Each time that I post one of these ‘Third’ posts, I say that I can’t believe how quickly the past third has gone. Well, of course, it is no different this time around than it was for The First Third or The Second Third, but I really can say that this one went by the fastest of all.
We are now in the capitol of Mozambique, in complete disbelief and slight confusion, where we have spent the last 4 days wrapping up medical and administrative tasks to officially close our Peace Corps Service here in Mozambique.
Here are a couple of highlights from this third and final third.
My 3 biggest personal successes
-Completing 27 months of Peace Corps Service.
– Feeling so at home in Mapinhane. It came as a surprise to me that our last day in Mapinhane was one of my favorite days at site. No, it was not because I was overjoyed to be getting out of there. Quite the opposite. In those final moments it was easy to feel how much Mapinhane had come to be home, and this was demonstrated in large part by how that last day passed in the company of some of our best friends at site, spending hours chatting right up until the moment we got in the car to leave.
– Completing a 100 Days of Yoga challenge to myself. As I wrote about in The Second Third post, a big challenge of Peace Corps service was maintaining my health, especially coming from a very active mountain lifestyle. After completing a 30 day yoga challenge, I felt so good that I challenged myself to 100 days, and succeeded! This challenge helped me feel strong and healthy again, and got me on a good track for the rest of service. The challenge ended June 1, but I’ve still been practicing yoga 5 or 6 days each week.
My 3 biggest personal challenges
-Staying calm and grounded through the transition leading up to my ‘Close of Service,’ especially with the anticipation of change.
-Prioritizing my health and wellness by being more conscientious of exercise and food choices when there was a choice.
-Leaving site. Leaving Mapinhane was honestly much harder than leaving home in the States 2 years ago. When we left home, we were comforted by knowing that we would see all our friends and family there again, and that someday our life would once again come to resemble the life we had pre-Moz. On the contrary, when leaving Mozambique, we left with an uncomfortable uncertainty about when or if we will ever see our friends here again, and a heavy certainty that we will never have a life similar to what it was in Mapinhane.
The 3 things I am most proud of at school
–Culture Week. I was a ‘Director of Stream’ (kind of like a homeroom teacher) for one of the 8th grade groups this year, and one of my biggest duties was to help them organize and rehearse for a 4-day, school wide, competition that involved 14 cultural events. Although preparation felt a little intense, this ended up being one of my all-time favorite events of Peace Corps service, and a great bonding experience with my students. I am so proud of them!
– Seeing my REDES girls group members grow hugely in their confidence and become the most participatory of the 45 students in their class.
-Finishing 2 years of teaching in a Mozambican Secondary School.
The 3 biggest challenges at school
-Collaborating with my ‘homeroom’ students on Culture Week activities. This experience was a whole new challenge at a point in my service when I thought I would be coasting through to the end. The challenges came in organizing a large group of students, a lot of trying to decipher what was being said by them in their local language, and figuring out ways to get things done that I had never done before.
-An ongoing challenge throughout service was classroom management with large class sizes and finding a balance between using some strategies the students are accustomed to- which is often punishment based versus rewards based- and exposing them to new rewards-based strategies, which often take time for them to buy into.
-Staying motivated to teach creative lessons when I was frustrated with student behavior and participation, and feeling unappreciated as a teacher.
My 3 most worthwhile contributions to secondary projects, and progress made on goals
-Bringing 3 8th grade girls and a 12th grade student leader to the annual REDES girls group regional workshop. Along with Culture Week, this was one of my favorite events of Peace Corps service. It was a weekend full of learning and playing, and a great experience getting to know 3 of my REDES girls better.
-English Club Certificate Program. The Adult English Club that we started last year was probably my overall favorite project from my service. I am so proud of how much these adults have grown in their English, and how dedicated they are to their own learning. This year, we introduced an incentive program that allowed them to earn a certificate of accomplishment if they had more than 20 hours of attendance at English Club. We had 8 students that exceeded 20 hours, with most of them having more than 30 hours, and 2 of them more than 40 hours. Certificates in Mozambique are highly valued, often added to portfolios and used to show potential employers. It was great to celebrate our adult students ongoing dedication with them at their certificate ceremony during our last week of service.
-Completing a Procedures Manual for our Primary School Library. I worked on and off for months this year to put into writing everything we have been doing at the library for the past two years. The manual includes everything from teacher trainings to library maintenance and basic procedures, and a whole lot more. I am hoping that after I leave this project, the manual will help the project continue to grow in the direction it’s been going.
My 3 favorite things about life in Mozambique
-The high value on relationships. The more time I spent in Mozambique, the clearer this value became. This value shows in small ways, like in the constant stream of greetings while walking anywhere, and in big ways, like the willingness of most Mozambicans to drop whatever they are doing and help someone else. Mostly though, it is seen in the shade of trees, where people sit for hours and hours chatting and enjoying each other’s company.
-The colors and textures that make up every scene; the richness. Green plants and red dirt are the constant background of Mozambique. Laid over the top are women wearing a rainbow-spectrum of capulana fabric, walking with a baby on their back and/ or a bundle of wood on their head, sitting beneath a tree selling fruits, walking and talking in groups. Laid on top are kids pushing homemade soda-can-and-wire cars or marching to school with rakes for their ‘community work,’ men talking on verandas or fixing cars or pushing carts of goods. Laid on top is laundry on lines and wood cooking fires, rusty cars and goats on bus tops. Everywhere you look in Moz, there is life and color.
-Being a part of the communal thread that runs through every aspect of life. One of the most demonstrative examples of this came recently when Alex was sick in the clinic with malaria. The clinic didn’t serve food, and there were no restaurants nearby. Knowing what I know about Moz, I walked into the neighborhood to find him some rice. I saw a woman sitting under a tree in her yard, asked permission to enter, and was welcomed in. I explained the situation to her and asked if I could pay her a little to cook Alex some rice. “Sim sim,Somos iguais” -Yes, yes we are equals- she said and immediately got up and lit a wood fire to cook him rice. I sat in her yard chatting with her and her children and a neighbor until the rice was finished, at which point she did not even want to accept my payment of 50 meticais (about 75 cents). This is a big and clear example of community in Moz, but we experienced it in much more subtle ways in our day to day life as well, and feeling such a part of that give and take culture – something that was incredibly awkward 2 years ago- has come to be one of the most satisfying parts of life in Moz.
My 3 favorite things about Mozambicans and Mozambican culture
-That there is always time to stop and chat.
-That sentiment is easily expressed and unguarded.
-The ease of giving.
The tough stuff
This third third has been the smoothest of them all, and I can only think of one really tough thing, which was leaving. Leaving Mapinhane was much harder than leaving home in the States 2 years ago. When we left home, we were comforted by knowing that we would see all our friends and family there again, and that someday our life would once again come to resemble the life we had pre-Moz. On the contrary, when leaving Mozambique, we left with an uncomfortable uncertainty about when or if we will ever see our friends here again, and a heavy certainty that we will never have a life similar to what it was in Mapinhane.
The things I have missed most about the U.S.
I think these 3 things have stayed pretty steady through all three of the thirds.
-Seeing family and friends on a regular basis.
-Mountain lifestyle and access to lots and lots of recreation.
– Access to natural remedies, good quality supplements, and varied diet.
My 3 favorite moments with other PCV’s
-Collaborating with other Peace Corps Volunteers in southern Mozambique at the REDES workshop in June.
-Celebrating the end of our service with our Moz25 cohort group at our ‘Close of Service’ conference in Maputo in August.
– Meeting our replacements and getting to know them during their two weeks in Mapinhane in October. We leave feeling like we are leaving projects in good hands with them.
My 3 favorite travel moments
-Spending time on the Bazaruto Archipelago off the coast of Vilanculos.
–Driving Cape Town to Durban with Alex’s family, especially our stop at the southernmost tip of Africa, our stay in sleepy Chintsa, and delicious curries in Durban.
-Finally visiting the beautiful and more isolated beach at Zavora, and spending an afternoon drinking Pina Coladas and watching humpback whales breaching.
The 3 most exciting things to look forward to
-Our upcoming COS (Close of Service) travels in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
-Reuniting and catching up with all of our friends and family in the United States.
-The big, wide open future…our next adventure, whatever it may be.