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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“I am doing the action. I am actively building the house. You can imagine me with a hammer because I am building the house.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.