Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Neighbors

Meet our new province-mates!

Helen and Szasha

In Mozambique, different regions have different reputations.  The north is wild, sparse, and undeveloped.  The south has larger cities, better roads, and better schools.  The central region, which includes Tete, Manica, and Sofala, is mysterious and little-known.  Only Tete, that awkward thumb on the western side of the Mozambican "Y," has earned a reputation for itself. And it isn't really a good one.

Tete is probably the most dreaded of all the Peace Corps volunteer assignments.  Within days of their arrival in-country, new volunteers are already hearing about the scorched, brown landscape of Tete Province.  The land, they hear, is cracked and barren.  The air is hot and dry.  The water that falls is sucked into the sand and the rivers evaporate into nothing.  The mines of Moatize open directly into Hell.

Even host families don't have anything nice to say about the province.

"50 degrees in the summer!  122 degrees Fahrenheit!"  They say.  "Don't go-- you'll die!"

Vikram, our site visitor from last November, didn't exactly help improve the reputation.

"Lisa and Dan are great," he said.  "But I will ET (Early Terminate) if I get sent to Tete."  In front of 68 other nervous trainees, he sketched the word TETE on the board.  "t-ET-e," he said.  "That's all you need to know.”

So it was probably an unpleasant surprise for our four newest province-mates to receive their two-year Peace Corps assignment: Tete Province, Mozambique.  After ten weeks of training in cool and rainy Namaacha, Tete Province must have seemed like a very unwelcome prospect.  The volunteers were even forgotten during a speech at their own swearing-in ceremony!  Poor, neglected Tete!

To make matters worse, the number of volunteers in Tete Province was reduced by a drastic amount.  Instead of opening spaces for twelve new volunteers, six end-of-service volunteers were replaced by a mere four individuals.  Tete now has a total of six volunteers, making it the smallest AND most sparsely populated province in all of Mozambique.

Luckily, their new province-mates are awesome.

Dan, for instance.  Dan is awesome.

In early January, Dan and I met two of the new girls, Helen and Szasha, at Helen’s house in Mavudzi Ponte.  The following week, both girls visited us for a three-day weekend at our house in Zobue. It was a weekend filled with lots of food (pizza, quesadillas, and pumpkin stew) and long walks.  

The highlight of the visit was our hike to the top of Mount Zobue.  Though Dan and I have been up the mountain several times, this was our first trip during the brunt of the rainy season.  And because of the shoulder-high grass (snakes!) and constant threat of rain (lightning!), it was probably the scariest.  It was definitely the dirtiest.  Thankfully, the path opened up at the top of the dome and revealed Tete at its best:  lush, green, and expansive.  

"I feel completely rejuvinated," said Szasha, when we finally made it to the bottom.  "Also, no snake bites!  High five!"

Hopefully, these new girls will change the way that future volunteers feel about the province of Tete.  While some parts of Tete are famously hot, it is also a dynamic and beautiful province.

We're fairly certain that this is going to be the best year, ever.

Dan, Helen, and Sasha at the top of Mount Zobue
Fooling around over the town of Zobue
The aftermath of the Mount Zobue experience-- intensely dirty feet. 

Sadly, we did not get to meet our other province-mates, Mark and Penny.  Both volunteers are retired from jobs in the United States (rare in Peace Corps Mozambique) and married (also rare).  We look forward to meeting them sometime in the next month.

Fun Facts

Helen is the daughter of a diplomat.  She has lived in Sweden and Brazil and is already fluent in Portuguese.  

Szasha is from northern California and grew up in a household without running water.  She chose her own name at the age of two.  She is a transfer volunteer from Cape Verde, and will finish the remainder of her service in Mozambique.

No comments:

Post a Comment