Well hey there amigo, I humbly want to say thanks for stoppin by and takin interest in what this girl is doing! While you read, Keep in mind that the ideas and thoughts expressed in this thing are mine and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Peace Corps or the United States government...blah blah blah...go read!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Bem-vindo (welcome) to my life! It’s probably been a while since most of you have heard from me. Desculpa. Well, I’ve got a lot to catch ya up on, so I’ll get right to it. Just before Christmas I completed my 10 week training with the Peace Corps in Namaacha, a small southern city near Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Training was overwhelming and frustrating most of the time, but had its fair share of adventures and amusing moments. I lived with a host family for the duration of training, which was an experience allll to itself. I would describe my host family as a very loving, chaotic, Mozambican circus. My dad is involved in some sort of security operation and my mom is an elementary school teacher. My 3 brothers and 3 sisters ranging from ages 7 to 19 were a constant source of energy, activity, and fun to keep my mind off my less than par Portuguese and on better things like Frisbee and climbing papaya trees. We all lived together in a 4-room concrete house with a tin roof (which sounds amazing in the rain) and a couple of cockroaches, my new least favorite critter on the face of the earth. My family patiently introduced me to the world of bucket baths in outside casa-de-banhos (bathrooms), cooking Mozambican cuisine over charcoal, and the basics of family culture. I’m sure they got sick of the white girl constantly in a state of bewilderment, functioning at a level less Mozambicanly civilized than Sancho, the 7 year old…but they didn’t show it. I already miss them and I’ve been away for just over 3 weeks. Outside family life, I attended language classes every morning for a few hours and then afternoon sessions on cultural and logistical Mozambican life topics as well as technical sessions where I worked with other Peace Corps volunteers who will also be teaching science. Days were full to the brim, but a majority of our weekends were free for hanging with the fam, escaping to Maputo for pizza, or hiking in the nearby mountains. Training ended after a week of model school, which was a chance for PC teachers to get up in front of a classroom of (semi-bribed) little brothers and sisters and anyone else we could round up from the community and practice our English, bio, or chem teaching skills. Poor kids:-) Yikes! It was nice to get a little practice but teaching biology in Portuguese is nerve-wracking! I’m not sure I’m ready to do this; but Peace Corps says I am, so on the 12th of December, I swore in as an official PC volunteer in Maputo.
I was “delivered” to my site shortly after swear –in and was overwhelmed by the un-stereotypical-peace-corps-ishness of my new home and the beauty of my city. I now live in a spacious, breezy apartment complete with ocean views from my bedroom windows and both of my balconies. I have running water for half of the day (although it’s not drinkable), electricity that’s been pretty reliable so far, and a considerably smaller cockroach population. I felt almost guilty telling some of my comrades who are definitely roughing it in the matu (bush) about my site. I’m a lucky duck. I was greeted into my new home by my PC roomie, Alex, an English teacher who has been here for one year, already a refreshingly goofy and fun source of information and encouragement as well as 4 little Angochan boys who sang, danced, and presented me with flowers and drawings. After my dinner of crab-legs freshly fished from the nearby Indian Ocean, our 4 little friends accompanied us to the top of our hill where we watched the sunset over the lagoons and got to hear rather animated stories in Portuguese from our mini-tour guides. What??? Is this really my life? I could definitely get used to this.
I spent a week in my city getting the basics settled and entertaining a few PC volunteers traveling through and then set off to meet up with some other volunteers to celebrate Christmas in a resort town north of my site. I soon found the greatest disadvantage of my site so far—getting out. The road to Nampula City, the provincial capital, is pretty darn rough in a chapa (choice form of transport), which is basically a flat-bed truck with a canvas cover on the back. But its not necessarily a rough ride just because the un-surfaced road is crazy muddy and full of holes or because the vehicle is less than luxury—it’s ‘cause they stuff so many darn people (and animals) in one stinkin’ load and stop frequently to pull little kids out for roadside bathroom breaks and to purchase snacks like mangos, cashews, or freshly slaughtered goat. This trip was considerably more authentic than my arrival in the PC jeep, and my butt literally had the bruises to prove it. Anyway, I eventually got to the others, and we celebrated a rather tropical Christmas complete with a shark and pineapple Christmas Eve dinner and a Christmas morn waking on a beautiful beach.
I’ve been back at my site now for about 2 weeks and I’m pretty well settled in my apartment. After doing a little exploring, I’ve found my city to be ridiculously beautiful, rich in a smattering of cultures, and a bit mysterious. I feel like I’m in a completely different country than that of my training, here in the north of Mozambique. I’m still a novice when it comes to the basic workings of this place, but I will do my best to give an accurate depiction. In the northern 3 provinces of Mozambique, the dominant tribe (and language) is Makua while my city, Angoche, and its surrounding islands speak a separate language, Koti, and consider themselves separate from the Makua. Angoche started long ago as an Arab trading center and later became an important city during the colonial era for the Portuguese who turned it into a bit of a mini-tropical-economic playground for themselves complete with factories, businesses, and beautiful homes galore. The Portuguese were eventually kicked out of Mozambique by FRELIMO, Mozambique’s Liberation Front, after a war that dragged on from the 1960’s to mid 70’s. The Portuguese left quickly after the war, destroying infrastructure as they went, taking the educated and experienced with them, and leaving the country in a rather chaotic mess. FRELIMO quickly took on a socialist flavor and met with resistance from RENAMO, Mozambique National Resistance, a group backed by outside sources (South Africa, Rhodesia, and possibly a couple westerners). The 17 years of violence that ensued was arguably a civil war, a discussion considering RENAMO’s sources and roots. Things have gradually stabilized since then as Mozambique fights to recover and catch up as a growing democracy in Africa.
So basically, what I have here is a Portuguese ghost town built on the Koti and Makua tribes who still reflect the Arab influence through the dominant Muslim faith. Mix in a growing population of Indian families and throw in one confused white girl, and you’ve got Angoche! So little is published about what happened in Mozambique, specifically Angoche; and many people here completely avoid many subjects. Add that to my rather green Portuguese communication skills (unfortunately which are not even very useful on the street due to the favored local language or cocktail of languages spoken) and its been difficult to figure out just what is going on here. I suppose that will come as I integrate.
I start teaching in about 4 weeks (we’re still on summer break here) which is incredibly intimidating to me. I will not know what grade level I will teach until the first week of classes and word on the street has it that I could boast as many as 100 or more students per class. I also learned that the Escola Secundaria (high school) of Angoche is undergoing a major facelift, so until that’s finished, we’re having class on the grounds of one of those abandoned Portuguese cashew factories I mentioned above. Oh Mozambique! Never a dull moment. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. Until next time…Happy (belated) New Year all the way from Southeastern Africa!


  1. Wow! What an adventure so far! I'm so glad you get to live and experience a culture that Americans don't know much about or understand. I loved reading this, keep 'em coming! Take care and love you!


  2. I loved reading your blog! May HE give you all you need!