We must begin with donuts. And Sarahs. This past weekend me and Alex along with our sitemate Sarah (Becks) and our other PCV friend Sarah (SG) set out on a grand Moz culinary adventure: donut-making, all from scratch of course. This delicious idea was inspired by funfetti frosting that was sent to me from my friend Sarah (America…?) for my birthday, along with cake mix and other birthday surprises. We spent weeks gathering the ingredients, some of which we don’t see very often, like margarine and powdered sugar. Then, in assembly line fashion, we made a whole lot of donuts. We made the dough and let it rise for an hour, rolled it and donuted it, rolled it and donuted it, rolled it and donuted it, until all the dough was donuted, then we let the donuts rise for another 45 minutes, fried them, and set about topping them with glaze, funfetti frosting, or cinnamon and sugar. Our endeavors were successful and our hard work was rewarded. After working so hard, this indulgent treat was even tastier than anything we could have bought. So many smiles, and even more yummy sounds. Check back soon for this donut recipe and modifications for Moz!
Earlier last week one of our students invited Alex and I to attend the Palm Sunday church service, where a group of students would be singing, dancing, and drumming as part of the service. The Mozambican church service followed by the traditional American treat-eating made for a confusing day of mixed culture, but a very satisfying Sunday. The church service began down the road from church, where a procession of people walked, singing gently and waving their palm fronds. After stopping in various places along the way to pray, the group gathered, much to our relief, outside of the cement church for a service under the trees. Anytime that something important happens here under the shade of the trees, I am reminded that this is something small I love about being in Mozambique. A simple archway had been made, and a stage set for the pastors. Both were decorated with woven palms and purple bougainvillea. A group of our students began the service with dancing and singing. The people then settled on benches, chairs, and mats on the ground. An older student directed others to bring us a bench, and we were seated. A kind man approached me, as I was twisting my palm leaves into a messy weave, and told me in English that he wanted to teach me how to weave the leaves. As the bulk of the church service took place I followed the lead of this new friend, smiling to myself at his whispered encouragement. “Good. Yes, like that.” Feeling guilty for not paying attention I looked around, only to find many busy hands working their palm leaves in much the same way. The service concluded with more song and dance from our student in the local language, Shitswa; I love church in languages that I don’t understand. Something about the manner in which people worship is much more powerful to me than the words being said. A new friend, a steady breeze, and joyful songs made me smile during this, our second visit to church in Mapinhane.
The final thing that has been giving me lots of smiles lately is my time at the primary school library. It took a few weeks to get a schedule organized and start having groups of students, but now that we are up and running, the sessions are one of the things I look most forward to during my week. The library was started by a volunteer 3 education groups before me (Moz 19) and continued by my predecessor, Sarah (surprising name, I know), from Moz 21. I am starting now with 4 groups of 3rd and 4th grade students that have difficulties with reading and literacy. Each week, we read a book and then do a literacy activity related to the book. I read the same book 3 weeks in a row with a different activity, and have found this repetition to engage the students because they can recall parts of the book from the week before. Every fourth week will be time for the students to read and explore books independently in the library. The students have been so engaged and happy during the sessions, and it really puts a smile on my face when I hear them leave the library practicing what we learned or when I am told that their mothers were wondering what they were doing in the library and wanting them to go more often because they came home talking about it. It is very uncommon for students here to have books at school or home, or to have much, if any, access to reading material anywhere, especially for pleasure-reading. Being exposed to books is a special treat for these kids, and I can tell every time I go into the library or pull a book out of my purse to read in the schoolyard.
Now, 6 months into our 27 months in Moz, the struggle lately has been the start of feeling far away and disconnected from people back home. The time difference makes it challenging to find a good time for phone conversations. And the lack of in-person connection is becoming harder. Even when I lived in the U.S. it was not uncommon to go weeks or even months without talking to some friends; most of my friends are spread out all over the country. But then we would get together or have one really long, satisfying conversation and I was reminded of the strength of our friendship. Here, I know that those strong relationships still exist, but now I just have the ‘months with no contact’ without the eventual get together that renews the relationship. It is clear already that we will come out of Peace Corps with a number of new relationships, but I am beginning to miss my people from home more and more! Texts and emails go unanswered and the time between now and our next get together seems to be an eternity. So, I am going to begin making a more conscious effort to schedule phone calls, email people more often, and do anything I can on my end to stay in touch. It is an odd and scary thing, this realization that there really is a whole physical world between me and so many of the people I love. And it is hard to feel that I can’t give the support I want to give and am not feeling all the support I am craving right now. That being said, I can only believe that strong friendships will survive this time and distance, we will pick up where we left off, and new friendships will grow as well.
So, friends, if you are reading this, know that I love you, am thinking of you and missing you here in Moz!