I left for Mozambique one week ago today, and this is the first time I’ve been able to use an Internet connection that is fast enough to post anything. Not that Internet is so hard to come by, but my days have been tightly scheduled and I’m hindered by a lack of familiarity in my surroundings and the language skills to find my way. Today, however, my formerly-Turkmenistan-bound companians and I were whisked out of class and back to Maputo, an hour and a half away, to get more shots and deal with visa logistics, so the least Peace Corps could do was let us use their office computers while we’re here.
Having arrived in Maputo (Mozambique’s capital) last Friday afternoon, my two companions and I were driven to Namaacha, the town where Peace Corps operates its volunteer training program. It has been challenging coming in even a week late and I feel like I am constantly playing catch up, but I feel fortunate to be here and—from what little I’ve seen of it—I think I will like living in Mozambique.
Namaacha is located about an hour and a half outside of Maputo in the very south of the country, nestled in the hills along the border with Swaziland; a barbed-wire fence separating the nations runs right along the road that one of the Peace Corps buildings is on. I’ve gathered that Namaacha was a Portuguese colonial town that was abandoned when Mozambique gained independence, around 1975. Therefore the colorful stucco houses are nicely designed but mostly run-down, and while there is plumbing, running water comes and goes. (When I woke up this morning, the water had come on: my family filled the bathtub and every vessel in the kitchen with water, to save and use later. We heat water in kettles for baths, which we take standing over a drain cut in the tiles of the bathroom floor, and to flush the toilet, we have to pour a whole bucket of water into it.)
My Portuguese homework assignment today was to make a family tree of our host families, so fortunately I think I’m finally clear on how everyone in my house is related to one another. My host mother’s name is Benedita and the four children who live with her are Nostra, a cousin who is around twelve or thirteen, and Benedita’s grandsons Jojo, ten, Leo, six, and Mitu, three. Benedita also has a daughter who lives in Namaacha with her husband and two young children, and another daughter at school in Maputo who is here on the weekends. Various other in-laws, cousins, friends, are always stopping by, interested to meet the americana. When the two older daughters call their mother, they ask to speak to me, even though I can say barely anything beyond Olá! Como esta? I feel very welcome and certainly part of all the activity, so I’m happy with them, and certainly inspired to trabalhar bem on improving my Portuguese.
I’ll go into more detail when I have a chance, but here is some reading material in the meantime:
NY Times article about Turkmenistan/Peace Corps: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/09/world/AP-AS-Turkmenistan-Peace-Corps.html?emc=eta1
Oregonian reporter Steve Duin interviewed me for his column: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2009/10/extending_the_peace_to_the_wor.html