Holy moly….how long has it been since a blog post? Too long, I’d guess. Sorry about that. I’ve just been trying to fit in as much as possible into these last few months. But what have I been up to, you ask? Well let’s see. Last I left you I was about to embark on a journey and here is what the last few months brought:
- Trip to Victoria Falls in Zambia
- Tanya came to visit
- Went home for two weeks to watch Joe get married
- Came back to Completion of Service Conference with Peace Corps in Maputo
- Organized the REDES Handover Conference in Nampula
- Jess came to visit
- Delivered a baby (WHAT?!)
- Started building a preschool
- Traveled to Carapira for a goodbye party with my other Moz 17ers
- Traveled to Pemba
- Taught my last day of school and graded my last tests
- Had a goodbye party with my REDES girls
- Spent as much time as possible inviting myself to friends’ houses
- Spent a night in a fancy schmancy hotel in Nampula with Leah
In a nut shell, that’s it. It’s definitely been caraaaazzyyyy around here. But in a good way of course.
Let me start with the most recent, most exciting events. I have been spending a lot of time with Jesuina and Dylan’s family (you all remember my grandson, baby Dylan). I’ve been eating dinner at their house at least once per week for the past two months and it’s been great. We sit and watch telenovelas (think soap operas) or sit under the starts and talk about culture, life, America, and the last news on the RENAMO vs. Frelimo front. I feel like I’ve been adopted into their family and it makes me so happy to know they feel the same way. There are currently 19 people living in their house, including two of Jesuina’s sisters and their families who are visiting for the month. Talk about a full house. And when I say house I mean typical Mozambican mud hut. People sleep anywhere and everywhere. There are a pack of four four-year-olds who are cousins and they are a blast to play with. One night, we were sitting outside and they all started asking me questions about America. Questions included: Does King Kong really exist? Are there giant snakes in America? Where does Rambo live? Haha it was quite entertaining. The way most Mozambicans perceive Americans is based on the things they see on TV and in movies so you can guess that some of their perceptions are pretty warped. It’s a great exchange for them to gain a better understanding of my culture and my home while I get to experience theirs. Jesuina’s birthday is the week before I leave so I told her she could come sleep over my house with Dylan for the night and I would throw her a little birthday party with cake, dinner, movies, popcorn, and nail painting. Fun, no?
I have also been spending a lot of time with my friend Farida who has become a Mozambican mother to me. She has a new job working at a fish shop in the market so whenever I go to the market, I normally stop and chat with her for about an hour. Some weekends, when she has time off, I’ll go eat dinner at her house and hang out with her three adorable kids. When Jess was visiting, I took her to meet Farida. Farida asked me to talk to her son, Abacar, who has recently been skipping school. When I asked him why, he told me that his teacher had yelled at him for not having a uniform to wear to school. I came to find that none of Farida’s kids had school uniforms. This is an embarrassment for the kids and a source for bullying because, at school, if your family cannot afford to buy you a uniform, it means your family is very poor. When I heard this, I knew it was something that could easily be fixed. I told Jess and my mom about the conversation I had with Abacar and they both agreed to donate money to the cause. With just $20, I was able to buy three sets of custom made uniforms for Abacar and his two sisters. THEY WERE ECSTATIC. It was so great to see the smiles on their faces. Before I leave, I hope to set the three of them up with backpacks, notebooks, pens, and shoes for when they start school next year.
As a sort of thanks, Farida invited me to a Batukada, or an initiation rites ceremony for a distant family member of hers. We had a blast! I spent the day with my capulana wrapped around my waist dancing, laughing, singing, and meeting new women. I came to realize that the batukada was not all that different from a Bat Mitzvah. The women danced and sang in circles, lifted the girl up and down, taught her to sing songs in the local language, ate lots of food, and enjoyed themselves with tons of people. The only difference was that this was a ceremony for a girl about to be married off. Unfortunately she was very young, not more than 16, but many of the women told me that this is out of the ordinary and that most people these days wait until they are older. I played with the idea of having Farida throw me a batukada before I leave, just for the fun of it, but I am not sure if I will follow through. Farida was a huge fan of the idea. In fact, she told me that I was no longer an American but now a Makua, a member of their tribe.
Now, how about this “deliver a baby” business? Yeah, I did that. Let me tell you how it went down. So, as you know, I’ve been going to the hospital in Carapira every week since February, always with a hope of catching a live birth. Most often, women were in labor but far off from giving birth. I would sit and wait a few hours, nothing would happen, so I would go home. The week Jess came to visit, we went to the hospital where two women were close to giving birth. We waited for an hour and a half and then left to get lunch. I left my phone number with the nurse with instructions to call me. An hour later, I returned to the hospital to find that neither of the women had given birth but in my absence, a woman showed up and gave birth immediately. Just my luck. I returned the following week and did my normal activities of weighing and measuring babies. We had finished up early because only five women had shown up. I had no intentions of waiting for anyone to give birth but as I was getting ready to leave I hear someone shout “Nurse, nurse!!” from the delivery room. I follow the nurse into the room to see a woman literally on the brink of giving birth. I stood in the doorway for a minute, turned to the nurse and asked “Uh, uh, uh, can I watch?” Of course, she said. She tossed me an apron, gloves, and a mask and I took my place besides the woman. Apparently the water hadn’t broken yet so the nurse took a pin and popped the sack. Fluid went EVERYWHERE. Lucky, I was standing to the side of the bed and not in front. That would have been an unwelcomed shower. Almost immediately after, the baby’s head started to crown. The nurse looks at me and says “Soooo…did you want to watch the birth or did you want to help?” “Um, I can help,” I responded. So the nurse demonstrated how to position my fingers and turn my wrists and I imitated her. “I’m going to break the baby!” I shouted at her. “No, No,” she said. “You’re doing it right. Just keep twisting and the baby will come.” So, I kept twisting, and would you know, the nurse was right. The baby just popped right out. It was a little girl weighing 2.5kg. After the baby was born, she didn’t make much noise but was moving around. The nurse had me put the baby on the mother’s stomach and then she massaged it. Suddenly the baby jerked and started to cry. It was amazing, like watching life appear out of nowhere. Definitely one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had to date. Currently, my maid is pregnant so I am hoping to watch her child’s birth as well.
Now, to change gears a bit, let me give you an update on the preschool. Our pay pal account ran into some legal issues with Peace Corps Washington and we were forced to shut it down. However, before that happened, we were able to raise $2,300 (which they let us keep), enough to build one large classroom on the land already purchased with money from the parents of the children. So Samuel will get his preschool! We have already formed all the cement blocks and are now working on purchasing the rest of the material to begin construction. I am not sure the building will be finished by the time I leave but it will be well underway! Thanks to everyone who helped out and donated to the project!!
Another gear change to the political situation here in Moz. As I mentioned in a previous post, there has been some political strife going on between Frelimo, the party currently holding the majority, and RENAMO, the main opposition party. During Mozambique’s 17 year civil war, Frelimo and RENAMO fought against each other and terrorized villages until a Peace Accord was signed in 1992 in Rome. Frelimo has been in power ever since. RENAMO has been trying to hold talks with Frelimo about changing the political atmosphere in Mozambique but Frelimo keeps denying them. In response, RENAMO began attacking Frelimo posts and civilian cars on the main highway. These attacks have been sporadic but people have died. It’s hard to know if numbers have been accurate because the news (controlled by Frelimo) will give one number while people in the area will give another. Last week, Frelimo attacked and overtook the main RENAMO base, essentially ending the 1992 Rome Peace Accord. The small number of surviving RENAMO soldiers have scattered but have continued to attack random civilian cars and villages. Monapo has so far been safe and untouched; however, just yesterday, a village close to Nampula was supposedly attacked. I have spoken with several friends in Monapo and people are scared of another war starting, especially with all the elections coming up over the next year. On one hand, I am happy to be finishing up my service and leaving during this potentially dangerous time, but on the other hand I feel so guilty leaving my friends behind. They keep telling me how lucky I am that I can get out and be safe. I really hope things don’t escalate but there is always a chance. All I can do now is hope for the best for my friends here in Monapo. Especially with Jesuina and baby Dylan. I would hate for Dylan to have to grow up threatened by war. Keep your eyes peeled for news reports! BBC and Al Jazeera have both been reporting.
Well, since I am on the topic of leaving Mozambique, let me give you a brief update as to my plans post Peace Corps. I officially COS (Completion of Service) November 28 which means I have less than a month left in Monapo. On that date I will become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. CRAZYYYYY and I hate thinking about it. I have gone through so many different emotions in thinking about leaving, the main one being that I am not ready to go home but I cannot stay here. I am so aware that I will likely never have an experience like Peace Corps again and it’s so hard to have to say goodbye because these have been two absolutely amazing years. After November 28, I will spend two weeks traveling through Mozambique with Mac and Mike and then the three of us fly home together on December 19. While leaving is hard, I couldn’t think of a better way to end my service. I officially arrive in JFK December 20 at 4:30PM. Who’s gunna come pick me up? My immediate plans include putting on as many layers as possible, eating a giant plate of nachos and drinking a margarita, and making a snow man. For Christmas, I’ll be Jewing it up at Ashley’s house in Portland and then spending New Years with college buddies in Boston. I hope to see AmeriCorps buddies, high school buddies, and other college buddies along the way. In January, I plan on signing up for science prereqs at a local CT university to prep myself for Nursing School. My hope is to get into a masters entry nursing program through which I can get my certificate in nursing and an MSN to work as a nurse practitioner.
This will probably be my last post until I get to Maputo for COS or maybe after my Mozambique trip with Mac and Mike. I may try to write a couple short posts about other happenings or events that have occurred if I have the time. What I will do is enjoy the hell out of my last three weeks in Mozambique.
SO MUCH LOVE and see you all soon!