Saturday, April 21, 2012


Dan and I are halfway through a two-week interval between trimesters, and I wanted to write a quick post to describe where we are in Mozambique, who we are traveling with, and where we are going.  Currently, it is 6:30 AM on a Sunday, and I am in the Peace Corps office in Chimoio.  I have a few quiet minutes to upload pictures and check my email before Mary, Adrienne, Dan and I catch a chapa headed east.

The trimester ended last Friday, and our little house was immediately flooded with visitors.  I still had to teach on Friday afternoon, of course, but visitors came into my class to run races with the kids and to sing a few songs.  It was cute.  The kids were really excited.  

Dan dubbed our gathering "PreConnect," in honor of the Peace Corps Reconnect Conference that we would be attending later that week.  All told, we had six visitors, all from Manica and Sofala provinces in Mozambique.  

There are unique challenges to hosting visitors in a tiny, cement house without running water, but things went surprisingly smoothly.  Our neighbor-helper was overjoyed because we had him working overtime, and, amazingly, we never lost power.  At night, it was like a giant sleepover party.  We had people sleeping on the couch, the spare bed, the spare mattress, and on the straw mat in the living room.  It was a challenge to get up and make a cup of tea in the morning, but I have never, ever felt so safe in my own home.  

Volunteers from Central Mozambique.  Clockwise from left:  Dylan, Mary, David,
Adrienne, Mike, Mac, friendly neighborhood children, Lisa, and Dan

Once everyone had arrived, we took a trip across the border to Blantyre, Malawi.  Initially, we had just planned to make a day trip to visit our English-speaking neighbors and to do a bit of shopping, but we found a fantastic room at a fantastic rate, and decided to spend the night.  Just, you know, to say that we did (and for $2 a person!).

Dormitory (or "Dormetry") room at the Oriental Lodge in Blantyre, Malawi

On the balcony at the Oriental Lodge in Blantyre, Malawi

Five of us also climbed Mount Zobue, which, for Dan and I, had been a long-standing goal.  Though we had hiked through the fields and to the top of smaller, neighboring mountains, we hadn't yet climbed to the top of BIG mountain.

View of Mount Zobue from a smaller, neighboring mountain.  Taken in January.

During the course of our climb, we were surprised by a few things.  First, there was no actual "trail."  To reach the top, we pushed our way through cornfields and tall grasses to reach the base of the mountain, then found a thin, snaking footpath that lead from a "low point" to a "higher point" on the mountain.  The second surprise was the fact that we could find no actual vista point when we reached the top.  In lieu of an actual vista at the top of the mountain, we stood on the tallest rock that we could find and then admired the tree trunks, vines, and tree ferns that were growing all around us.  In terms of vistas, we had to settle for the views along the side of the path on the hike back down the mountain.  The third surprise was the fact that we were climbing into an actual cloud forest.  We had no idea that the forest was so dense and expansive in the crevices between the giant stone domes (there are three) of Mount Zobue.

David, Mike, Dan, Mac, and Bwino climbing the mountain

Climbing into the cloud forest

Along the path to the top of the mountain

Bwino resting in the vegetation at the top of the mountain

The puppy is too scared to go down the mountain by himself

Vista point on the way back down (with Dan, Mac, and Bwino)

Mountain Flower

Mountain Flower

After our three-day adventure in Tete/Malawi, we traveled south to Chimoio to meet with other volunteers for our ReConnect conference.  Usually, Peace Corps volunteers stay at a hotel within the city of Chimoio itself, but this year, due to budget restraints, we were placed at resort and conference center that was located 7km outside the city.  The countryside was beautiful, but cell phone service was sparse.  This was a big disappointment for many people who live out in the bush and had hoped to use this time to talk with family back in the United States.  Still, though, none of us could complain.  It was nice to be together and to stay in a hotel that has hot running water.

The conference ran for three days and gave us an opportunity to discuss the accomplishments and challenges that we have been facing over these past few months.  Also, we didn't have to cook for ourselves.  At night, we watched movies and played cards.

I love, love, love my Mozambican neighbors but sometimes, at site, I just really miss Americans.

Milpark Hotel and Conference Center in Chimoio, Mozambique

Conference Room

Afternoon tea at the hotel.  With volunteers Nic, Dan, Sean, Nate, Zach, and Theresa 

Lunch at the hotel.  With Jamie, Hoang, Valerie, Jonathan, Chris, and Mike

The single, lonely horse who lived at the hotel.  Mostly we would just find her standing around outside our rooms, staring into space.  

I opened my hotel room door to find...

Finally, on the last day of our conference, we received a shipment of packages from the post office in Chimoio.  The mail system here is corrupt and, frankly, disappointing, but three packages did survive the gauntlet (multiple flights, customs, and thieves) and arrived intact.  All three were from my mother and included Easter candy, pajamas, stuffed animals, and (for my students), balloons, stickers, and, best of all, a hard-cover copy of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish."

To all those people who have sent packages that have not yet arrived-- don't give up hope!  Mail is slow in Mozambique.  Stories abound of packages that arrive six months to one year after they have been sent.  Although, if you sent a package in September or October, chances are that it is now probably in the care of a nice Mozambican family that needs it more than I do.

Playing with the items from my Easter care package. 

Thank you, Mom!

Over the next few days, I will be traveling south with Mary, Adrienne, and Dan.

Mary (and a baobab tree, in Tete Province)

Adrienne (and the friendly horse in Chimoio, Mozambique)

We will be traveling to Beira first, to visit Adrienne's site in Buzi.  Then, after a day or two, we will catch a boleia to Vilankulo.

Travel Map - Zobue to Chimoio (511 km), to Beira (204 km), and to Vilankulo (538km)
Vilankulo is immensely popular with South African tourists and is famous for its beaches.  It is also home to a string of off-shore islands that constitute Bazaruto National Park.  The islands and surrounding reefs are home to crocodiles, flamingos, sea turtles, and dolphins.  Best of all, it hosts the largest and only viable (reproducing) population of dugongs in the West Indian Ocean.

Dugong!  (Dugong Dugon)

I may be in and out of contact over the next few days, but rest assured that I am alive and well somewhere along the vast and varied coastline of Mozambique.  I promise that I will take pictures.

Google Image Search:  Vilankulo

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