Thursday, October 31, 2013

Site Visits!

Well, we've survived 5 weeks of language classes, tech sessions, and CORE workshops and our reward is that we get to visit another part of Mozambique! Each of us are travelling this weekend to visit a current volunteer in a different part of the country.  The goal is to see what life is like for a current volunteer and get a sense of their community.  We will be staying with the volunteer for about 5 days.  I get back to Namaacha a week from today.  The sites were chosen at random so there is no connection between the site we are visiting and our ultimate assignment.  However, I've been told that if we like the site we visit it can be a factor in the decision process. 

The site I will be visiting is about 2,000 km north of Maputo in the province of Nampula.  The town is called Carapira.  Tomorrow morning we (there are about 6 of us going to different places in Nampula) will be going to Maputo and on Sunday morning we will fly from Maputo to Nampula.  Mozambique is a big country--the flight is about 2.5 hours!  I'm not sure what the internet will be like up there, but I'll be sure to post when I get back.  Here is a map of where I'll be going.  I'm currently way down in the south near Maputo and I'll be going way up near the city of Nampula.  Good thing we're flying or it would be a 2 day drive!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cooking Exchange Part 2

Tonight my friend Emma and I cooked dinner for my host family!  We made curry beans with rice and salad.  The dish wasn't all that different from what we've been eating here on a regular basis, but it was so fun to cook again!  I'm excited to get to site and be able to cook for myself. Mozambican food usually has a TON of salt and MSG so it was great to eat some food with a different flavor.  My family said they liked the food, except that it needed more salt.  Of course.

Emma and my mae Gloria.  I don't know how Emma got away with kneeling on the floor.  The only time I did that my mae made it clear that was not the way to cook.  You have to keep your legs straight and bend from the hips.

Here, mae Gloria is demonstrating good cooking posture.  I am not.

Cooking on a charcoal stove.  A tip I learned today: if your charcoal stove isn't lighting, carry it outside so the wind will feed the fire for you.  It worked really well for us today!

How do you turn down the heat on a charcoal stove? You move a few coals over to the empty burner and place your pot there.  Presto: low heat!

Yum, dinner!  The electricity was out so we were eating by the light of my headlamp and a candle.

My sister Laiza enjoying the beans.

Emma approves.

As tres fronteras (three borders)

Last weekend I hiked to the top of a nearby mountain where you can see three countries: Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland.  We picked a very foggy day so the views weren't great, but it was still a pretty hike. I'll definitely be going back on a clear day!

Some of the group on the way to the top

The summit!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Rains of Namaacha

When you don't have paved roads and it rains, things get muddy.  Really muddy.  When you don't have a dryer and it rains, you can't wash your clothes because if you do they won't dry.  When it rains you have to be very careful about which clothes you wear outside because they will inevitably get muddy and there is no way to clean them while it's raining.  When you are a Peace Corps trainee and didn't bring very many warm clothes to Mozambique and it's cold and rainy you have to be careful to keep some clean warm clothes to wear inside and some dirty warm clothes to wear outside.  But these dirty warm clothes must be clean enough to be presentable to Mozambican society, which is really hard to do when everything is muddy.  When it rains in Mozambique and you live with a host family that won't let you go barefoot inside the house you have to keep some clean shoes for inside and some muddy shoes for outside.  When you live in Namaacha and you have to go outside a lot even when you are at home: to go to the bathroom, to take a bath, to cook, you have to be very careful to remember to change your shoes and not to wear your inside shoes outside or else they will also get muddy and then you won't have any inside shoes to wear.  When is rains in Namaacha for 5 days and finally it is sunny you are very thankful and wash your clothes (but save some dry ones in case it starts to rain again before your clothes are dry so you won't be left without any dry clothes).  When it is sunny in Namaacha you are excited by the little things, like being able to go outside without changing your shoes and having clean, dry jeans.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cooking Exchange Day

For language class last Tuesday we had a cooking exchange between my language class and our maes (host moms).  Our host moms taught us how to make Mboa, a coconut milk curry made with the leaves of the pumpkin plant.  To make coconut milk you split a coconut in half and grate the white meat inside until you have about 4 cups of grated coconut. To grate the coconut you use a “ralador” which I don’t have a picture of yet but I will post one soon. Then you pour some warm water on the grated coconut and squeeze the coconut with your hands.  Then you separate the coconut solids from the liquid with a sieve and repeat the process until you have enough coconut milk.  Who knew making coconut milk was so easy!

For our part of the exchange, my language class and I made tacos.  We made carne asada, beans, salsa, and tortillas.  It was delicious!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blog Subscription

Hello everyone!
So I found out how to subscribe people to the blog so you get an email when I publish a new post.  If you're interested in subscribing, please let me know and I'll add you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Minha casa and thank you!

Here are some photos of my host family's house.  I also just want to say thank you to everyone who has commented on my posts, sent me emails and facebook messages, and in every other way told me that they are thinking of me.  It is great to hear from all of you!

The building on the left is the main house.  The middle building is the outside kitchen where we store water and cook on the charcoal stove.  The building on the right is a storage area.

Another view of the storage area.  The door in the back is the bathroom and to the right is the water spigot.

Better view of the main house.  Inside is a kitchen with a gas stove, living area, and three bedrooms.

Side yard.

Dishwashing area and chicken/duck coop. Also, papaya and mango trees!

Taking a Bath

My host family doesn’t have running water (as far as I know, this is true of most of Mozambique once you get out of Maputo).  I am no stranger to this living situation; I spent every summer of my childhood in Denali National Park without running water.  I know how to wash dishes in plastic tubs and brush my teeth using water from a water bottle.  The bath situation, however, is new to me.  I must admit, when I signed up for the Peace Corps, I expected to be overall dirtier than I was at home.  I expected to take fewer baths, wash my hair less often, and have chronically dirty feet.  So far, this has not been the case.  I have bathed more since I got to Mozambique than I ever have before.  Mozambicans take at least two, sometimes three or four, bucket baths per day, depending on how hot it is.  A bucket bath consists of carrying a tub of about 10 cups of warm water to the outside bathroom and using a smaller cup to pour the water over yourself.  I never expected I could be so clean with so little water, but I can even wash my hair and get all the soap out.  I might even bring this back to the states! I’ll just stand in my shower with my bucket of water and take a bucket bath Mozambican style.  Some families here do that if they have an inside bathroom.  Some houses are plumbed for water, but the pressure is usually too low to actually take a shower. 

The other adjustment I had to make living without running water here is washing my clothes by hand.  News flash: it doesn’t actually take that long AND I think my clothes get even cleaner than when I wash them in a machine.  All you need is a bar of soap and four buckets: one for the initial soak, one for soapy water, one for the first rinse, and one for the second rinse.  Just make sure to wring out the clothes after the soapy water to get as much soap as possible off before you rinse. Also, don’t wring out the water of the last rinse or else your clothes will be wrinkled.  Wrinkled clothes are a big no-no in Mozambique.  Irons are a must.

Here are some photos of my shower/bathroom.  The big tub of water behind the toilet is to pour into the toilet to “flush” it.  Works just fine, most of the time.

So, living without running water isn’t bad at all.  And it makes you slow down and enjoy the finer things in life like watching the wind blow clean laundry drying on a sunny day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

O Hino Nacional de Mocambique

Na memoria de Africa e do mundo,
Patria bela dos que ouseram lutar
Mocambique o teu nome e liberdade,
E o sol de Junho para sempre brilhara

Mocambique nossa terra gloriosa,
Pedra a pedra construindo um novo dia,
Milhoes de bracos, uma so forza
O patria amada, vamos vencer

Povo unido do Rovuma ao Maputo,
Colhe os frutas do combate pela paz
Cresce o sonho ondulando na bandeira
E vai lavrando na certeza do amanha

Flores brotando no chao de teu suor
Pelos montes, pelos rios, pelo mar,
Nos juramos por ti o Mocambique
Nenhum tirano nos ira escravizar

This is the national anthem of Mozambique.  Every day before school all the school children gather to sing the anthem.  I have to memorize the lyrics because every day a different teacher leads the children in song. After practicing a lot with my host sister and mom, I almost have it memorized! It takes a long time to sing because we repeat the chorus twice between each verse and again at the end.  If you have a chance, look up the melody—it’s a beautiful song.

As cascatas da Namaacha

According to Wikipedia, the two main attractions of Namaacha are the large Catholic Church and the waterfalls nearby.  Last weekend I hiked to the waterfalls with my host cousin Ninho, some of his friends, and my host sister.  The walk takes over an hour (as my host mom kept telling me, e muito longhi!), but it's worth it.  It is a series of pools and waterfalls in the middle of a valley that attracts tourists from Maputo and even nearby South Africa and Swaziland.  On the way I found an old 500 metical coin from 1994.  Just this year Mozambique cut three zeroes off its currency to fight inflation.  So while a 500 metical coin might seem like a lot, it is actually worth about .5 New meticals, or about 1/60 of a dollar.   It’s still cool to have though!

On the walk I got to practice a lot of Portuguese because Ninho and his friends asked me all kinds of questions.  They asked me all about Alaska: what kind of animals lived there, how many clothes you had to wear there, what kind of fruit grew there.  I tried to explain about berries, but I think it was lost in translation.  They also asked me about Peace Corps and how Peace Corps chooses which countries to go to.  They showed me some old abandoned houses left over from the Portuguese and told me about the Portuguese colonization of Mozambique.  It was quite the cultural exchange!

Here are some photos of our walk.  The water was really deep so people were diving off the cliffs.  Once the rains start, the waterfalls get much bigger and the water gets cleaner.  Maybe next time I’ll even swim!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dia Da Paz

Friday, October 4th was a holiday in Mozambique called Dia Da Paz.  Mozambique was a Portuguese colony until 1975 when it won its independence.  Unfortunately, soon after independence a civil war broke out that lasted until 1992.  Dia Da Paz commemorates the signing of the peace accords that ended this 17 year civil war.  It is a national “feriada” day which means there is no school and no work.  We didn’t have class either so we spent the day with our families.  The custom is to bring flowers to the “Praza dos Herois” (plaza of heroes) to celebrate the day.  All of us volunteers went to praza with our host families and helped celebrate.  It was a great ceremony, complete with lots of singing and dancing. I tried to upload a video, but it wouldn't load, so here are a few pictures.  Let's hope that peace lasts in Mozambique for many more years to come.

Pre-service training

Hello from Namaacha!  This town of 10,000 on the border with Swaziland will be my home for the next 8 weeks.  Each Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) lives with a different host family in the town.  The town hosts PCTs twice a year so the townspeople are pretty used to having Americans around.  So far we have had a lot of language classes, classes of 4 or 5 of us with a Portuguese teacher.  We meet in each other’s houses for class.  We speak only in Portuguese so my language ability is improving very rapidly!  Once a week all 50 of us trainees meet for a long day of Peace Corps orientation classes, safety and security briefings, and health classes.  We also have technical teaching training that we started this week.  It is a lot of class time, but I'm learning a lot and I know it's preparing me well to be a good volunteer.

My host family has completely adopted me into the family.  They call me sister and have made me feel extremely welcome.  It has been so fun so far!  The family is big—mom, dad, grandma, cousin, and three kids: 10, 8, and 9 months.  The Mozambican people are so friendly and welcoming—I love this country already! 

Before I say anything else, DID YOU KNOW THEY DRIVE ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD IN MOZAMBIQUE????!!! I didn’t.  Now I do.  And now you do too.  So, now if you picture me riding in a car in Mozambique, picture it driving on the left side of the road.  I’m still not used to it.  When I’m walking down the road I can’t quite figure out which side of the road to go to when a car is coming and I keep looking at cars and thinking there is no one driving them (or that a child is driving them) because I am looking at the passenger seat of the car.  It’s going to take some getting used to.

A tip regarding mail: if you plan to send me a care package, please send it USPS and declare less than the actual value of the package.  The more you declare, the more taxes we will have to pay.  Also don’t declare anything super exciting like electronics or it will surely get stolen.  Apparently it’s also helpful to write crosses on it and address is to “Sister Sienna” because people are less likely to steal from a nun.  Life in Mozambique.

Please email me or comment on this post if you have any questions!  Also, I’d love to hear what you all are up to! J