Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

So our fifty-one person training group is adorably, sickeningly, close and cuddly.  Though we are all excited to get to site, we are all a little sad that we will never all, every single last one of us, be together in the same place again.  Entao, in celebration of our last week together, two of our members organized a little game. 

It started with an idea, about a month ago.  Then came a list of materials.  Finally, it all came together this Sunday, with about thirty volunteers, ten lists, fifteen cameras, and the entire town of Namaacha.  It was….

We met at the bar at two PM.  Each team was given a list of materials and a two-hour time limit.  It was that simple. 

“Once you get your list, you can go!” Said Jill.  She was one of the two people who had organized this soon-to-be town-wide spectacle.

“Be back at four!” Yelled Mac.  He was the other one. 

Our team was organized and ready to go.  We had each chugged a Coca-Cola and practiced our game faces.  We were clearly at the top of our game and ready to conquer. 

The team roster is as follows.

This is Lona.  She has no sense of humor when it comes to large-scale group games.

This is Steph N.  She knows karate and can do a push-up from a handstand position.

This is Lisa.  She can cross-stitch a mean bunny rabbit.

This is Steph H.  She… well… she is trying not to smile.

This is Dan.  He is The Man.

We clustered together to read our list of items.

“Are we ready?”  Asked Lona.

“It begins!”  Said Dan.

Things to Procure
Half a coconut shell (clean)
Hair from a weave
A royal flush
A feather
Banana frond
Piece of chalk
Orange peel (whole)
Pack of Maria’s crackers
Laurentina bottle cap

Photographs to take
All team members in the back of a pick-up truck
One team member riding a goat
A mother and baby goat
Team members forming a pyramid with a Mozambican on top
Three team members in a tree
All team members on top of the abandoned building across from the bank
Mozambican wearing sportswear from a U.S. university
Three team members hanging from a goal post
One team member playing pool
Two team members with the owner of the Internet Café
Three team members in the same lab coat
All team members under the same mosquito net
All team members in capulanas

And now, for your enjoyment, and because I don’t post enough photographs anyway, I give you the Giant, Townwide, All-Inclusive, Crazy, Mozambican Scavenger Hunt. 

A human pyramid capped with a Mozambican child

A Mozambican in Virginia Tech sportswear

Dan riding a Goat in Bairro B

Mother and Baby Goat

Lona, Steph, and Dan hanging from the goalpost on the soccer field.  During a soccer game. 

Dan, Steph, and Steph in the same lab coat

The whole team in capulanas

So that’s about it for photographs.  Those are the best ones, anyway.  There is a montage that shows “the whole team drinking from the world’s worst bottle of brandy while making faces of extreme displeasure,” but those are for another time.  

We didn't actually win the scavenger hunt.  We never made it to the border to take a picture with a border guard or track down a policeman with an AK-47.  We didn't even manage to flag down a chapa and take a picture of the entire team inside.  We did, however, make a lot of friends along the way as we took photos, shared them, and explained ourselves.  We ran all over town, climbed trees, chased goats, and taught my host sister to use a camera.  Finally, we made a really, really nice memory with each other, and that was probably the best part of all. 

The End.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dear Diary

Perhaps some people wonder what my day-to-day life is like here in Mozambique.  Perhaps some little volunteer-hopeful is seeking out blogs and information, just like I did once upon a time (three months ago).  Perhaps someone, right now, is saying, “Yes, yes, this information is all very nice, but what is it REALLY like to be a Peace Corps Trainee?” 

Well, my hypothetical reader, this is a fortuitous day.  Today, I will give you a true account of an entire day in the life of an American girl in Mozambique.  If I kept a diary, this would be my entry for November 26, 2011. 

Dear Diary,

I started my Saturday at nine AM.  My host cousin Chovito was sitting on the front porch of the main house.  He giggled when I opened my front door. 

“You sleep a lot,” he said, from his perch. 

“YOU sleep a lot,” I said. 

“Nao e a verdade,” he said.  The equivalent of nuh-uhhh.

Chovito is a relatively new person in our household.  He is ten years old and small for his age.  Since he moved in unceremoniously and unannounced three weeks ago, we have learned to keep a careful eye on our belongings.  Chovito is basically a baby raccoon.  He is super cute, but very, very curious.  Like a raccoon, he enjoys playing with garbage and is usually a bit scruffy.

Chovito wiggled around to better face me.  “T-t-t-t-toma banho?”  Take a bath?  Our host cousin also has a stutter, which our host mother actually felt the need to point out to us upon his arrival. 

“No,” I said.  “We aren’t going to take a bath.  We took a bath last night.  We are going to clean our house.”

“Shato!” said the boy.  Directly translated, shato means “boring.”  It also means “darn,” or “crappy,” or “golly” or “booooo!”  Basically, it’s a catch-all swear word for kids.  Shat-ooooo!

Dan and I were cleaning in preparation for our big move.  We leave our training village in one-and-a-half weeks.  Peace Corps wants us to pack most of our belongings now, because they will be shipped to our sites prior to our arrival.  Entao, we are taping boxes and stuffing them with everything in sight- pillows, blankets, extra clothes, books, etc. 

“Really?” we had asked our trainer when we read over our packing list. “The pillows?”

“The pillows,” he confirmed.


The first two hours of the morning were spent sifting through endless papers, folding sheets, and finding hidden garbage.  We cautiously fished out objects from underneath our bed, remembering the story of one volunteer’s host sister who had found a scorpion in her dirty room.  We found no scorpions, but did find that Dan’s sneakers had been sewn shut with spider webs. 

“Ew,” I said, swabbing out sticky strands with my finger.  “Why?”

“I only wear my sandals,” said Dan.  “Look at this tan!”  He gestured to the white lines on his feet.  It’s true that we have all generated very unique tans.  In the words of another volunteer, “It looks like we’re wearing clothes even when we’re not.

I was in the process of shaking ants out of my rain boots, when my sister yelled, “Mana Lisa!” 

Here in Mozambique, they yell exactly as I was instructed not to when I was a teenager.  Want to get the attention of somebody in the next room or across the compound?  Why would you search for them if you could just let out a soul-jarring squaaack!

“Ooooo que?”  I asked.  Whaaaat?

“Make your breakfast,” she said. 

I had been planning on skipping breakfast, since the night before had been our All-Volunteer-Thanksgiving-Potluck.  Suddenly, though, breakfast seemed like a reasonable idea. 

“Fine,” I said. 

“Make eggs,” she said.


“The pan is here.”


“Make them now.”


Dan drank a warm beer from the night before while I fazer-ed some eggs.  Our host family gets a kick out of watching us fulfill our traditional gender roles.  To be honest, we enjoy it just as much. 

“That’s right, cook those eggs.” Said Dan. 

“You just sit there and drink your beer,” I said.  “I don’t want you to get hurt.  I’m pulling some pretty crazy stunts over here.” 

“Just make me my eggs, woman!”

I added in a few pieces of Parmalat Plastic Cheese to make our Saturday morning breakfast extra-special.
Mata-biche is always nice at our host mother’s house.  In general, we set aside a full twenty minutes to sit quietly and drink tea.  On weekends, we might even stay for a full hour, conversing in English and switching to Portuguese when somebody else enters the room. 

I stuck my hand over the thermos of hot water on the table to make sure that the water had been boiled and not just heated up.  Though boiled, unfiltered water in Mozambique is saturated with dead bacteria, it tastes just fine with a stout bag of tea and a tablespoon of sugar.  As long as the steam coming out of the thermos scalds my hand to the point where I screech and jump backwards, I consider the water safe to drink.  I do this every day without fail. 

So with our thick, green cups of tea and plastic scrambled eggs, we settled in for a long and comfortable breakfast. 

“You know, we haven’t had sex for a while,” said Dan.

“Daniel Adam!”

“What? I’m just saying.”

“That word is the same in English and Portuguese.  Chovito is right there!

“I’m just saying.”


In an effort to be honest, though, being in the Peace Corps is not the sexiest experience.  You might try hard to maintain some semblance of privacy, but that is impossible when both individuals claw their way out of the mosquito net and race to the bathroom at the same time.  When this happens, one individual is forced to pace outside, walking pigeon-toed and saying, “you don’t have to get it all out!  Just enough so that you won’t poop yourself.  It’s my turn, now!”

After breakfast, I took a load of dishes to the washing station in front of the house.  If there is anything I hate at my host mother’s house, it is the dishwashing station.  They employ the two-bucket method, yes, but they leave the dirty water in the bacias and reuse it for the entire day.  This includes four meals: breakfast, little lunch, real lunch, and dinner.  I end up washing my dinner plate in cheese water that smells like eggs and chamomile. 

I gave the dishes a preliminary rinse in the dirty water, then levantar-ed some clean water from a barrel in the kitchen.   I like to think I have gotten clever with my dishwashing technique.  I put some soap and water in a mug, clean that, then pour the soapy liquid into the next mug.  When it comes time to rinse, I give all of the dishes a quick splash to remove the suds before lowering them into the clean water.  That way, I still have almost all of the water that I started with AND it’s still clean, to boot.  Whenever my host mother sees me doing this, she shouts out, “Nao, nao, nao!”  I have come to dread doing chores in her presence.  Luckily, today was Shoprite day.  Mom would be selling sugar, salt, and grain outside the market fence until it got dark.  Chovito was put in charge of the barraca.  Ajuvencia was in charge of us. 
We cleaned our house from breakfast until lunch.  Most of our energy was spent  trying to decide which things we would need over the next two weeks, which things we wouldn’t need, and which things we would never need.  Colored Pencils?  Won’t need those until we get to site.  Malaria medication?  Need that.  A broken watch bought at Shoprite on our first day?  Do not need that.

Adrienne and Lona came over for lunch in the afternoon.  The plan was to rehydrate some homemade rice pudding with cream and eat the stuffing and mashed potatoes that we had brought home from the Thanksgiving party.  Unfortunately, the power had cut out a few hours before, so it would not be easy to cook.  We would have to share the charcoal stove with our sister.  Through pure laziness and unwillingness to cook over the carvao, we decided to serve the stuffing and mashed potatoes cold.
The Thanksgiving party the night before had been a big, big deal.  Every person was ordered to bring enough food to feed ten other people.  In total, we served two turkeys, four chickens, two gallons of stuffing, four gallons of mashed potatoes, three gallons of gravy, two bowls of green bean casserole, fifty sweet potatoes, fifty rolls, cornbread pancakes, rice pudding, cinnamon chips, apple pie, apple crisp, mango pie, and brownies.  Adrienne had brought an extra tijela, so we filled that with food at the end of the night, after the party.  Unfortunately, we had no way to keep it cold.  For lack of a better option, Dan and I decided to leave it on our floor until morning

(Dear hypothetical volunteer-hopeful:  You’ll be surprised how quickly you will let go of American standards for food preparation.  Here is an example.  When Dan and I returned home from the party, he lost his grip on the pot that held my precious cinnamon rice pudding.  Without warning, the panela crashed to the ground, deposited the pudding upside-down, and then bounced away.  Amazingly, the pudding had molded to the shape of the panela and was sitting there firmly, like the turret of a sand castle.  I promptly grabbed the top half of the rice pudding and plopped it back into the pot.  The other half I scraped up and chucked into the lixo pile.  Then, I stored the pudding remains along with the other food on the cement floor of our house.  The next day, Lona, Adrienne, Dan, and I shared a fork to eat these same lukewarm leftovers from the same giant tijela.  Happily -and this is the moral of the story- we all survived this questionably-hygienic experience.)

It was just about lunchtime when Chovito came up to me with something in his hand. 

“P-p-p-posso ter isto?”  Can I have this?  He was holding our old broken watch in his hand. 

“Is that… lixo?”  I suddenly felt guilty.  Why did I throw that watch away without first offering it to Chovito?  I should have known better.  “Yes.  Keep it.  It’s yours.”

I looked past him and was startled to see that he had sifted through all of our garbage.  A pile of hand-outs had been turned into paper airplanes. 

“Chovito, you can have anything from the garbage, okay?”

“Okay.”  He grinned, then held up his wrist.  “Meu reloj.”  My watch.

I watched as he proceeded to take all of our plastic bottles out of the trash and form them into a little pile.  He sang to himself while organizing all of his new toys.  

Chovito’s enthusiasm for garbage is surprisingly endearing.  But he has one trait that is even more charming- my host cousin loves to do needlepoint.  He saw me making a needlepoint chicken one day and sat down to watch.  Aware that this wasn’t the most thrilling of activities, I offered to teach him how to make “passarinhos,” or little birds, of his own.  Thus far, he has only stitched a few jerky letters on his embroidery cloth, but he likes to sit out on the front porch with all of the thread and tie knots like a little tailor. 

Chovito sews on the front step

Ajuvencia is also learning needlepoint.  I tried to teach her how to make “X-inhos” (sheesh-een-yo-sh:  a made-up word that means little x’s), but she didn’t have the patience.  Instead, she asked for some thread and then disappeared.  The next day, she returned with this:

I love you, Mana Lisa

In Mozambique, it seems, spelling is not as important as the actual sound of the words when they are quickly strung together.  With or without spelling mistakes, it was a touching gift.  Ajuvencia has already started saying that we are not allowed to leave in December.  It’s heart-wrenching to hear, especially when the speaker is eight months pregnant. 

Lona went home after lunch and was quickly replaced by another volunteer, Stephanie.  (Houses in Mozambique are like very busy train stations).  Dan and I are awfully fond of Steph.  She is little and cute, with short-cropped hair, a quiet voice, and a quick wit.  We like to say that she has a great big personality funneled into a little tiny voice.  When she talks, we all lean forward to listen.  She had come over to play cards.  Just before I dealt the first hand, however, we were interrupted by a knock on the door.   It was Mario, our host cousin.

“Come in, Mario,” I called.  “I can make introductions.”

“Okay,” he said.  “Hello.”  Mario is twenty-five years old, sort of cute, and very awkward.  He is not good at translating my creative Portuguese into real Portuguese, so he often gives me a funny face when I am saying something unusual. 

“Mario, this is Stephania and Adrianna.  They are my friends.  Stephania and Adrianna, this is Mario.  He is our cousin.”

“Muito prazer.”

“Muito prazer.”

“Mario, would you like to play cards?”  To my surprise, Mario’s eyes lit up. 


“Okay,” I said, shuffling the cards slowly.  “We can play… vai a buscar as peixes.  Do you know that game?”

Adrienne and Stephanie laughed.  Vai a buscar as peixes means “You go to look for the fish.”  The actual name of the game, “Go Fish,” is harder to translate. 

Mario did not know how to play Go Fish, but he caught on quickly.  It turned out to be a pleasant afternoon.  Dan sat on the floor, sewing a broken sandal.  Chovito was on the front step with his needlework.  Adrienne, Steph, Mario, and I were practicing our Portuguese in the living room over a rousing game of You Go to Look for the Fish. 

By dinnertime, all of our guests were gone.  In Mozambique, few visitors stay after six or seven in the evening.  Dinner, or jantar, is a time for family.

“Have you ever tried this plate before?” asked my sister, putting a dish down in front of me.

“I have no idea,” I said.  “Vegetables all look the same to me.”  In the shallow bowl, there was some sort of leafy green floating in a coconut sauce. 

“Try it,” said Ajuvencia. 

“Okay,” I said.  I shoveled a few spoonfuls onto my rice.  “I will probably love it.”  In my host family, I am known for hating meat and loving vegetables. 

“Try it,” said Ajuvencia.

I filled a spoon with rice and sauce and shoved it into my mouth.  Then, alarmed, my eyes went wide and my tongue stuck to the top of my mouth. 

“Oh, my God.  O que e, o que… blehhhhh.” 

Ajuvencia and Chovito burst into laughter.

“Is this food?”  I asked. 

“Yes!”  Said Ajuvencia.  “It’s food!”

“This is NOT food.  Do YOU like this food?”



“It's good!”  Said Ajuvencia.  She and Chovito were rolling on the floor, laughing.  I gave the food a sniff.  The coconut smell that wafted from the sauce belied the bitter, sour-pungent taste of leaves within. 

“Wow.”  I said.  “Dan, how do you like it?”

He shrugged, unmoved.  “It’s fine.”  Liar.

Ajuvencia and Chovito laughed, kicking their legs up and down.  “Not everybody likes it,” admitted Ajuvencia. 

“But do you like it?”  I asked.  “For real?”

“Yes,” she said. 

“Ughhh.  Lies.  Well, then, I like it too.  I like it so much that I will eat all of it.”  I dipped the spoon in and took another giant gulp.  This time, I didn’t chew.  I forced a smile.  “Mmmmmmm.”

“Nao!” said Ajuvencia.  “I can throw it away.  I made other food.” 

Just then, Mom returned home. 

Chovito was unable to contain himself.  “Mana Lisa n-n-n-nao gosta a cacana!” He giggled gleefully.  “Nao gosta!”  Lisa doesn’t like the cacana!  She doesn’t like it!

I was worried that our host mother would be insulted, but she just laughed.  “Americans don’t like cacana,” she said.  And so I ate my usual vegetable mixture, which Ajuvencia had prepared in preparation for my reaction. 

Looking around at my host family- Ajuvencia, Mae Atalia, and Chovito- I felt sad that I would have to leave so soon.  Half of my things were already packed away in boxes.  Soon, the little cinderblock house would sit empty.  Perhaps Ajuvencia would move in once she had the baby. 

It will be so hard to stay in contact once I leave.  Mae and Ajuvencia have telephones, but my Portuguese isn’t very good.  Mae can’t read and doesn’t have a home address, so sending a letter is out of the question.  Sadly, Ajuvencia will have the baby just a week or two after we leave.  I’m not exactly excited that this sixteen-year-old is giving birth, but I would like to meet the baby.  The mother has a special place in my heart, after all.  We told her to name the baby Dan, if it’s a boy, or Lisa, if it’s a girl.  Who know?  Maybe she will. 

I looked a map the other day to try and understand how far away we will be moving.  The answer is, sadly and surprisingly far.  From north to south, Mozambique is about as tall as the United States.  The coastline of Mozambique is twice the coastline of California.  From Maputo, the capital, to Zobwe, Tete, we will be traveling 1,660 kilometers, or just over a thousand miles.  This is the distance from San Diego, California to Portland, Oregon.  It is also the distance from State College, Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida.  So the chances of us coming back to visit anytime soon are very, very slim.  By the time we return, the baby will be at least one year old.  Shato!

The United States and Mozambique, side by side

If you can judge your success in a place by how sad you are to leave it, then I would say that Dan and I have had a very successful homestay in here Namaacha. 

Lisa Jo

So there you have it, my hypothetical volunteer-hopeful.  A real day in the life of a volunteer trainee.  Most days you will have language lessons and tech sessions, but some days will be open, and those are the most fun.  My suggestion to you is this- build a good relationship with your host family.  Play cards, show them your sewing, watch a movie with them, talk to them, whatever.  Even if you don’t speak the language yet, you can go outside and watch your little brother throw around a paper airplane.  Remember that this is why you are here.  You signed up to be a Peace Corps Volunteer because you wanted to make friends and change lives.  Just sit and watch that boy throw the paper airplane for a little while.  I promise that it will be rewarding.  I promise. 

Chovito and his Needlepoint

Friday, November 18, 2011

Site Announcements

Fifty-one volunteers-in-training stood around the edge of the basketball court, looking over an ultra-large chalk map of Mozambique.  Each of the eleven provinces were outlined in a different color and labeled in bubble letters.

We all held in our hands a full-sized envelope with a letter stapled to the front.  The letter read,

“Dear Moz 17 Trainees,

Congratulations on your assignments.  We hope that you are as happy as we are about where you'll be spending the next two years of your life.  But even if you are not absolutely ecstatic at this moment- even if you are completely nervous about the great unknown ahead of you- let us share something to help you keep some perspective and manage your expectations a bit

Life is calling.  How far will you go?

Though many of you took the “opportunity” to tell us what you wanted in a site, “important” things like mountains, cell phone coverage, people you'd like to be near, etc, please know that our first priority in deciding where to send you was finding a job that matched you (and vice versa).  So if you happened to get some of these “amenities,” good for you, but that's not why we placed you there.  And if by chance, you didn't get something that you really thought you couldn't live without, just know that you will live with out it.  AND YOU WILL BE FINE.  This is the Peace one of the poorest countries in the world.  If you go back to your recruitment materials for Mozambique, what you agreed to before you ever stepped foot in Mozambique was potentially a life with latrines, without electricity and running water, and yes, even without cell phone coverage or Internet. So in essence, if you are disappointed, we encourage you to refocus your energies on what really matters- why you are here and what you want to get out of this experience.”

We read the letter silently, in unison, and then looked up.  Our Associate Country Director stood in the center of the basketball court. 

“I will count down from ten,” he said.  “And then you can open your letters.  Ten..........”

He waited too long. The countdown was instantly out of his hands as we yelled, “Nine!  Eight!  Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three!”



There was a flurry of motion as fifty-one volunteers tore at the secure white flap of their envelopes.  I shook out the contents of my folder and grabbed hold of a full-page map of central Mozambique.  Our future site was highlighted in yellow. 

Central Mozambique

Dan and I looked at each other with a slow, creeping smile.  Then, I threw my arms around his neck. 

“Tete!  Tete!  We're going to Tete!”

He kissed me on the cheek.  “Are you excited?”

“I don't know!”

“Should we get on the map?”

We happy-danced over to the northern thumb of Mozambique.  People were streaming around us, looking equally overwhelmed and excited.  Everyone was looking for their sites first, and then their friends. 

“Oh, my God,” I said.  “We're the only ones in Tete!”

We were standing alone in the very northern thumb of this giant country. 

“It's okay,” said Dan.  “It's great!  People will come visit us.  And there are already seven volunteers in Tete!”

I pulled the rest of the contents from the envelope.  “Let's read the site description.”  The previous volunteers, a married couple named Janet and Lucas, had filled out a form for us with basic information about our future location.

“Site Name:  Zobwe, Tete (Pronounced Zob-way, Tett)
Name of School:  Escola Secundaria de Zobwe
Dan's Job Description:  10th Grade Math Teacher
Lisa's Job Description:  10th Grade English Teacher

House Description:  1 small bedroom, 1 tiny room, 1 closet, 1 kitchen, 1 living room.  Latrine in yard, is almost full.  Outdoor shower room attached to latrine.  Refrigerator.  Toaster Oven.  Blender.  Electric 2-Burner Stove. 

Favorite Things about Site:  Great weather (in the mountains, not too hot), good daily market, easy transport, beautiful scenery for hikes, nice medium-sized town with tight-community feel, easy immersion in dense neighborhood, fun to be on Malawi border, safe.  We love Zobwe!”

“Are you happy?”  Asked Dan hopefully.

“So happy,” I said.  “I think it's perfect.” 

We looked around the basketball court.  Our friends were scattered, but not impossibly distant.  Nobody was crying.  Slowly, people started to move away from their sites and visit their new neighbors and friends.  Adrienne and Lona came to visit us.

“You’re so far,” they said, but somehow, none of us were sad.  We had all gotten what we wanted.  Adrienne was in Sofala, near Beira.  She would be teaching English.  To get from her town to the capitol, she would have to take a boat.  Lona would be living near the “L” in Nampula, teaching math.  Her house would have no electricity and no nearby source of water. 

“We’ll see each other,” we promised.  “We’ll meet up for Christmas!”  We had no way of knowing if that was true or even possible, but when we said it, we meant it sincerely.

Everybody was hugging everybody else.  It was apparent right then, in that particular moment, that this was a genuinely kind group of people.  From all around us we heard positive statements.

“Where are you?  Are you happy?  I’m so glad.  You are going to do an amazing job!”

Multiple people came up to chalk-Tete and hugged Dan and me.

“You guys have the best site.  You are so lucky.  I am coming to visit you!”

It’s still surreal to us, that we are going to Tete.  It is uncharted territory.  On my original map of Mozambique, we will be going where I had written “crocodiles,” not far from “mystery” and “mountains.”  We will be far north of the Tropic of Cancer.  And we will be there for two years. 

Life is calling.  How far will you go?

The answer, my friends, is muito, muito la.

P.S.  Would you like to hear a crazy story?

In 2007, two friends from Loyola College in Baltimore decided to apply for the Peace Corps during their senior year.  They wrote each other’s reference statements and even interviewed on the same day.  Alyssa was nominated to serve in Vanuato, an island in the South Pacific.  Angie was nominated to serve in Mozambique.  Both girls departed in September 2007. 

They kept in touch throughout their Peace Corps service.  Angie joked that she sent the world’s first letter directly from Mozambique to Vanuato.  The girls completed their service in November 2009 and returned to the United States, where Alyssa took a seasonal job at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.  She was working at Shaver’s Creek when she met me.  It was largely her description of the Peace Corps and of her experiences (good and bad) that inspired me to apply with my husband in March of 2010.  Eighteen months later, Dan and I departed from the United States in September of 2011. We received our site announcements in November of 2011. 

Here is the crazy part.  We are replacing Janet and Lucas, a married couple in Zobwe, Tete.  In November 2009, Janet and Lucas replaced a girl named Angelina, nicknamed Angie. Angie attended Loyola College in Baltimore and applied to the Peace Corps in early 2007 with her good friend, Alyssa Thiel.  It is her site to which we are headed. 

Of all the people in our life, Alyssa has been incredibly pivotal.  If she wasn’t there to tell me her giardia story or eating-yellow-paint story or even the dead-cat story, I probably never would have worked up the courage to take that first step in my Peace Corps application.  And now, after a year and a half of medical paperwork, interviews, and language lessons, we are taking over her friend’s site in Tete.  Of all places on this giant earth.
Zobwe, Tete!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inharrime, Part 2

Erin’s town currently has four volunteers.  The cast of characters is such.
Erin:  Our host.  She lives in school housing in town with a Mozambican colleague.  She teaches English at a secondary school one mile outside of town. 
Ann:  Erin´s site-mate.  She lives in a reed house on a large, private compound with a palm-frond fence.  She is a health volunteer who has finished her contract and is leaving Mozambique.

Ann’s House

Jasmine:  Erin´s site-mate.  She currently lives in Ann’s house, which will become Jasmine’s house in one week’s time.  She is the new health volunteer who is replacing Ann.
Scooter:  Erin´s site-mate.  She is an education volunteer who lives on a mission two miles outside of town.  Her contract is ending but she is extending her project and moving back to Namaacha.

Day 1: Saturday
With two girls leaving and one just settling in, the volunteer community of Inharrime (population: 4) was in a state of upheaval when we arrived.  Ann and Scooter were worn out from the previous night’s goodbye party and were laying in their swimsuits in Ann’s front yard.  Ann’s dog was running back and forth at the end of his leash, tethered to the front porch. Jasmine’s cat yaowed from the front door. 
 “Wow,” we said, greeting the girls.  “You live here?” 
Ann’s compound really was enormous.  She had her own garden with a tiny little pineapple growing in the back corner.  The house was made of reeds but had a cement floor and cement reinforcements.  The shower and latrine, also made of reeds, were on the far wall of the compound.  The entire effect was very homey and private. 
“We love it,” we said, and meant it.  We were prepared to love everything.  “Is this your dog?”
“It’s my dog,” said Ann, “but when I leave, Scooter will take him to Namaacha.”
“Isn’t it sad to leave your dog behind?” we asked.
“A little bit,” she said, “but it’s not as sad to give him to a friend.”
“Was it difficult to get him in the first place?”
“No, getting a dog here is so easy.  They’re, like, all over.  Just find one and take it.  It’s definitely worth it, too.  I think the reason that my house has never been robbed is because I keep Amendoim (Amen-doo-een) chained to the front porch.”  She added as an afterthought, “He only barks at black men.”
“Oh,” we said.  I guess it’s true that women don’t make likely thieves. 
Jasmine’s kitten slinked out the front door and crept to our feet. 
“Who is this?” we asked.
“This is Butao (Boo-taow),” said Ann.  “He’s Jasmine’s cat.  We just got him last week.  Jasmine found him in at the button store and the owner gave her a rice bag to take him home.”
“I love, love, love cats,” said Ariel, picking him up.  The kitten’s long, skinny legs dangled on either side of her hands.  Yaow, said the cat, in his plaintive, kitten way.

 Butao the Cat and Ariel

After these initial introductions, we only stayed long enough to make macaroni and cheese and share a few beers.  It had been a long day.  For a full description of the process of travel in Mozambique, see Inharrime Part 1.

Day 2:  Sunday
Inharrime is a cute, sandy town about the size of Namaacha.  Downtown (literally, downhill and adjacent to the two-lane highway) there is a central market, a hotel, and two or three restaurants.  The town also boasts a hospital, secondary school, and mission.  Despite its charm and pretty lagoon, however, it is not a destination for other volunteers.  When volunteers want to reconnect, they go north to Imhambane City, Tofo Beach, Maxixe, or other larger cities and beaches.  Today, we were going to Maxixe (Mash-eesh), a town that Lonely Planet Mozambique said has, “nothing to recommend it.”
To get there, a volunteer has two options.  You can head to the chapa station and argue with the cobradors until you find a chapa going to the right place for the right price, fight your way onto the crowded van and sit four abreast in a smelly, dangerous vehicle as your hurtle towards your destination.  Or you can stand by the side of the highway and flap your wrist enticingly at every passing car in the glaring sunlight until somebody takes pity on you and lets you sit in the back of their truck, where the open air rips out your ponytail and dries out your eyes. 
Regardless of how we got there, it took us less than an hour to go all 60 kilometers to Maxixe.  In Mozambican time, that is fast (and painful).  Maxixe, the city with nothing to recommend it, was empty on a Sunday and smelled like fish. 
First, we headed to the Taurus market to stock up on South African produce.  I was a little embarrassed to be shopping there, as it is an elitist grocery store that sells expensive exported products that are affordable for tourists only.  However, I wanted a few things that weren’t available in Namaacha.  My eyes greedily ran up and down the aisles, picking out things I hadn’t seen for months- cheese, pesto, salad dressing.  I finally settled on a few spices and a jar of Nutella as a present for Dan.  As I brought my meager basket to the checkout counter, I felt guilty.   The cashier slid my products across the scanner, one by one.
“480 Meticais,” she said.
“Wait, what?”  I said.  “Are you sure?  How much is this?”  I held up a tin of spices.
The woman confirmed the price.
“And this?” 
Living in a poor country has made me a guilt-ridden miser.  However, the prices checked out.  Wordlessly, I slid the required 480 Meticais across the counter and vowed not to do this again.  480 Meticais is only 16 US Dollars, but it is more than the most hard-working maid earns in a week.  All for spices and hazelnut spread.
Next, we went to a restaurant.  I don’t remember the name of the establishment, only that they served giant hamburgers that tasted like slimy beef baloney.  Erin and her site mates had bought a cake for my birthday, so we sat with other volunteers from the surrounding cities and shared a giant chocolate cake.  Nothing about that experience- the English-speaking waiter, the weird hamburgers, the birthday cake, was even vaguely African.  Entao (so then), I will skip ahead.
It started to rain.  Rainy season rain is, in the words of a fellow volunteer, “A whole new thing.”  It starts with a few drops, then a distant roll of thunder that last just a few seconds too long.  Suddenly, the sky opens up and there is water everywhere.  It churns down the street and cuts across yards.  It rushes through houses.  It even creeps up.  It creeps up tree trunks and bedspreads and cinderblock walls.  Everything is wet.  “How is it possible to have raindrops this size?” you wonder.  Africa has the biggest raindrops in the world.  They are like, this big.
 Actual Size

And the mud.  It gurgles.  And flows.  It sticks to your shoes with a shhhwick and forces you to walk slowly and laboriously across what looks like the icing on a giant chocolate cake.  Happy 24th Birthday, Lisa Jo!
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t also mention my biggest fear- lightning.  I didn’t like it in the States, but the lightening here is the worst.  Where the bolt strikes the ground, the connection lingers for five to ten seconds, transferring energy in bright, spastic waves.  Rainy season thunderstorms are unlike any I have experienced before in terms of their intensity and duration.  It is like four or five storms have swirled together to create a veritable whirlpool of wind, water, and electricity. In my bed at night, they are absolutely terrifying.  They are lie-awake-and-get-away-from-the-walls types of storms that threaten to tear the tin roof right off of my house.  
This all started happening at the end of lunch, so we began to discuss our exit strategy.  The chapa station was right down the road, but we would have to wait out in the open.  Our other option was to ride in the back of a friend’s pick-up truck. 
“Lisa, it’s your birthday,” said Erin.  “You should take the front seat in Gil’s truck.” 
“I can’t do that,” I said.  “I’ll just stick with you guys.”
“No,” she said.  “Seriously.  You take the front seat.  We’ll go wait at the chapa station.  Here, though, you have to take my purse.” 
Reluctantly, I agreed.  I wasn’t really looking forward to making conversation all the way back to Inharrime.
I buckled my seatbelt and then tugged on it to make sure that it was tight.  The sky was brown and the roads were flooded.  Gil put on his seatbelt, too.  We pulled onto the main road tentatively.  Water had made parts of the road impassable.  The first few minutes were pretty quiet.  The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the speed of the rain.  It was like bucket after bucket of water was sweeping over the front window.  Suddenly, I realized that we were on the wrong side of the road.
“Wrong side, wrong side!” I said.  Gil swerved and corrected, moving to the left.
“Sorry,” said Gil.  “I forget sometimes, you know, because of Portugal.” 
“Do you drive on the right in Portugal?” 
“Yes.  But in Mozambique they drive on the left because they it is cheaper to get cars from South Africa.”
I really didn’t know Gil very well, and I was hoping that he wasn’t planning on murdering me.  It was actually me who invited him, when I had met him the night before.  That didn’t mean that I knew him, though.  He was Erin’s friend. 
“So you’re from Portugal,” I said.  “When did you arrive in Mozambique?”
“I am here for three months now.”
“Oh.  Are you a teacher?”
“I am an engineer.  I am bringing electricity.  I have this truck that they gave to me when I come to work here.  I use it to drive my Mozambican boys.”
“Oh.”  Then, “Did you study engineering in college?”
“No.” He smiles, shifting gears.  “I did not have to go.  I am young still.  I am 20.”
“Twenty!?”  At 6 foot-something, well-built, and hairy, he did NOT look twenty.  “You’re just a baby!”
“No baby,” he said, petulantly.  “I went to some sort of vocational school and then got a job in a factory.  I became a boss quickly and then got an option to come here and be a boss of these Mozambican boys.”
“Oh,” I said.  “Okay.”  Jeez, twenty.  Where was I at twenty?  Not driving “Mozambican boys” around in the back of a pickup truck.  “Does it pay well?”
“I live like a king here in Mozambique,” he answered.  “I am King of Mozambique.”
Haha.  “Okay.”
And thus, we drove back to Inharrime through the rain.  I learned several interesting things in this conversation.  First, there is a special form of formal Portuguese that is considered to be archaic and is only used in a particular region of China.  Second, true Portuguese is very different from Mozambican Portuguese.  Third, it seems that the Portuguese are fairly prejudiced.
“It’s not me that is racist,” said Gil, nodding his head at the barefooted vendors on the side of the road. “It is them.  It is them who hate me.”  He slowed down and stared stonily at a man.  “Look at his eyes. They say I will kill you.”
“I was glad to meet Erin,” he said.  “Everywhere I go, I make friends.  It is easy to make friends.  But it is different to make friends in a third-world nation because their world is so small to talk about.  I like to talk about the whole world.  This is why I like Erin.”
I didn’t have a good response to this.  It was interesting to talk to Gil, but he and I were in Mozambique for very different reasons.  I was hoping that his friendship with Erin would increase his respect for the people of Mozambique.  At the same time, he was correct in one regard- it is easier for westerners to form deep friendships with ex-patriots and other westerners.  We come from societies that are much more similar.  It is a trap that we all fall into, even as Peace Corps Volunteers.
We finally reached the familiar market and red hotel of Inharrime.  We climbed up the sandy road to Erin’s house.
“Thanks for driving,” I said.  Then, as an afterthought, “Is gas expensive here?”
“Yes and no,” he said.  “You don’t pay me any money.  I am the King of Mozambique.” 
“Well, thank you,” I said.  Then, because I felt like it was important to make this point, I added, “My husband will be glad I made it home safely.” 
“You are married!?”  He asked, genuinely surprised.  He hadn’t asked me any questions about myself in the course of our hour-long drive.  “Why is a girl like you being married at 23 years of age!  Explain yourself.”
“I am 24 years old today,” I said.  “And we are married because we love each other.  It’s simple, really.”
“So okay.” He said.  “Crazy girl.  Married and in Africa.”
“Yes, crazy girl.  But maybe not as crazy as the King of Mozambique.”
The rain had stopped, but the power still was out at Erin’s house.  By candlelight, she taught us how to light a charcoal stove and boil water for rice.  Then, we sat and talked around the low, flickering taper.  It was a very sweet and old-fashioned evening.  It reminded me that I wouldn’t need electricity at my future site in order to be happy. 
After dinner, which Gil had boiled to a pulp, Erin surprised me with a homemade cake.  The cake was flat and dense, like a cookie, with one large candle sticking out of the middle.  The candle was swaying dangerously and dripping wax. 
“For me!?” I asked.  “This is amazing!”
“Blow out the candle, quickly!”  She and Ariel said.  Hastily, they sang, “Happy-birthday-to-you-happy-birthday-to-you-happy-birthday-dear-lisa-happy-birthday-to-you!”  I blew out the candle and Erin, Ariel, and Gil all cheered.
Despite the rain, and the mud, the lack of electricity, and the separation from Dan, I still had a very lovely birthday.

Day 3: Monday
Scooter lives three kilometers outside of Inharrime, on a mission along the IN-1.  If you walk down the sandy street to the central market and turn left along the two-lane highway, there is no way to miss it. 
At 7:30 on Monday morning, that is exactly where we were headed.  Erin had to proctor the National Exams at her school and had sent us to Scooter’s site to visit the orphanage within the mission. 
The first thing that Scooter did was give us a tour. 
“This is the kitchen,” she said.  “There are sixty girls at this orphanage, so the kitchen staff is always busy.”  She then introduced us to a few curious girls who were lingering behind us. 
“This is Lucia,” she said, rubbing the short-cropped hair of a six-year old girl.  “She takes my language classes.  This one here,” she touched the cheek of an older toddler, “is Flavia.  Nobody knows how old she is.  She’s the most recent child.”  She smiled at the little girl who smiled back.  “She’s trouble.”
We moved along the sidewalk between buildings.  “This is the teacher’s lounge.  We have two computers and internet available at the school.”  Ariel and I nodded appreciatively. 
She took us down a hill and to a pretty yellow building with a red veranda.  “This is my house,” she said.  “I’m pretty lucky.  I’ve never had anything stolen from my house, and I have electricity and running water.”  She unlocked the front door.  “And the water is potable, if you’re thirsty.”  Ariel grinned at me.   Drinking water!  It was more than we could have imagined.

 Scooter’s House on the Mission

I was truly in love with that site.  I loved the nuns, who moved so slowly and patiently around the colorful gardens.  I loved the orphans who skipped rope and sang songs and got underfoot.  I loved the safety provided by the high, stone walls of the convent. 
“Who are they looking for to replace you?” I asked Scooter.
“Just one person,” she said.  “Probably an English teacher.  Maybe science or math.”
“Not a married couple?”
“Sorry.”  Scooter suddenly remembered something.  “Oh!  There’s a 12th grade student who needs help with her exams.  I told her there was an English teacher coming.  Maybe you can help her study?”
“I guess I can try.” I said.  “I’m not really an English teacher yet.”
Scooter led me to a classroom where a young woman was sitting alone, poring over a test booklet.  Scooter facilitated the introduction.
“Candida, esta e Lisa, uma professor da ingles.  Lisa, Candida.  Ela precisa um pouco ajuda com a prova da ingles.”  Candida, this is Lisa, an English teacher.  Lisa, meet Candida.  She needs a little help with her English test.
“Ola,” said Candida. 
“Ola,” I said.  “Um.  Eu nao falo Portuguese muito bom mas eu falo ingles.  Tal vez eu posso ajudar um pouco.”  I don’t speak Portuguese very well but I speak English.  Maybe I can help a little.
Candida showed me her test.  I read over the questions with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  This test was too hard.  This test was way too hard!  How was this fair?  How well did this girl speak English, anyway?
“Okay,” I said slowly, trying out my English.  I pointed at the first question in her booklet and read, “Which of these questions uses the passive voice?”
“What is passive voice?”  She asked.
Good question.  What is passive voice?  For me, this lesson was so long ago.  English grammar is second nature.  Thinking fast, I moved to the chalkboard.
“I build the house.”  I said, writing the sentence on the board.  “I build the house.”
She nodded.
“I am doing the action.  I am actively building the house.  You can imagine me with a hammer because I am building the house.”
She nodded.
“This is active voice.  I build the house.”  I wrote Active Voice on the board.  I held up a pretend hammer.  “I am building right now!  I build today!  I build the house.  I am active.” 
Candida drew a scribble on her test. 
Next, I wrote Passive Voice.  “The house was built by me.”  I said.  I wrote the second sentence underneath the first.  “The house was built by me.  Where am I?  You can not see me.  You can not imagine me.  The subject,” I pointed to the word house, “is acted on by me.”
She looked confused.  I felt a little confused too.  How would you say “acted on,” in Portuguese?
As we worked through the test together, a crowd of orphans began to grow.  Some came to hear my funny Portuguese and others came to play “classroom” with Candida.  Most of the questions I would have to sit and think about for a minute.  Why did we say “I am interested in math” and not “I am interesting in math,” or “I am interest in math.”?  I realized that it was going to be more difficult than I had thought to teach English.   
I stopped when it seemed like Candida was unable to process any more.  While she seemed able to answer complicated questions on paper, she could not understand my spoken English at all.  It was an exhausting process for both of us.  I was tired from floundering around in Portuguese and she was overwhelmed with all of these grammar rules that her previous teachers had neglected. 
“It is a hard test,” I said, softly and slowly, “but you will get a good grade.  I can see that you are a very smart girl.”
Scooter teased me as I left the classroom, covered in chalk dust.  “I will tell Peace Corps that you’ve already finished Model School.”
“That was terrible,” I said.  “I need to study English.  And who makes that test?”
“It’s not a fair test,” said Scooter.  “And you’ll see soon that most of these students are so far behind that they don’t stand a chance at passing it.” 
Scooter had to proctor an exam, but directed us to the cafeteria to eat with the Sisters and the orphans. 
“Go,” she said.  “It’s fine.  In fact, it will make them really happy.”
So that’s how we ended up sitting at the head table with a bunch of nuns, crossing ourselves and stumbling through “Our Father” in Portuguese.  We ate eggs, potatoes, bean soup, salad, and papaya and chatted with three volunteers from Portugal who were building another school on the mission property.  Not everyone from Portugal, it seems, shares the same view of Mozambicans.  These three volunteers were incredibly sweet and giving.
As we left the dining hall, we were swarmed by little girls.  “Mana Lisa, Mana Ariel,” they said, “play with us.”   They hung on our arms and fought to slip their hands in ours. 
“Eu!”  Me!
“Nao!  Eu” No, me!
“Nao, obrigada,” I said, tearing two little girls apart.  No, thank you.  “Vamos sentar-nos.”  Let’s go sit.
For about an hour, we played salon.  The girls braided and unbraided our hair, adding in flowers and dead bugs and whatever they could find to make us pretty. 
“I don’t like your hair,” one girl said.  “It’s all yellow.”
“Flowers are yellow,” I said.
“Yeah,” she conceded.  “Flowers are yellow.”
Finally, Ariel and I started to feel a little bit tired.  Maybe it was the Portuguese or maybe it was the fact that we were loosing hair by the fistful, but we were ready to go.  We started the long and intricate process of extricating ourselves. 
“Vamos descansar,” we said.  We are going to rest. “Tchau, meninas!”
They followed us all the way to the end of the sidewalk.
“Mana Liiiiisa!  Mana Arielllll-uh!”  They whined. 
“Tchau, meninas!  Ate logo!”  Until soon.
Ariel and I started the long walk back along the two-lane highway. 
“What did you think of the site?”  I asked.
“I don’t know.  It wasn’t perfect for me,” she said.
“Seriously?” I asked.  “That was everything I could ask for in a site.  What didn’t you like?”
“Well,” said Ariel.  “For one thing, I’m Jewish.”
I laughed.  “I want a site where I feel safe.  That’s the most important thing.  That, and I want to work with kids.”
“I don’t know what I want,” said Ariel.  “But that wasn’t a perfect fit for me.  I want to be somewhere where I can focus on health and medicine.”
That night, we had electricity but chose to use the charcoal stove, regardless.  Erin taught us how to make deep-fried tortilla chips, starting with just flour, butter, salt, and oil.  She rolled the dough with a glass cup and cut the flattened mixture into triangles to fry in oil.  Once fried, the little dough triangles puffed up and turned brown.  We bit off the tips and scooped salsa with the hollow chip.  The entire dinner experience was a reminder that we don’t have to eat Mozambican food every day just because we’re in Mozambique.  It was also a reminder that you can make almost anything with a little bit of creativity and know-how. 

Day 4:  Tuesday
On Tuesday, Ariel and I walked to the lagoon.  It was our first visit to the ocean since our arrival in Inhambane.  From the town of Inharrime, we walked steadily downhill for about a kilometer until reaching the white sand of the beach.  Because it was a weekday and because most Mozambicans can’t swim, anyway, the beach was empty.  Perhaps it is a little much to call it a beach.  The lagoon is very pretty, of course, but it is also very sterile.  No fish swam in the crystal-clear water.  The few trees in the area were dead snags underwater.  The sand was pretty and white, but devoid of shells.  Only grasses and short, scrubby bushes grew between the lagoon-shore and the road.  It did not feel very private, though the two-land highway rarely saw traffic. 
The sun was beating down, so we agreed to turn back after walking the right arm of the lagoon. 
“It’s beautiful,” I said.  “Very nice.” 
“Yeah,” said Ariel.  “Maybe tomorrow we will go swimming.”
Though we were standing still, beads of sweat were starting to form on our foreheads.  We started the long trek back up the hill as the temperature climbed. By the time we got home, we were in desperate need of a shower.  We hung our clothes on the clothesline on the back porch to dry.
“Oh, my God,” said Ariel.  “I cannot stand this heat.  I could not live here.”
“I don’t mind it that much,” I said.  “But yeah, my clothes are pretty soaked.”
“How hot do you think it is, anyway?”
“Maybe 95 degrees?”
“Oh, my God.  It gets worse?”
“It reaches 120 degrees in Tete.”
“Holy @#%@”
“So… what do you write about, anyway?”
“When you write.  Are you writing in your journal?”
“Well, it’s for my blog.  But it’s also for me.”
“Is anyone going to read all of that?”
Pause. “I don’t know.  I mean, for anyone that’s interested, it’s there.  I guess I sort of expect people to skim through it and take what they want.  The rest is for me.”
“I have pictures, too.”
We were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Ola!” we called.  “Come in!”  It was Jasmine, the health volunteer who was replacing Ann. 
“I just stopped by to get away from the heat,” she explained.  “I was passing through.  What are you guys up to?”
“Not too much. We walked to the lagoon!”
“So, is your workday over?”  It wasn’t yet 11AM. 
“More or less,” she said.  “I am going to stop by and see my supervisor.  Do you guys want to come?”
“Heck yes,” said Ariel.  “I am so interested in doing something health-related for a secondary project.”
“Yeah, come with me,” said Jasmine.  “You can see the clinic where I work.”
“Heck yes,” said Ariel.
Five minutes later, we were back in the heat. 
“Is it always so hot?” asked Ariel.
Jasmine thought about it.  “I’ve only been at this site for three months but, yeah.  Pretty much.  It’s getting hotter.  It’s only springtime, you know.”
We wound through little paths until we reached the clinic, a cluster of cement buildings, each with a red cross painted on the side.  Everywhere you looked, there were people waiting.  Some were coughing, some were rocking babies, but most were sitting quietly.  Just waiting. 
“Are there always that many people here?” I asked.  I counted at least fifty, but there were a lot more.
“It’s usually worse,” said Jasmine.  We stepped into her office, an air-conditioned unit with two desks, two chairs, and a filing cabinet.  One of the chairs was already occupied. 
“This is my supervisor, Guantame.” Jasmine said.  “Guantame, this is Lisa and Ariel.  They are education volunteers.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Guantame said.  
“So they are on a site visit and have been instructed to find information about the HIV/AIDS situation in their community.  Can you tell them about what we do at our clinic?”  Jasmine spoke in Portuguese.  “I can translate.”
“Absolutely,” Guantame said.  He spoke clearly and slowly for our benefit.  “So an individual can come in at any time and request an HIV test.  If an individual enters our clinic with tuberculosis and does not request an HIV test, we strongly suggest that they do test because the correlation between HIV and TB is so high.  At this clinic specifically, we run about 70 tests a month.  The test is free.  If a person discovers that they are HIV positive, they receive counseling on healthy eating and healthy living for the future.  If an HIV positive person starts to get sick and their white blood cell count drops below a certain level, they are eligible for medicine.  If a person who was previously taking medicine or is eligible for medicine fails to show up for appointments, we will send a activista to their house to talk to them.”
“What is an activista?” Asked Ariel.
“An activista is a volunteer, sometimes in high school, who is trained to do HIV counseling.  Specifically, it is their job to make sure that people with HIV stay on their medication.”
“How much does the medication cost?” I asked.
“It’s free.”  Said the doctor.  “There is no good reason for a person not to take their medication.  It will save their life.”
“How much does it cost to visit you?” I asked.
“It costs 1 metical (3 cents) for a consultation for an adult and it is free for a child.”
“What about surgery?  What does that cost?”
“Surgery is free.  The bed costs 10 meticais (30 cents) per night.”
“Wow,” we said.  “Thank you.”
“Of course.”  The doctor stood up to shake our hands.  “It was my pleasure.”
As we walked away, we couldn’t help but notice that the line of patients, mostly women, hadn’t moved. 
“I wonder if I could do a health project,” I mused. 
“I am definitely doing a health project,” said Ariel.  “Definitely.”

Day 4:  Wednesday
We went to the lagoon.  The plan was to go swimming, but we were both overcome by shyness.  Instead, we just hiked our skirts up to our knees and waded.  The water was shallow for at least 100 feet offshore.  There were no waves.  We took a few pretty pictures and admired the two fishing boats that had been hauled onto the beach.  The boats were fully stocked but the beach was eerily empty. 
“I wonder where the fisherman are,” said Ariel.
“I don’t know.  I heard that someone died here yesterday.”  I said.  That was actually true, I had heard that.
“You are too gross,” she said, and laid out on her towel. 
I shrugged and waded out into the water.  I walked in little circles for a while until I started to feel burned.  Then, I made my way back to the towels.  Halfway there, though, I was stopped by a gold glint in the sand.
“Ariel, look at this,” I said, reaching down to pick it up.
“Uhhhhh,” she said, staring up at the sun in her sunglasses.
“I think it’s a… oh, no.  Wait.  It’s a bug.”
“A what?”
“This gold thing.  I thought it was jewelry but it’s a bug.” 
It was a perfectly round beetle with a shiny, metallic coating.  It spread its wings when I poked at it.
“Hey, this is beautiful.  I will call it a Mozambican Gold Bug.”
“You call it whatever you want,” said Ariel.  She lay immobile.
I spent the next fifteen minutes sitting by the bug, shading my neck from the sun until it was time to go.  It was as hot as the day before, if not hotter.  The Mozambican Gold Bug was hiding in my shadow. 

Dead Fisherman?

Ariel in the water

We met up with Ann and another volunteer for lunch at the Hotel Inharrime.  In Mozambique, you have to plan about 2 and a half hours for lunch (the biggest meal of the day) and about 2 hours for dinner at a restaurant.  We waited for our food for at least an hour, which was fine, because we got the opportunity to talk to Ann about her departure. 
“I cried for the first time today, actually,” said Ann, in reference to her Close of Service.  “It was when I said goodbye to Amendoim.  That made it real.”
“What are you going to do when you go home?”  We asked. 
“I’m traveling, first,” she said.  “I am going to Zanzibar, to India, to China, and then to Hawaii to visit my grandparents.  So I won’t actually be home until Christmas.”
“And then?”
“I don’t know.  I mean, this was my home for two years.  This was my life.”
“Do you want to go back to the United States?”
“Yes and no.”
“Are you scared?”
For dinner, Ariel and I made coconut mango sticky rice at Ann’s house.  Jasmine was out of town again, this time to pick up her new puppy.  Ann was busy packing up all of her belongings and giving things away to Erin.  Scooter was already gone.  Gil came over to say goodbye. 
“What’s it going to be like when Ann is gone?” we asked.
“It’ll be sad,” said Erin, “but we get one of you guys next month.  Things will feel normal again soon enough.”
Out of all the things I learned during site visits, that was one of the most practical and reassuring.
“Things will feel normal again soon enough.”
Paint your house, find a dog, cook American food, create a secondary project, play with children, be patient, don’t assume you know all the answers and, remember, things will feel normal again soon enough.