I’ve been in Mozambique for almost a month! Tuesday was exactly a month since I left São Nicolau, and while I haven’t been depressed or anything, it certainly hasn’t been easy. We’re in the midst of week 4 of training (there are 10 weeks in all). This is really the hump because it’s about to get interesting! Next week we’ll go on “site visits” to stay with some of the second year volunteers and see what it’s really like to live and work in Mozambique. Soon after that we’ll start model school and then we’ll swear in at the beginning of December!
So far training is going really well. The staff is wonderful and language is coming along easily. I’m lucky I’ve had a year living in Cape Verde cause nothing really seems like that big of a deal now. Fried bolony for breakfast? Yum! Squat latrine? Bring it on – my thighs are gonna be rocks. Cutting everything with a dull knife and no cutting board? Not a problem. Electricity’s out? Excellent – it’s bedtime!
The biggest challenge has been going back to living with a family. Don’t get me wrong, they’re WONDERFUL! But it’s hard to lose control of your schedule and have someone watching everything you do. And having someone worry about you is both nice and annoying. During week 2, I spent 3 full days at home going between my bed and the latrine (which GRAÇAS A DEUS in my house actually has a toilet bowl because having diarrhea and a fever would be even less pleasant if you had to squat over a hole every half hour). Fortunately, my illness has now passed, but every time I get up at night to go to the bathroom my mãe gets really worried. It’s also a bit frustrating to have already relearned how to do everything and now be told once again that you’re doing it wrong. I.e. In Cape Verde I had to learn to wash clothes by hand, which was a frustrating process when someone is leaning over you telling that you’re doing it wrong the whole time. And now of course I’m learning a NEW way to wash clothes by hand (and being told once again that I’m doing it wrong, even though it’s worked for me for the past 15 months). On top of that, we’re sitting through the same long, boring sessions (how to clean your water and vegetables, who to contact for what, how to do needs assessment in your community, what is malaria, etc.) that we already sat through for 9 weeks in CV.
But let’s look at some of the positives:
- As I mentioned, my host family is wonderful. They’re a big family – mother, father, and five kids (two girls ages 3 and 18 and three boys, ages 7, 10, and 15). They’ve been very welcoming but also give me a lot of space. My mãe is very intent on teaching me all the skills I need to know to get by. I am proud to say that I have killed a chicken with my own two hands (and a dull knife) and then plucked it, cut it up, and cooked it for dinner! I’ve also done a lot of grinding of peanuts and matapa (manioc/yucca/cassava leaves) in the giant pilão (mortar and pestle) that they use here – almost exactly the same as the ones they used in Cape Verde. They’re pretty relaxed about me doing whatever I want as well. Plus language isn’t an issue at all. It’s been very easy to slide into using only Portuguese and I haven’t forgotten Creole yet which is good :)
- The other trainees are really cool! We are 68 – which is HUGE compared to the group of 25 of us we had during training in CV. It’s a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s fun to get to meet new people and make new friends and they’re all really down to earth and passionate about the work we’ll be doing (which is nice for those of us who’re a bit jaded after the first year of service).
- The food isn’t so bad. It’s not always the variety I want and there is still a LOT of starch (rice and xima, kind of like a thicker version of grits). And of course there’s the occasional 2 bags of pasta made with 1 tomato, 1 onion, and lots of oil, or the potato salad that consists only of potatoes and mayonnaise (and is also the only thing to eat at that meal). But, the traditional foods are pretty tasty. They make matapa (mandioca leaves) with ground peanuts and coconut milk and it’s very delicious and nutritious, if not a bit on the heavy side. Additionally, I’ve had a couple of fresh salads of lettuce or cabbage with onions and tomatoes or cucumber. A bit hit or miss, but overall not as much of a shock to the system (although…tell that to my randomly surfacing stomach pains). I will say that I feel a lot hungrier here. I think I’ve just had my fill of nutritionally empty starches, oil, and salt, which means I’m leaving the dinner table hungrier than I’d like to. But, PST doesn’t last forever and soon I’ll be in control of my own diet.
- The town where we’re training is really pretty and the people are very chill. From what I can tell so far, the culture is not quite as open and in-your-face welcoming as in Cape Verde. There you would just walk into your neighbor’s house and sit or serve yourself from whatever is in the kitchen, no questions asked. Here it’s much more formal. You address everyone by their titles and even my family members use the formal você to talk to one another. It’s a very hierarchical society. My family calls me Mana Marina, “mano” being a word that means brother and is used to show respect to an older sibling/friend. But anyway, the town is used to having trainees so we don’t get harassed much and there are a decent number of things to do. Last weekend we went and visited this gorgeous waterfall about an hour away. There are plenty of places to walk and a big open-air market twice a week. Plus all the trainees live pretty close to one another, so we get to hang out a lot. Maputo, the capital, is huge and has tons of random awesome things, including beautiful parks and hotels and even some delicious Thai restaurants! Definitely chique-er than anything they had in Cape Verde.
- Training seems much better organized this time around. We’ve been given a schedule for the full 10 weeks and so far have barely deviated. Plus our training director is very clear and to the point, which is particularly necessary with such a big group. They’ve been pretty flexible with us CV transfers as well and are letting us skip some of the redundant tech sessions to work individually on language.
Other than that, well…I’m homesick. And very Cape Verde homesick. But all in all things are going well and I really don’t have much to complain about. Plus, we’re almost halfway through training and between site visits and site announcements and model school, it’s going to fly by!
I have hardly any internet access (there is one computer in all of Namaacha), but I’m hoping I can get connected once I go to site in December. Feel free to call me (from the states its 011-258-82-058-9369). I’m sure I’ll be dying for some care packages sooner than later, but I’ll wait and give you all an address once I get my site placement.
Hope all is well back home. Happy Halloween and Happy Thanksgiving a bit early!
Peace and love to all of you!