Monthly Archives: November 2015

3 Smiles and A Struggle: 3 Festas, Malaria Med Swap, and Saying Tchau

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Lots of smiles this week had to do with our many festas, or parties. First was Thanksgiving at our Country Director’s house in Maputo. Alex and I had matching clothes made, as is the trend for married couples in Mozambiqe. We enjoyed all the traditional American food we could have asked for: turkey, potatoes, green beans, cran sauce, pie…you name it.

 

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The second festa this week was our big group despedida, or going away party. There was a chicken killed for every host family…that’s 61 chickens. In addition to this, we were fed all of the traditional Mozambican food we could have asked for: rice and beans, matapa (leafy green sauce), xima (like thick porridge..), potato salad (which they just call ‘mayonnaise’..if that gives you a hint of what it’s like), french fries, plus wine, beer and soda.

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Our whole group had matching bright orange broom capulanas for the going away party..

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Alex gettin’ down with Winnie.

After this we headed out to the Namaacha bar, where the owner had promised us a pig roast for dinner. This did not happen and everyone was hangry. After a few hours Alex and I left with two other volunteers and had a very pleasant turn of events that involved chicken, rice and beans, chilled champagne, beer on tap, Jack Daniels, and real coffee. We passed a few more hours at this magical house of a host family relative, feeling confused and utterly elated.

That’s at least three smiles. But one more smile this week was due to the fact that I was finally able to switch malaria medication. I had been feeling very emotional on my first medication and am looking forward to starting to feel like myself again on this new, more mellow med!

I honestly feel like this was the easiest week that has passed since arriving…there weren’t many struggles. Today is our very last day of training and tomorrow we lose our Peace Corps trainee status and swear-in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. We are looking so forward to getting to site, but the small struggle with this is that most of the people I have gotten close to during training are headed to the far northern provinces of Mozambique, while we are staying in the south. While I know I may not see these wonderful people for a while, having friends all over the country is a beautiful thing, and being placed near people I haven’t had the chance to get to know is a great opportunity to get to know them.

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When life gives you mangoes

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It’s not snowing and none of our family is around. Still, it’s the holiday season. Something in my internal wiring must know so. It’s baking season. I had the urge to make a cake.

Here in Mozambique, it’s also mango season. I think I have been looking forward to mango season since long before we even arrived here. I had an offer of free mangoes for the taking. And I had a recipe from the Peace Corps Tanzania cookbook given to us by our bff.

So I made a cake. A mango cake.

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I mixed the following:

3 and 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

Approx 5 tablespoons baking powder. Use 3 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda if you have both…we only have baking powder here and mae advised me on how much a cake usually needs 🙂

2 eggs

1/3 cup (ish) oil

2 cups water. You can use milk, coconut milk, or juice too

3 cups cubed mangoes, or however much you please

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*optional add-ins include cashews, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, toasted coconut topper, or icing. I might just try all varieties throughout this mango season!

Now, I poured this fluffy batter into a bundt pan and cooked in maes electric oven for…until mae said it was done. Perhaps an hour. But if you have a regular oven, you can cook this beauty at 350 for 50 minutes.

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We are hosting Christmas in Mapinhane for other volunteers in our area, and I can’t wait to make this for Christmas morning. The only thing making our lack of snow okay is our abundance of mangoes 🙂

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A green mango is still a ripe mango.

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Winnie hangin’ around outside the house.

 

Photo creds to Alex Romanyshyn

 

3 Smiles and a Struggle: Our First Moz Wedding, Permagardening, A Rainy Day, and Motivation

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Mae's cooking for wedding reception number one.

Mae’s cooking for wedding reception number one.

“Vamos ir o casimento, sabado ate domingo.”

We will go to a wedding, Saturday until Sunday, Mae told us earlier this week. I asked if it lasted all night Saturday. No. We were told there would be a small party Saturday and a big party Sunday. We arrived at a house on Saturday at about 1 and were led into a kind of car port to sit with the other white people. There were three other volunteers attending this wedding reception as well and we were sitting under the cover of a roof, out of the rain. After a couple minutes I wandered around to the back of the house to talk to the mae’s while they cooked. Our mae had been cooking and preparing for this wedding all week, along with many others.

A couple of hours later, the bride and groom arrived in a procession of honking vehicles full of shouting people. They were led into the ‘car port’ with lots of singing and dancing. Here they sat for many hours while various wedding parties performed dances for them, singing all the while in the local langauge, Chengana. We were fed a lot of food: chicken, rice, potatoes, french fries, green beans, regular beans, and something that looked like a rubbery organ..which I opted not to eat and instead hid it under some chicken skin when I was finished with my plate. Five hours later, we were soaked from the rain and wrapping up Casimento Part 1.

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Sunday, we went to a different house for Casimento Part 2. There were more people than the day before, and there was lots more singing and dancing. Today was the day that gifts were presented to the couple. Various groups of people would dance the gifts up to the bride and groom, while singing in Chengana. We were fed a lot again, and had wedding cake this time around. Smiles for our first Moz wedding!

Friday and Saturday morning we attended probably the most interesting classes yet in training. These classes were all about permagardening, and we worked in teams to create small gardens at different sites in Namaacha. These gardens are designed to be high yield gardens that work within the Mozambican climate and use local resources to create compost and improve the health of the garden.

I plan to write more about the steps of permagardening when we get to site and attempt to start our own garden.

Making compost using dried leaves, old cabbage, dried manure, and water.

Making compost using dried leaves, old cabbage, dried manure, and water.

We planted corn, kove (like kale), tomatoes and beans in the garden I worked on.

We planted corn, kove (like kale), tomatoes and beans in the garden I worked on.

Lastly, we are pretty happy to be listening to loud, rolling thunder right now, enjoying cooler temperatures and the coziness of rainy weather. 🙂

A fog settled over Namaacha on Saturday evening, reminding me all at once of fall in the mountains and of Pucara, Ecuador.

A fog settled over Namaacha on Saturday evening, reminding me all at once of fall in the mountains and of Pucara, Ecuador.

The struggle this week has been with attitude and motivation. As we near the end of training, it seems that all of us and our teachers have lost a lot of motivation. For those that passed the Portuguese test already, our language teachers have gotten more lax and we are finding it hard to stay motivated. Other sessions have been cancelled or cut short. In a group of 61, attitude is contagious, whether negative or positive. Along with many others, I have struggled to stay motivated and positive this week.

Afternoon thunder clouds over Namaacha.

Afternoon thunder clouds over Namaacha.

3 Smiles and a Struggle: Site Placement, A Waterfall Hike, Reading with the Neighbors, and Feeling Worn Out

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The first smile this week was on Wednesday, when we got our site placement. Alex and I are so excited to know that we are going to be living in Mapinhane, Inhambane for the next two years. The tension and stress in the group leading up to site placement day was palpable, but it’s so nice to know where we are all going. I visited Mapinhane last week for site visits, and am looking forward to moving there and introducing Alex to our new home. December 4th is moving day!

More or less, we are the blue star!

More or less, we are the blue star!

After the buzz of site placement this week, we got to relax yesterday on a hike to Namaacha’s waterfalls. Because there has been no rain, there was not waterfalls. But the rock walls surrounding the small lake that the waterfalls usually flow into was quite pretty in its own right and it was nice to get out of the house and out of town a bit. We spent a couple of hours here with a big group of friends, sweating in the shade, exploring, chatting, and watching local kids jump off the rocks.

The Namaacha cascata. It is rumored by locals that if you get too close to the water you will hear voices calling you and be compelled to go in, only to be swallowed up and never seen again. We all made it back alive.

The Namaacha cascata. It is rumored by locals that if you get too close to the water you will hear voices calling you and be compelled to go in, only to be swallowed up and never seen again. We all made it back alive. Photo cred to Alex Romanyshyn

The third smile this week started with children’s voices outside our window at 7:30 this morning requesting a banana. It was irritating. It is our only day off and I wanted to sleep in. We ignored it for awhile, until they started peering through the curtains and giggling. Alex was the first to get up and greet Winnie and Lulu, our favorite neighborhood friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. But I was sleeping. Anywho, once I was able to pull myself out of  bed and make a joke about it, things were on the up and up. I gave them a copy of Crysanthemum in Portguese, which they spent a while reading on the porch steps. I cooked breakfast while they took pictures of each other and the book. They colored while we ate. Then they played with my hair for about an hour, painted my nails and toenails, and we went to drink sodas at the community center. All in all..lots of smiles.

Photo credit to Winnie.

Photo credit to Winnie.

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The struggle this week was just a general feeling of being worn out physically and mentally. We are in the homestretch of training and everyone is a little drained. It’s getting harder and harder to get rested and rejuvinated (see above: 7:30a.m. banana requests) after being in class all week and half of Saturday every week. After site visits we all got a taste of what we are going to be doing and after site placements, I think I am not alone in saying that we are excited and antsy to get started.

Coming home from the cascatas.

Coming home from the cascatas.

From Mountains to Mapinhane: Our Home for the Next 2 Years!

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When Alex and I arrived in Mozambique there was one site request that we had: mountains.

To us, mountains have a calming presence. Just being able to see them and be among them has a way of making us feel safe, happy, and comfortable. Additionally, as the weather was heating up in Namaacha, we were craving cooler temperatures and were hoping to get into the highlands of northwestern Moz as soon as possible.

So, when one of our Peace Corps staff members mentioned that there was a school in Inhambane province that was requesting a couple we didn’t neccesarily perk up.

Inhambane is flat.

Nah.

Last week Alex visited the mountainous province of Manica. The mountains were pretty, he said, but they weren’t familiar enough to remind him of home. We knew the mountains wouldn’t be like the mountains at home, but we thought they might offer some familiarity. Alex found it didn’t seem as important as we thought it would.

I visited the school in Inhambane that was requesting a couple. And I loved it. It is flat. That’s true. And it’s real hot. But there were so many reasons that Mapinhane, Inhambane seemed like the perfect site for us.

It’s funny how life always has little surprises in store 🙂

So, at the risk of closing ourselves off to all the awesome sites we had yet to hear about, we requested to be placed in Mapinhane.

Yesterday we found out that Mapinhane will be our home for the next 2 years!

More or less, we are the blue star!

More or less, we are the blue star!

Alex and I sit on our site on the giant map of Mozambique that was drawn for site announcements.

Alex and I sit on our site on the giant map of Mozambique that was drawn for site announcements.

Looking north from our site on the giant map, trainees stand at their sites and read their site placement info. Inhambane is a southern province, so much of our group is north of us.

Looking north from our site on the giant map, trainees stand at their sites and read their site placement info. Inhambane is a southern province, so much of our group is north of us.

Mapinhane (mop-in-yawnee) is a small town right on Mozambique’s main highway, the EN1. It is the southern-most ‘fly site’ in Mozambique, meaning that us and anyone north of us gets flown to the capitol for Peace Corps business, like conferences. Mapinhane is a centrally located site in northern Inhambane that serves as a hub for volunteers coming into nearby Vilanculos for banking, the post office, and bigger markets.

Beautiful Vilanculos is 45 minutes away from our new home.

Beautiful Vilanculos is 45 minutes away from our new home.

Our house is in the teacher's neighborhood on the school grounds. The volunteers before us were the first to live in this particular house and the first volunteers to have electricity at this site. These two girls have made this house so homey..I can't wait to move it and I'm already dreaming of the french press I know they are leaving behind in the kitchen :)

Our house is in the teacher’s neighborhood on the school grounds. The volunteers before us were the first to live in this particular house and the first volunteers to have electricity at this site. These two girls have made this house so homey..I can’t wait to move in and I’m already dreaming of the french press I know they are leaving behind in the kitchen 🙂

For personal reasons Mapinhane is great. We have easy travel to and from our site, we have the familiarity of hosting people in our home and will have a community of other volunteers nearby-including a site mate that lives in Mapinhane and works at the public secondary school,- we have Vilanculos for fancy dates and relaxation with friends, and for access to lots of food for cooking.

Now, about our school and professional life in Mapinhane. We will both be working in a private secondary school that is run by Brazilian nuns. Some of the students are from Mapinhane and others come from all over the country and stay in the dorms near the school. Alex will be teaching science and will have opportunities to be involved with the science fair in our province. I will be teaching English and plan to continue the current English club, with my bigger project being strengthening a current primary school library program. We are so excited to be able to share our skills and passions with Mozambican counterparts in these 2 big projects!

We might not have mountains in Mapinhane, but there are a lot of trees to give the land some definition. This giant is right in the middle of our school grounds.

We might not have mountains in Mapinhane, but there are a lot of trees to give the land some definition. This giant is right in the middle of our school grounds.

I had a chance to lead a library session in Mapinhane when I visited. I was surprised to find some of the same books that we had in the school library in Fraser..but in Portuguese!

I had a chance to lead a library session in Mapinhane when I visited. I was surprised to find some of the same books that we had in the school library in Fraser..but in Portuguese!

Three and a half years ago we moved to a small mountain community in Colorado and we felt a sort of magic there. We are always marvelling at our luck at being there. ‘We live here!’ The excitement in that expression didn’t fade for three whole years. I felt that excitement and magic in Mapinhane, thinking about the potential there for us to grow as people and for us to be useful in a community. Now I just keep marvelling again. ‘We get to live there?!’

3 Smiles and a Struggle: Visiting Mapinhane, Halloween with the Neighbors, Our First Portuguese Test, and Our Homestay

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The last week, in general, was pretty much smiles. Our group was sent to all corners of the country to visit currently serving volunteers and see what the day to day of a Peace Corps Volunteer looks like. Alex got to fly to Manica province and visit a mountainous site, and I got to take a 12 hour bus ride to northern Inhambane. The payoff, though, was that I got to spend a day in beautiful Vilanculos, relaxing by the Indian Ocean. I then visited the small town of Mapinhane for 4 days. The awesome PCV’s here made our visit by sharing so many personal stories of life in Moz, cooking us delicious food (cinnamon rolls!), and letting us observe their classes and follow them around town. I loved Mapinhane and Vilanculos, and it was such a welcome break from the rigorous schedule of training.

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The three trainees that visited Mapinhane.

The three trainees that visited Mapinhane, walking in Mapinhane.

The second smile was celebrating Halloween in Moz. I will admit that I wasn’t in the best mood yesterday (blame PMS, malaria meds, and sleep deprivation from the 14 hour return bus ride on Thursday), but we still had a good time. We brought two of our neighbor gals to a trick or treat street at our Peace Corps science training hub. Between all the volunteers, we had about 70 kids there eatin candy, bobbing for apples, dancing, and coloring.

Happy Halloween from Winnie and Lulu, the cats!

Happy Halloween from Winnie and Lulu, the cats!

Alex and me in our first-ever couple's costume. The brand of peanut butter here is 'Black Cat,' so I dressed up as a black cat and he dressed up as a jar of peanut butter. We were the same thing in different costumes :) It was a hit!

Alex and me in our first-ever couple’s costume. The brand of peanut butter here is ‘Black Cat,’ so I dressed up as a black cat and he dressed up as a jar of peanut butter. We were the same thing in different costumes 🙂 It was a hit!

The third smile this week was that both Alex and I passed our first language test at and above the level we needed by the end of training. Success! And with 4 weeks to spare 🙂

The struggle this week was returning to our homestay. While it is comforting and comfortable in some ways, it was hard to be out and about in Moz cooking, relaxing, and getting a taste of life at site and then have to return to the schedule of training and the less-free environment of living in someone else’s house. We are settling back in here in Namaacha, with about 3 and a half weeks of training left!

An orange pumpkin sunset on Halloween in Namaacha.

An orange pumpkin sunset on Halloween in Namaacha.