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!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


What’s better than a barefoot white girl heading out to the machamba (garden or field) pants hiked up, gardening tools slung over shoulder to pick at the dirt while a crowd of Mozambican women collects to point and laugh hysterically??? Two barefoot white girls! Alex, my roomie is back from her crazy chapa adventure from the northern most border of Mozambique all the way down to Maputo. Inspired by a presentation on permaculture at her midservice conference, she arrived home with a book about how to get more yield of any fruit or veggie using solely whatever one has available and employing better methods. Hopefully in a few months, I’ll be able to tell you all about our wonderful corn, tomatoes, pineapple, carrots, cilantro, and pumpkins we’re enjoying. We even planted a coconut tree! Our neighbors gave us a very small plot next to theirs behind our apartments. The idea behind teaching permaculture her is to help people get much more food to feed their families or excess to sell in the markets just using what they have. We are hoping that our neighbors will get a bit curious when they see (we hope) our machamba yielding a ton more than theirs, providing teachable moments on why irrigation systems, seed spacing, and compost piles are important and why throwing trash in the machamba is a bad idea. And besides that, it became a competition for me when the women gathered round to laugh at us and mock our methods.
Aside from our newfound gardening passion, Alex and I have spent a lot of time hanging out with our 4 little Angochan boys who love to color, sing, dance, learn English, and help the strange white girls with whatever project they have going for a payment of American candy or stickers.

I’ve also been meeting a lot of great people here in Angoche. Of the 42 teachers working at the secondary school, 5 of them are women including Alex and I. Fortunately, one of the 3 Mozambican female teachers is in the bio department and has already approached me for tutoring sessions. She even took me out to the school to show me around our make-shift tin classrooms. I’m excited to have someone to collaborate with already. I also met a British couple who live quite close to me who are working with the Koti people on a number of various projects. It’s been wonderful to have a few more people to converse in English with, bounce ideas off of, and marvel about Mozambican cultural quirks with.
I finally started up my running routine again to work off all the extra carbs in the Mozambican diet. As if I wasn’t getting enough attention alreadyJ. I usually leave the apartment around 5 or 5:30 am and try to sneak my way to the edge of the city in my t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes (an odd site here) to a path that only fisherman and women headed to the fields use at that hour. Any later in the day means a burn from the intense morning sun as well as more laughing and staring as the path fills up with people going back and forth. At first I got a lot of questions like where are you going? What or who are you running from? It just doesn’t make much sense to run with no specific destination in mind and no apparent motivation for moving faster than the standard Mozambican stroll. After about 3 weeks of this routine, I’ve gotten a better response from my audience, now more accustomed to the fast sweaty white girl. I’ve even raced a few of the fishermen and had herds of little kids line up to greet and cheer for me like I’m some sort of Olympian. It’s great encouragement. It’s so impossible to go un-noticed around here.
Alex has been busying herself with all the arrangements for the opening of a youth center in the city, teaching me the ins and outs of many of her secondary projects that I’ll most likely start playing a role in. I’m excited for the opening ceremony. Alex and I picked out some wacky tree-stump designed capulanas (sarongs) that are being fashioned into 2 matching traditional dresses and head wrap thingies for the occasion. Traditional drums have also been ordered. These people are going to eat it up. LOL. We’re hoping to make a big splash about the youth center to get solid community involvement invested into young people here. The youth center could centralize many of the various activities for the youngins with the hope that organization and synergy will keep things running even if all the Peace Corps volunteers leave Angoche.
In light of the up-coming start of school and all the busy-ness and stress that will bring, I traveled up to Mozambique Island to visit another volunteer for a mini vacation. If I weren’t so biased about the beauty of my site, I would have to say that the island is definitely the most beautiful part of Mozambique I’ve seen so far. Spooky abandoned colonial homes, businesses, churches, and crumbling fortresses sprinkle the tiny island surrounded by white sand beaches and teal water. Unfortunately, the locals have trashed the place and the island doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support the average tourist, so it remains off the beaten path, a hidden treasure, like the rest of Mozambique. The other PCV and I spent a lot of time exploring the island and practicing riding double on her ridiculous new pink bike complete with a basket, fenders, and a bell. We were quite the spectacle. I also successfully cleaned a gargantuan tropical fish for the first time in my life with out instruction. I’m on my way to being a pro at this Mozambique stuff.
So, school starts on Monday and I have yet to find out what grade I teach which is extremely frustrating considering the amount of time I will need to plan lessons. My Portuguese is getting a little better, but I know it’s going to be tough talking about technical topics for 45 minutes multiple times a day. Today Alex and I were told to go into work to help with some things, and when we showed up and no one was there, not even our bosses. The same thing happened yesterday. This definitely feels like another planet sometimes. Concepts of organization are completely different. Paciencia. I hope this gets better.
I’ve gotten a number of the same questions from various people, so I figured I would just answer them here: No, unfortunately, I have not seen any zebras or lions. Although most of the stereotypical African animals once roamed freely further inland, they now only live on reserves nowadays. This is true for many other African countries as well. Once in a while, I’ve spotted a monkey, but that’s it. Food: I’ve been eating a lot of beans and rice as well as whatever kind of seafood I can find (usually prawns, shrimp, or crab) and a pretty respectable assortment of veggies and tropical fruit like bananas, pineapple, and mangos depending on the season. Weather: It’s ridiculously hot and humid here. We’re talking mid 90’s and a baggillion percent humidity all the time. Supposedly the rains are going to come soon and alleviate this Iowa girl. And last, but definitely not least…yes! I’m engaged to a man named Ben Cuentas. Ben is currently serving as a chaplain assistant in the Army in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and quite possibly looking at an upcoming deployment to Afganistan this spring. Ben and I met in Sioux City and worked in a number of ministries together where we became good amigos and partners in crime. Why, you ask, would a young lady run off to Africa after an amazingly talented, smart, creative, fun, like-minded young guy asks her to marry him? Good question. Although the situation isn’t the easiest route, I had Africa on my heart before Ben asked me to marry him, and even after engaged, I felt like this is what I should be doing. Fortunately, he fully supports and encourages me to be here doing what I’m doing in Mozambique. His upcoming deployment puts him out of the country as well for a large chunk of my service, so it makes it a bit easier knowing we’ll be gone at the same time. So that’s my story! I hope I cleared up some mysteries!
Anywho…there are seeds to be planted, creative lessons to be planned, kids to play with, and meetings to attend, so I’ll catch you all up again in a few weeks. Thanks again, readers, for taking interest in what I’m doing…you all make a girl feel loved!


  1. ahem...you forgot handsome and humble!
    Erin, I am glad you are gettin the chance to spill the beans about Angoche to the world. It is good to see pictures of you in your new surroundings. Makes it easier for all of us to imagine you over there in concrete images. Erin you are still my biggest encouragment. Your audacity and fearlessness is amazing! Your hope and dependance on Jesus is noteworthy. Keep letting the world know what you are up to!!!!
    I love you!

  2. Thank you Erin! This blog was beautiful, because I felt like you were actually talking to me! Your life sounds incredibly exciting! I wish I could plant a garden and run in the 90's weather! We've only seen snow once where I live, I think that will be all for this winter. Anyway, I'll work on updating my blog for you too!
    I love you very much, and when you have doubts about where you are and why- don't fret- you're not alone! I have doubts too, but every "missionary" has doubts- it makes us trust in God even more!