So Internet is super slow and it has taken me an hour to open a word document and copy and paste this. Blergh. Anyways, I have been keeping a journal since arriving in Namaacha. After typing and re-reading it sounds a little ‘dear diary.’ Whatevs. Enjoy.
Today was the day we met our host families, with whom we will live with for the next ten weeks during training. I was so nervous when I woke up this morning. We were finally leaving the safety of our swanky internet, hotel, and group. We ate out last fancy breakfast buffet meal and piled onto Chapas. The drive took us through the “nice” part of Maputo, the outlying shanty towns, rolling hills, bright red dirt, and banana trees until we reached Namaacha. This town is adorable. Small houses line the red dirt roads, which are full of goats and kids playing soccer. After the hour and a half drive, the chapas finally pulled up to the Chemistry/Biology HUB (which was a good thing, because Anna and I were getting stir crazy and our conversation had turned to explosive diarrhea) and we were seated in front of a huge group of anxious Namaacha moms. They were whispering and giggling. We were whispering and giggling. Finally we were allowed to find our moms, who were holding signs with our names. The minute I made the slightest movement toward my host mom, she practically jumped me. After way too many hugs and kisses she held my hand and showed me off to all her friends. I later found out she was so excited because she only had male Peace Corps volunteers. My mom (Gloria) took me home where I met my host brother (Pai) and sister (Loaiz-a) and 2 mystery neighborhood children. I was immediately fed an overwhelming amount of rice. This was followed up by my family dancing to the radio, which happened to be a mix of Beyonce, J. Lo, and Wiz Kahlifa. Let me just say, these kids had moves. Once the dance party ended my mom paraded me through town again to my language interview, which was a series of questions I had to answer in Portuguese. I think I did okay? Then my mom and I were the last to leave because she wanted all her friends to pet my hair. I feel like a show dog.
Back to the house: it has a toilet, but it is outside, there is no flushing, and you have to pour like 3 buckets of water into it for anything to go down. There are also chickens, ducks, and a dog named Snoopy. I get my own room with a giant mosquito net and a mountain of stuffed animals, thanks to my sister. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention before lunch my mom made me take a bucket bath, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Anyway, my afternoon consisted of unpacking, napping, and letting my mom and 6-year-old sister show me hundreds of sticky, dusty pictures. Tonight I helped my mom make dinner. It was rice, vegetable/bean curry and, wait for it, cow cartilage. What a treat…let’s just say I ate my way around the weird cow goo. While cooking a live chicken sat between my legs and nibbled on my boat show. Cute, right? After dinner I watched Brazilian soap operas with my host dad Junior. Decent first day for not speaking my host family’s language.
Day 2 of host family living. Although the rooster started crowing at 2AM and my whole family was awake by 4, I managed to suppress my sleepy guilt until 6. My mom immediately handed me a capulana (a piece of fabric used for skirts, carrying babies, etc.) and pointed me to the broom. After sweeping the whole house, we scrubbed the floors on our hands and knees. Then came dishes, which are washed and rinsed in a series of 4 buckets. Then it was time to prepare lunch and finally after I bleached the lettuce 3 times I was allowed to eat breakfast/ drink my instant coffee. Between labor intensive jobs I played hide and seek with my sister. After lunch my mom took me to her neighbor “Mama Maria’s” house for a play date with her PC Volunteer Jamie. There I was fed second lunch and made faces at Mama Maria’s daughter’s 5 month old baby. Our moms decided to take us on a field trip across town to watch them get their hair done at the salon. Imagine one lightbulb, one outlet, no running water, 3 hairdressers, 3 women getting extensions, and 7 women either waiting or watching in a 12x12 room with a tin roof. While waiting we watched almost every PC Volunteer walk by with random Namaacha children and host siblings hang off them. Hours later our moms looked super fly and we trekked home for dinner. Next time I’m totally getting my hair braided too.
To start off the day, I set my alarm for 6PM instead of AM. Classic. My mom banged on my door at 6:15 asking if I was alive. Luckily orientation didn’t start until 7:30 and we all know I only need 2 minutes to put pants on and my hair in a nug on top of my head…in America. Here I have to get business casual and take a bath…or ten. Everything here is such a process. I have to boil water for a bath, filter water for breakfast, match dress shirts to skirts, and avoid stomping on chickens, ducks, and poop on my way to the bathroom. An hour was barely enough time. My mom packed what I thought was lunch (a pear, an orange, a hunk of bread, juice, and 2 pieces of cake) but it turns out that was only my mid-morning snack (elevensies? I feel like some kind of hungry, hungry hobbit). At lunch time my fellow volunteers and I were sitting outside and asked if I was Junior’s daughter. When I said yes, they handed me a garbage bag full of food: half a fried fish, a greasy salad, fries, 3 pieces of bread, an orange, a banana, a Fanta, and more juice. SERIOUSLY?!? Orientation was fairly boring except for Anna’s real-life explosive diarrhea story and killing a chicken story. I also talked to two current volunteers who got me really excited about being placed at my site.
Today was freezing cold and poured rain so I gave in to my mom’s pleas to take ANOTHER bath. On the way to the bathroom I slipped on a patch of mud and almost crushed a duck. The ducks seem to really enjoy watching me struggle with a bucket of water in one hand and a plastic chair in the other so I take pleasure in aiming at them when I spit out my toothpaste at night. Take that you pretentious fowl. The thing is late night baths aren’t so bad, it just gets stressful when 6 people and 8 ducks are judging your hygiene habits in the daylight. Speaking of judging, I feel like my host dad is always comparing me to their last volunteer Christoph(er) (they like to leave off the ‘er’ when they say his name). “Christoph was soooooo intelligent. Christoph knew sooooo much Portuguese. Christoph drank soooooo much beer.” Well all I have to say is tut tut Christoph. Oh Junior, I’ll show you. I’ll be the best beer drankin,’ Portuguese talking,’ peace makin’ volunteer you’ve ever had! I’ll probably be the smelliest too because Lord knows me taking 8000000000 baths a day is so not sustainable.
Today I felt like I had finally gotten a grasp on Portuguese/Mozambican life! I boiled my own water and got my own breakfast (sounds easy, but when you have to light coal and hunt down an egg in the chicken coop it’s far from)! My brother and sister held my hands and walked me to class, and by walk I mean we alternated between skipping and hopping on one foot. This meant I only got to language class a minute before it started. Oops. Language lessons are GREAT! I’m so happy to finally have a schedule and have homework and be learning Portuguese. Today morning class was short because it was the National Day of Peace so we went to the Peace Memorial, listened to both Muslim and Catholic prayers, threw down some flowers and marched in a peace parade through town. Then it was lunch time. Then it was nap time. Then it was time for more class, which takes place at one of our houses each week (there are 4 of us in class). For our first language application test, we went to each others’ houses and introduced our families to the class. We all agree my mom is the fly-est on the block. Today she was wearing silky, red, bedazzled pants. We also agree my dad is a baller. Tonight I did homework, helped cook coconut stew, played with my brother and sister, and later helped cook Mozambican donuts. My mom and I carried on a conversation for an hour. Portuguese WIN! I also love every time my mom says “LlllllllEEEEEEna, you are sooooo good at Portuguese!” She’s precious. And a liar.
How is it I’m in Africa and I’m so cold I’m shivering? Namaacha weather is sassier than Wisconsin. I blame the mountains. And ducks. Today I had more language class. During lunch I walked to the internet café and checked my e-mail for the first time since last Saturday. Turns out, my dad is writing me a haiku a day while I’m gone. Classic Dad, he’s the best. Also there are only 2 computers in the café (and 51 volunteers) and they are reeeaaally slow so please bear with my absence from this blog for days to weeks at a time. After lunch we had more language application, which turned out to be a field trip to the high school to practice introducing ourselves to actual Portuguese speakers, rather than each other. I made a new friend Nelson and I now know everything about the high school, what to do in Namaacha, all about sports, and what Mozambicans think about Americans. Overall, a successful fieldtrip. Tonight I helped my mom clean and cook fish while also playing hide and seek with my siblings. I love playing with them, but I’m getting sick of always having to be the counter. On the bright side I am sooo good at counting to 20. After dinner I accidentally walked in (out?) on my mom peeing in the yard as I was leaving the bathroom. We then conversed until she finished. Totes not weird, right?
2 days ago I killed a chicken. I am still traumatized. We will discuss next blog.