in the future. :-D…. on a not so awesome note… I left my camera on the bus that brought us to the beach… bad timing.
Day 6 – The big five load up and we head on down the coast to stay in the gorgeous lagoon town of Quissico.  In Quissico the five of us stayed with a, super friendly and chill, volunteer named Tony, who was calling Quissico her home for her two years of service.  I don’t generally get jealous of Peace Corps sites but I do have to say that Quissico is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life.  Starting in the small town of Inharimme about 30 miles up the coast you will find a series of 7 lagoons, Quissico being the 4th or 5th one down.  The town is located on a hill next to the lagoons, which means that just 2 or 3 minutes walk from the center of town you get a view that will take your breath away.  Imagine being able to see 3 or 4 baby blue lakes all in a row surrounded by coconut tree forests and the Indian Ocean just beyond the small strip of land that keeps the lagoon separate from the ocean. That’s Quissico.

Day 7 – We leave Quissico and head to the capital!

Day 8-9 10-  We find ourselves in the midst of the swearing in ceremony for the new volunteers, saying good bye to volunteers who are in the process of COS(Close of Service), and fellow travelers.   The 5 of us stayed with a few American CDC (Center for Disease Control) workers who were AMAZING hosts that gave us all beds, a few meals, and some great conversation.

Day 11- we leave Maputo and leave Mozambique!!!!   We left Mozambique and headed into uncharted territories!  We took a trip through Namaacha and headed over into the Kingdom of Swaziland (One of the only Monarchies left on the planet).   We traveled to small town of Siteki in Swaziland where we stated at a wonderful little backpackers, enjoyed the cooler night air (It’s a fair bit more mountainous in Swaziland then in Mozambique), and made some wonderful egg sandwiches for dinner.

Day-12- We leave Siteki and head over to Lobamba Swaziland, but first we have a pit stop in Hlane Royal National park to go on our first GAME DRIVE!!!!   We arrived in the park and went on a 2 hour game drive through the Safari of Swaziland we managed to see baboons, a bunch of Giraffes up close and personal, a few elephants in the distance and some huge rhinos. 

Day 13- After a restful evening in Lobamba Swaziland we woke up the next day and decided that we wanted to go white water rafting.  So we did!  We took a few rafts out to the local rapids and spent the morning meandering, shouting, yelling, laughing, and splashing our way down the Mbuluzane river.  The highlight of this day was when Mac and I went down one of the huge rapids together.  We were both pumped and super excited for the rapid and our goal was to not have either one of us fall out.  We get into the rapid and it’s tossing and turning us all around but we keep on paddling and finish strong, or so I think.  I turn around excitedly once we get passed the rapid about to congratulate Mac only to realize an instant later that him floating away down the river.   White water rafting in Swaziland!!! So much fun!!! A special shout out to Leah who was my awesome rafting partner for the majority of the day!

Day 14- We all get up and the group splits in two.  Ariel and Leah and back to Maputo to grab some stuff they left there and prepare for their journey home, and Dylan, Mac, and I cross boarders and head into South Africa. 
Now, when Mac, Dylan and I got to Swaziland we were all surprised at the level of development as compared to Mozambique, but when we got to South Africa it was like walking into a whole new world.  There are shopping malls, stores, cars, and a whole hell of a lot of white people, it was all very overwhelming and slightly uncomfortable at first, but hey we had just walked into the most developed country on African continent south of the Sahara.
We arrived in South Africa and ended up staying the night with a friend of a friend’s parents who live in South Africa which Mac set up.  We were warmly welcomed and well received by the South African family and were happy to eat all of the delicious cookies, sausages and treats they offered us.

To be continued......

Stay tuned in the next few days I'll post PART 2 of my Traveling adventures through South Africa and Mozambique!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Last month of the school year!

Highlights for the last month and a half in Mozambique
-Oct 4th – Oct 6th:  Machanga for an inter-group exchange with my REDES group!
-My maid and her husband
-Halloween in Rio Savane!!! – October 26th -29th
-One full year of teaching
-Canoe Ride on the Buzi River

Hello everyone,
After a month and a half of being busy with wrapping up the school year I’m finally ready to write another blog!
Troca in Machanga!!!!             
In early October I brought my REDES group, a group of 10 very excited girls, on a trip to perform a theater and dance piece to a neighboring Mission school in the district of Machanga.  Machanga is a small town/ district on the boarder of Sofala and Vilankulos, and is about a 5 hour car ride south from my site of Mangunde.  
The first thing I would like to say about the troca is that it was AWESOME, 4 different schools from surrounding schools were invited and it was a wonderful experience to see all of the girls from the different schools show off their dancing, singing, and acting skills.  In a country where the majority of women you meet are extremely passive, shy, and generally subservient.  Seeing this group of girls being lively, laughing, and talking about important issues was a fantastic thing to see.
After all of the fantastic performances (Side note: some other volunteers and myself also got in there and broke it down Mozambican style…SO MUCH FUN) the night wrapped up with a dance party followed by some Xima(Corn flour cooked in a way to give it the texture of firm mashed potatoes) and beans, then off to bed.  The next day all the girls went to church in the morning (Us Peace Corps volunteers did not get up and go to church, and boy-oh-boy did our girls make us feel guilty, apparently they had a big announcement at church that morning and wanted to thank us for the work we were doing….we didn’t get the Memo :-/ ).  After church Mac (The PCV who lives in Machanga and who organized the whole event (Good work btw Macky boy!)) had all of the girls get together for one last event.  He got three nurses from the hospital to come in and talk to our group of about 70 girls about pregnancy, contraception, and general female health (Mac and I as the men stepped out for this part, nothing makes Mozambican women more uncomfortable than talking about Menstruation and female condoms in front of two white American men).   All and all the workshop was a stunning success, most of the girls had no idea about the options available to them at their local hospitals and for some of them it was their first experience with anything related to formal sexual education.   With an HIV rate as high as 33%  (1 out of every 3 people you see could have HIV)  and with families that have 8 children and barely the ability to feed 2,  Sexual Education is VERY necessary.
Another wonderful experience
One slightly comical revelation I had on how different life in Mozambique is to that of the states was when my REDES girls and I were getting into our vehicle to head to Machanga.  We excitedly packed 10 girls, my counterpart, myself, and the driver (13 people) into a small blue pick-up truck for a 5 hour journey and were extremely grateful for having a private ride.  Can you imagine in the States a school allowing 10 girls to pile into the back of an open pick-up truck to travel for 5 hours on a highway to get to a school related event.  In the states: LAWSUIT, in Mozambique: RIDING IN STYLE. 

My maid and her husband

A few months ago I wrote a blog about my maid and her son Jacinto, however to put the next story in context I will repeat myself a bit.  
Gracinda is a woman that was selected by the Priest who runs the mission to help out and assist the Peace Corps volunteers that work in Mangunde.  Here in Mozambique it is very common for teachers, foreigners, nurses, doctors, and just about any job that requires a college degree to have a maid.  When I arrived here in Mangunde Gracinda was contracted to fetch water, cook lunch and dinner, wash clothes, and keep the general house and yard clean.
Gracinda has been the maid here for about 6 years, she is 25 and has a 2 and a half year old son named Jacinto (who I adore).    Gracinda’s niece Inoria and nephew Jose live with her and Jacinto in small wood house just a step or two off of my back porch.    
Gracinda, Jose, Inoria, and Jacinto basically have full run of the kitchen and the back yard of my house and because of this I have had a hard time in the past year dealing with personal space issues.  I mean seriously I live in a house with 1 American roommate and an entire Mozambican family.  There are parts of this which are wonderful, but there are also parts that I thoroughly dislike and want to change.  A few things that aggravate the situation are that she gets paid far more than the work she does is worth, she doesn’t do a very good job, and no matter what I offer her she makes me feel as though I’m not doing enough.    It doesn’t help that I have never actually wanted a maid, and the only reason that I’m giving her a job is because I have the ability to single handedly help her and her child make a living for themselves with a job that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.  
It’s hard for me because I do like her and I love Jacinto but she effectively makes me feel like a stingy rich person who just isn’t willing to help her out, when in fact she receives so much help from the Peace Volunteers and from me personally that she lives very respectably compared to others in the community. 
Anyways, as of October 10th I had decided to reduce her pay, reduce significantly the amount of work she would be doing, and if she still wanted to stay in Mangunde she could, if it wasn’t enough she could choose to move on. (Did I mention that she gets 100% free housing out of this whole deal).  I had decided on this because 1. I could hire some students who were struggling to pay for school from the surrounding community to help me out around the house, and 2. Gracinda has a husband who lives about an hour away and has a decent job as a primary school teacher which would mean her and Jacinto would be supported.   This seemed like the best option for me, I get to help out a few students who are truly struggling to go to school and who will appreciate what I would give and I would regain control over my house.
HOWEVER, things never quite turn out the way you expect.  Everything changed the weekend Gracinda’s husband came to visit.  Her husband Lino is someone I have never liked, from the first moment I met him he walked into my house like he owned it and made me feel like I owed him my full hospitality. 
The night he arrived I went to bed without any thought of the events of the following day.  When I woke up the first thing my roommate Ian said was “did you hear them fighting last night!?”  I sleep like a brick but  was surprised to hear Ian recount being kept up late into the light with Lino and Gracinda’s fighting.     
Gracinda looked really upset the next day so I asked her about it and she proceeded to tell me how Lino has repeatedly been hitting her when they get upset with each other and how she was tired of their situation.    She then showed me her mouth which was swollen due to almost having a tooth knocked out.  To sum up, her husband beats her.  This immediately put me on full alert and made me very angry.  I told Lino off and then spent most of my morning facilitating a “marriage counseling session” between Lino’s Godfather, Gracinda, and Lino.   This entire situation was very awkward because I just wanted Lino to leave and Gracinda to never talk to him again; however things are different in Mozambique and being punched in the face by your husband, does not mean a divorce it means a long conversation where a bunch of promises are made and only half will actually be kept .
The story ends here, I don’t like Gracinda’s husband, they are still together, and I CAN NOT take away her only way to support herself while she has a husband that beaters her.   Therefore she has got a full job for next year, though many things are going to be changed (I’ve already talked to her about these things) and I think over all next year will be for the best.    It might not seem like the situation has been resolved for me, however there are a lot of little of little things that changed for me after I found out about Gracinda’s husband.  I’m now in a comfortable position with Gracinda and my living situation and get to see Jacinto grow up for another year.

Halloween 2012  - Rio Savane

Rio Savane is a beautiful Beach/ River located just outside of Beira (the second largest city in Mozambique).   A bunch of Peace Corps friends and I all met up at a small island resort to say good bye the volunteers who have finished their two year service and are heading to the USA during the following weeks.  
The place we stayed at was on an Island just off of the mainland where the Savane River lets out into the Indian Ocean.  This place was amazing on one side of the island was a long stretch of white sand and a stunning view of the ocean that was accompanied by the constant crash of waves coming in.  On the other side was a winding river with tons of vegetation, crabs, and a wicked current.   The whole place had an untouched feel to it which made it a wonderful refuge after a busy trimester.
The weekend was filled with costumes (I was a flamboyant Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), beer, and goodbyes.   It was nice to see everyone (about 15 of the people who came were set to leave) one last time in the Peace Corps setting, before they embark on their post Peace Corps life.  It made me realize that I have in fact been in Peace Corps for over a year (definitely an odd revelation).   A shout out to all of the Moz 15ers, Mozambique will certainly miss you!!!
One full year of teaching!!!
So as of October 26th 2012 I officially finished one full year of teaching in the Mozambican school system.  The whole experience had its ups and downs but overall I would say that teaching in the context that I was put in has been an invaluable experience that I’m never likely to forget.  On top of the craziness that is ones first year of teaching, I managed to deal with learning and teaching in a foreign language, and to handle all of the idiosyncrasies of the Mozambican school system.
The end of the year brought a few goodbyes, a few “see you next year”’s, and that general “wrapping it up” feeling you get right before summer break.   I thought that these last few weeks would be smooth sailing, and that I wouldn’t have very many responsibilities.  I was wrong.  The past few weeks have been crazy due to the National exams that all of the students in 10th and 12th grade must take.  My last two weeks have been filled with helping kids prepare for the exams, than monitoring them while they take the exams, then grading the exams, absolute craziness.
Some comments on the National exams here in Mozambique: 1. passing is a 35% on the exam and average passing right per discipline is about 60%.    In my opinion there is just something wrong here.  It could be the teachers, it could be the students, or it could be the test.  But, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s all three.  The nuances of the education system here boggle my mind, but how the ministry rationalizes only having 60% of its students pass an exam when the passing rate is about 35%  is beyond my understanding.   Grading these exams is rough, towards the end I found myself getting excited when a student managed to get 40 or 45% of the material.  L
Anyways, at the time I am writing this blog, my responsibilities as far as the school is concerned have dropped to zero and I am excited to use the next few days to catch up on non school related work.  Which includes REDES, CLEANING MY HOUSE (an undertaking worthy of respect and admiration), and preparing for an awesome month long traveling extravaganza that I will be embarking on in early December.  South Africa here I come!!!
Canoe Ride on the Buzi River
I’m going to end my blog on a relaxing note, just yesterday November 11th my roommate (who will be leaving in just two days, L) and I took a wonderful canoe ride down the Buzi River.  The Buzi River is only about a 10 minute walk from my front door and holds a quit and humble atmosphere.  When you get to the river there are usually around 20-30 women washing their clothes, children playing in the water and people generally just going about their day to day life.  
Ian and I arrived with our good friend Alberto to search out the Canoe man.  We crossed the river and ended up at a house were the Canoe Man (a very friendly elderly man ) was helping his friends build a house.   Around these parts people are very poor, and no one has any more for paying people to build a house.  So what they do is that make a special drink called Ndoro (basically fermented corn flour)  and invite anyone who wants to help build the house come over and take part in the festivities.  Everyone then chips in and helps build the structure and as their reward they get to get nice and tipsy on this highly alcoholic Mozambican beverage.   Back to the story, Ian and I arrived and we warmly welcomed, we ended up waiting there for about an hour for the canoe man’s son to arrive and we also got to drink a little Ndoro and watch the construction.   The Canoe Man’s sun came and we agreed to pay him 100 meticais (3 dollars) to take us on a 2 hour canoe ride so that Ian could get some fishing in.
Alberto, Ian, Canoe Man’s Son (henceforth CMS) all piled into the hand carved canoe and started making our way down the river.  Ian tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get the fish to bit, but they just weren’t having it. Eventually he gave up and we enjoyed the rest of the trip seeing the wilds of Chibabava (the district I live in) and looking over our shoulders for crocodiles.
Though we didn’t catch any fish, it was a wonderful trip and honestly one of the last Mozambican adventures I will have with Ian.   We had a good year living together and I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate.  I wish him the best as he leaves and starts his life Stateside. Now I get to wait both excitedly and apprehensively to meet the next person who will have to put up with me for the next year.   J
Thanks again for reading up on my Mozambican adventures!  The next blog probably won’t be for awhile (I’m thinking mid to late January) unless I score some internet in South Africa.   I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas and/or Hanukkah and a Fantastic New year!!!  <3
Sent with love,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

One year in Mozambique!

Hello there blog buddies!

The date is September 25th 2012.
Some highlights for those who are just skimming through:
-Visiting Inhassoro and Vilankulos
-Flying down to Maputo (capital of Mozambique)  for the REDES hand over meeting
-Vilankulos and Laurie’s B-day party
-Removing four (that’s right FOUR) worms from my foot.
-English Theater competition in Chimoio
-O dia 25 de Setembro 2012

Inhassoro -> Vilankulos->Maputo->Vilankulos->Mangunde
Not too long after my last blog post I started out on a wonderful journey south with a few friends to attend the REDES (That girl’s empowerment group I’m always talking about) hand over meeting.  A hand-over meeting (as the name implies) is where the current leaders of REDES hand over their jobs and responsibilities to the newer PCVs in Country.   I was selected as the Central Financial Coordinator for the Central region in Mozambique (Tete, Manica, and Sofala).  Which means I’m going to be a busy man next year organizing two conferences and facilitating inter-group exchanges (when two schools meet up to get to know each other, and present theater pieces, music, or crafts that they are working on).  Yay for responsibility!
                Back to the journey, I started out leaving Mangunde on the back of an open back chapa ( a pick-up truck)  absolutely filled with people, the truck was so weighted down by the 30 something people on board it had trouble moving up the hills between Mangunde and the main road.  Needless to say 30+ people on the back of a pick-up is highly uncomfortable and as soon as we got to the main road I jumped off and waited for another ride.  I got lucky on my way down to Inhassoro and caught a ride with in a private car with a few South Africans, exponentially safer and more comfortable than the public bus, I was riding in style!   After about a 3 hour journey they dropped me off at the intersection that leads into Inhassoro and I headed in. 
                Inhassoro is a beautiful little beach down/ tourist town on the coast of Mozambique.  Upon arrival I was wonderfully surprised by seeing the ocean stretch out for miles in front of me as I got off the bus I was riding and started to search for my friend Zac’s house.  I gave him a call and we went out and got lunch with a few other PCVs who were in town and the rest of my weekend there was spent eating delicious food (Zac’s a really good cook!)  Relaxing on the beach and decompressing after a busy few months. 
                I left inhassoro the next day and made my way to Vilankulos with my friend Emily.  We had to catch a plane on Tuesday morning so we thought we would get to Vilankulos a little early to enjoy the spectacular beach that Vilankulos has to offer.   Once we got in we hung around for a bit and ended up going to the market to buy some seafood (something I rarely get at sight).  We hit the jackpot and bought 5 or 6 pounds of fresh clams for the equivalent of a dollar, SCORE! After that Emily and I made our way to Drew’s (another PCV who lives about 20km outside of the city) and enjoyed the next day relaxing before we boarded our flight and headed off to Maputo (Mac (my good friend from Machanga) joined us at this point).
                We left Inhassoro made our way to Maputo and enjoyed the 2 days eating as much food as possible during the evenings and talking REDES during the day.
                The Hand-over went really well and I’m starting to have a clear picture of how REDES works and how I can improve it for the next year.  I enjoyed getting to know everyone who works with REDES and I look forward to organizing a bunch of fun activities for my REDES girls next year!
                After the hand-over meeting I flew back into Vilankulos to attend a celebration of my friend Laurie turning 30!    Laurie and her husband Chris are two of the most wonderful people I have ever met and enjoy chit-chatting.  This party was a blast; we stayed in some beautiful dooms that overlook a pleasant beach and filled our time with eating pizza (an extremely rare delicacy in Mozambique), being silly, and talking about all of the little things that effect our lives here in Mozambique.
                The next day I said my good-byes, gave everyone a hug and headed back to Mangunde, I arrived safe and sound on Sunday evening ready to give classes that following Monday.  My weeklong vacation had finally come to an end I started buckling down to get back in the swing of things.

                What is a Mataqenha you’re asking?  I will tell you. A Mataqenha is a little worm that hangs out in the sandy areas underneath mango trees and crawls into your foot to lay its eggs.  
                During my trip to Vilankulos I at some point walked barefoot under a Mango tree and managed to get four of these little buggers in my left foot!  At first I just thought it was a small blister, but on second inspection I noticed a tiny black dot in the center of the circular abnormality and realized it was a bug! 
                Now most people upon finding a bug in their foot might freak out, and if this had happened a few months ago that would have probably been me.  However, once I realized what they were and said “eww” I decided to perform some minor surgery and remove the egg sac and worm from my foot myself.
                I attacked the four invaders with some needles, anti-septic, and tweezers with great success.  I managed to get them all out after about an hour and a half of struggle and went to bed satisfied and feeling like a bad ass.
                What I’ve learned from this is to avoid walking behind Drew’s house barefoot, and that if you pierce a Mataqenha sac this disgusting black liquid comes out so be careful with that darn needle.
English Theater in Chimoio
                After getting back to Mangunde I was put into a frenzy of lesson planning, preparing my REDES group for a performance at the hospital, and getting all of the little things in my life organized.  
                On a side note I had my REDES group perform a Musical number at the local hospital on Malaria which was a stunning success.  The girls in my REDES girls danced up a storm and close to a hundred people from the hospital and the surrounding area came out to watch them. J
                Not to long after that musical performance did I start making preparations to attend the English Theater competition in Chimoio.  My roommate Ian had been working with the English club at our school for the last few months creating and perfecting a theater piece to be presented at this competition.  In this competition 10 schools from the Sofala province all converged on Chimoio to participate in a weekend of English, theater, and excitement.   Since Ian left a bit early to organize the event, it was up to me to organize the transport to Chimoio and get all of us there safely.  
                As I was sitting on the back of a pick-up truck with 15 students it dawned on me how ridiculous the transport in Mozambique is compared to America.  We were on a SCHOOL FUNCTION with authorization from the director of our mission and our transport was 2 pick-up trucks for about 35 people, and the only thought I had was thank god it’s not a chapa.  In America piling 17 students on the back of a pick-up truck for a 5 hour long journey would seem absolutely impossible and an insane liability.  Here in Mozambique, totally normal.
                The competition was a stunning success without any serious hic-ups(which always tends to occur with events here) and with all of the schools performing wonderfully.  This competition was especially exciting for us here in Mangunde because we took home 1st PRIZE!!!!  Mangunde won best overall performance and Ian and I couldn’t be more proud of how much work our students put in to their theater piece.  Special props for Ian who made the whole competition happen.

O dia 25 de setembro
                Today is Tuesday September 25th a national holiday here in Mozambique where they celebrate the first day of the “luta armada” that is to say “armed struggle”.  Today commemorates the day that Mozambican nationals took up arms to oust their Portuguese oppressors (Mozambique was a Portuguese colony from the early 1500’s until the 1970s).   So as I am writing to you I am enjoying the day lying on my estera (bamboo matt) catching up on little tidbits of work that I have been putting off.    J
                Two days from now will mark one full year on a continent and in a country which never ceases to amaze me.   I’m going to be celebrating my one year anniversary in Mozambique by sleeping in (no class on Friday), eating a snickers bar (thanks mom), and translating a 3 page document into Portuguese for a project I’m starting (more fun that it sounds?).  J   Big hugs to everyone in the states!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trimester 3 - Hit the ground running!

August 25, 2012

Can you believe it’s already the end of August.  I can’t.   Every time I write one of these blogs I’m surprised.

The last few weeks have been crazy; let me first tell you about a wedding I went to.    The wedding I went to was in a little village (or group of huts all within an hour or two walking distance to the nearest water source)  called Mawhenee.  I was invited by my friend Alberto and was excited to take him up on the offer.  The village was about an hour and half away on my bike so he told me that we would be spending the night, I said “no problem, sounds like fun”.  

The trip turned out to be a blast though exhausting, by “spending the night” what Alberto really meant was: get to a friend’s house at 4pm, leave for the wedding at 9pm and START the wedding at 2:30 in the morning.  That’s right we STARTED the wedding at 2:30 in the morning and then proceeded to dance until 10am.  I didn’t take part in the dancing right way, it seemed to be something that only the women were doing for the first 4 hours or so, then around day break some of the guys, Alberto included, started to jump into the dancing circle, at which point I decided to dance as well.   

The dancing was quite unique, one person would play the batuque(drum), someone else would start singing a certain phrase (this was all in the local language Chindau so I was lost as to what was actually being sung) and that one phrase would be repeated in rhythm with the drum for about 5-10 minutes per song.  Everyone would circle around the fire and do a repeated dance movement copying the leader of the group as they circled around the fire.  I wouldn’t call the dancing particularly beautiful by the American context  of dancing, but it had the effect of putting you into a trance.  The music was so rhythmic and everything was in tune to the beat of the drum that 6 hours and sunrise passed before I knew it.  

At about 8am after a few hours of dancing the wedding actually started at which point the wedding party slowly made their way out of the hut that they had been in the whole night ( the wedding party was not present for the majority of the dancing)  when I say slowly I mean SLOWLY they inched forward bit by bit so that they probably walked a total of 20 yards in 10 minutes .  They had over them a sheet that stayed on them covering all of their faces until the end of the ceremony.  At some point during the ceremony the bride started nervously convulsing, I interpreted it as nervous anxiety at the prospect of starting married life and leaving her family, however Alberto informed me that it was a demon.  They then disappeared for about a half an hour in which time I believe they exorcised the demon.  Some call it a demon some call it nervous anxiousness either way I seemed like the same types of emotions that typically occur at weddings.
After the wedding we ate breakfast and then headed back to Mangunde which of course took 5 hours longer than I expected because time here in Mozambique is viewed very differently than in America and if someone says will be back around 10am what they actually mean is “we’ll get back eventually if not today than definitely maybe tomorrow”.

The other exciting thing that happened on the following week was a visit from Ian (my roommate) ‘s parents.     That was particularly exciting not only to be able to show of Mangunde to some non-Peace Corps volunteers but it also left me with a sense of excited anticipation for when my family comes to visit around Christmas time.  I had to work most of the time so I didn’t see Ian’s parents much during the day however I got to know them a bit in the evenings and I enjoyed their and Hannah’s company (Ian’s girlfriend a fellow PCV who lives in Tete, Mozambique).   The most exciting part of their visit was a dinner that we had at my good friend Alberto’s house wherein some of the local school groups that Ian runs gave performances this was followed by a wonderful goat dinner with pineapple for desert cooked by Alberto’s wife.

The following weekend, the first weekend in August, I had whirlwind trip to Chimoio where I participated in my first professional skype meeting with some other Peace Corps Volunteers from different parts of the country and our Country Director.  The meeting went well and I ended up spending a few days with a PCV from my training group Hoang who lives in Chimoio.  Another exciting note about this trip was that I finished the book I was reading “Pillars of the Earth” on my way up to Chimoio.  SUCH A GOOD BOOK it’s a serious page turner and I recommend it to everyone(It’s got everything, sex, intrigue, political scandal, and the whole good triumphs over evil theme that we Americans seem to eat up so readily).

The following weekend(the second weekend in August)  Ian and I invited any and all volunteers willing to make the trek to Mangunde to our house for a pig roast in celebration of Ian’s and Mac’s birthdays (Ian turned 25 on August 3rd and Mac turned 24 on August 16).  The party was a blast we had 8 volunteers come down from different parts of Manica and Sofala, we showed off our site and we ate well!!  Just thinking about all of the delicious things we ate makes me salivate.  We started the weekend out with Mac and Cheese.  Mac and Cheese is an extreme delicacy here amongst PCVs in Mozambique and the fact that we had Mac and Cheese made from Velveeta (courtesy of our recent visit by Ian’s Parents) was a huge hit.  This was followed by a huge egg scramble in the morning, Eggplant peanut curry for lunch (How to make a peanut curry will be something I have with me for the rest of my life, thank you Ian), and then roast pig served with roasted apples and pineapples (covered in cinnamon and sugar) and topped off with a chocolate cake for desert.    It was a darn good weekend!!

Than the following weekend (the third weekend in August) we had the provincial science fair.  I worked the majority of last trimester on preparing the students in Mangunde for the local science fair, and I spent the majority of the beginning of this third trimester helping our finalists prepare for the provincial science fair.   The Provincial fair was held in the city of Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique, and was both a proud and memorable moment for me.  Mangunde ended up taking home 3 awards which means half of the students who went to the fair from Mangunde won prizes and beat out a lot of other student who come from much bigger schools.  The fair was an all day event that started at about 6 in the morning for me and didn’t end till almost 7 o’clock at night.   I and all of the other volunteers were super busy helping David( Science Fair coordinator) out in any way we could.  I was really impressed with some of projects that found their way to the fair and I’m looking forward to doing science fair again next year.

On a side note, this was my first time in Beira and it was an interesting place to visit, though the visit was brief.  Upon arrival to Beira I was struck by a sudden and strong sense of nostalgia, after living very far from the developed world for so many months driving into Beira sent my mind back to times when I was in Tampa, Florida something about being in a tropical city makes me remember my youth.  Beira has a definite “city” feel to it with cars, hustle and bustle, movement and activity and all of it made me miss all of those little convinces I had while I lived in the states.   I was able to go for a run during my time in Beira as well which allowed me to check out the beach and some of surrounding area.   In a big city like Beira the contrast between the rich and poor of Mozambique is extremely apparent.  I found myself running by mansions with beautiful gardens in their courtyards and hummers in their driveways and then less than a minute later I would pass by run down shacks by the beach where the local fishermen live.  95% of Mozambique lives in the worst poverty the world has to offer and the other 5% live like kings and queens by comparison.  It just doesn’t seem right.

After returning to Mangunde from the Science fair I found myself overwhelmed with work for the first 2 days of the week and only upon finishing up one of the many highly unnecessary tasks that my school likes to assign to me did I start to feel relaxed, for the first time in months I might add.   After the last few weeks of going, going, and going, I finally have enough time to sit down relax get ahead on my lesson planning and write a blog. 

My emotions for the past few weeks of been in a serious slump there were a few weeks where I honestly thought I was depressed.  My emotions here in Mozambique are always oscillating between the extremes I’m either really happy and excited, or extremely annoyed and agitated.  Only after having a few days to relax do I realize how much of these negative emotions were due to the stress of being too busy(overworked and underpaid has a whole new meaning as a PCV).  Here in Africa more than any other time in my life do I realize how much a few hours of quite time a week mean to me.   In Mozambican culture, quite alone time, is not valued and even looked down upon as anti-social behavior, this simple fact can be exhausting at times but between running and reading (and most recently season 5 of Dexter) my stress levels have plummeted and I find myself enjoying once again my teaching routine.

I also recently finished the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”  this is a MUST read for anyone interested in getting a broader view of how America has handled international affairs in the past.  A very well written book that makes me want to learn more about how America interacts with the world outside of its borders.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

June and July in Mozambique!

After 2 months of being MIA, I am finally writing a blogpost!  
                My crazy short semester
                                So this semester was filled with many interesting things all of which I will get to in this post.   The first thing I must tell you thought is that this semester has been a crazy one when it comes to teaching.  The ministry of education in Mozambique moved the scheduled two week break that is at the end of the trimester up by 2 weeks midway through the trimester.   This effectively turned a 12 week trimester into a 10 week trimester and if that doesn’t seem short enough for you they scheduled exams on the third to last week of school effectively reducing the amount of time that I was able to spend inside a class room teaching to about 7 weeks.   Way to go Mozambican education system.  This had a sort of ripple effect on my life here in Mangunde.  For the entire trimester I was operating on a condensed amount of time so the 10 weeks of the trimester seemed to fly by with one event after another.
                The first event that I had the trimester was something called a “troca de experiencia’  which is na ‘exchange of experience’ between REDES groups from different schools.  So, on June 23 a school about 3.5 hours away came with 15 REDES girls and a couple of awesome Peace Core friends of mine and we had a party here in Mangunde!   The group from Machanga performed a dance for the girls in Mangunde and the girls in Mangunde put on a theater performance and a musical performance for the girls in Machanga.  All the performances had a HIV/AIDS related theme and the weekend was filled with dancing, laughing and making friends.   It was also very exciting because a friend of mine traveled for 2 days to see me and my friend Mac in Mangunde and we were all joined by the fanstic Williams duo from Mapinhane ( a married couple who live about 3 hours south of me).  This of course added a whole other dynamic to the weekend.   Spending the weekend with good friends, hanging out with the girls in my REDES group and watching them meet new people, and spending time running around trying to make sure everything works out made for an eventful but wonderful weekend.  I can honestly say that June 23 and 24 was probably my most memorable days in Peace Core today and I would trade them for the world.
                Since the beginning of the second trimester I have been having meetings on Sunday afternoons trying to get people interested (and get those interested working on) science fair projects.  The Peace Core about 5 or 6 years ago started having provincial science fairs to try to get kids more interested in the sciences and technology and in Mangunde at least it has turned into a big deal!  On June 30 Mangunde held its annual science fair (coordinated by yours truly with some wonderful advice and help from my roommate Ian) and it was a huge success!   We had 18 students participate in the fair and present their projects. Each student was required to stand up and give a 5-6 minute presentation about their experiment and I am happy to say they all did a great job.  However words can’t tell you how wonderful it was to finish up the local science fair and put it behind me.   There were 6 winners for the science fair (1 and 2nd in different age groups and 2 different schools) and we are all looking forward to the provincial science fair which will be happening next semester in Beira(the capital of the province I live in).
                After the trimester ended a bunch of my friends and I decided that it would be awesome if we walked from my site (Mangunde, Sofala) to our friends site in Dombe Manica for a quick 4th of July party before the majority of us went up to some conferences that we had in Chimoio.   The journey was every bit of 100km (62 miles more or less) and was a grand adventure that I will never do again.   We walked into some of the most rural parts of Mozambique and by the end of the first day I had the two biggest blisters I have ever had on my two feet. (and I run marathons!!!)  They appeared right on the balls on my feet and turned me into a grumpy, injured old man for the last 2 hours of our walk to rich Alberto’s sister’s house.   (Alberto a colleague of mine from Mangunde who works with both Ian and I on many different projects, he is a wonderful person and diamond in the rough so to speak here in Mozambique).  When we finally arrived at our destination just after dusk on Friday night all 8 of us were pooped but excited to be able to chill for a few day in Dombe! (Except for my 9th grade student who decided to tag along and did the whole journey barefoot!  That kid showed us all up.)
                After spending a day or two in Dombe, Mac and I went up had a brief visit with a another Peace Core friend of ours, Jamie, at her beautiful site in Sussendenga , after spending only a single night there Alberto, Mac, and I grabbed a chapa  up to Chimoio to start our Project Management and Design (PDM)training.   Alberto was my counterpart for this training and we spent the next 3 days planning out a project that we would like to do in Mangunde. These three days included LOTS of eating, running water, and a hot shower, and me getting really excited about our project.   The project is in its infancy but if all goes according to plan Alberto and I will build a community center that has a focus on HIV/AIDS and has a supply of books to act as a library.   There is a lot of planning left to do with it but at this point it seems very possible! (more to come!)
                So after the PDM conference I stayed right in Chimoio to help my friend Emily (the volunteer who lives in Chimoio) plan a huge REDES workshop here in Chimoio.   The workshop was a 3 day course were a bunch of girls from the surrounding provinces get together and are given classes on self-esteem, communication, HIV/AIDS, Male and female Biology, Sex education, and setting goals for the future.   I thought the conference went very well and I enjoyed working with Emily and the other Peace Core volunteers to make it happen.
                So now I am here again after talking about the last two months trying to come up with some way to describe how I feel after almost 10 months here in Mozambique.   The last few months have been hectic and these next 3 months are sure to be even busier.   I find myself missing a lot of things about home these days while at the same time finding myself adjusting to a whole new level to the way of life here in Mozambique.     Anyways I hope you enjoyed my blog and I promise to be a little more on top of writing blogs this trimester so that I don’t fall behind so much on my experiences.  (It’s hard to to a summary of the past 2 months in a single afternoon here at my laptop)  I hope all is going well, Lot’s of love from AFRICA!!!  <3