I will try to describe Estaquinha in more detail. The unpaved road coming east from the town of Muxungue makes a ninety-degree turn where the mission part of Estaquinha is located, and continues on towards Buzi, the district capital, past mud and straw huts and the few small shops that compose the market and community at large.
As part of the mission, my house and those around it are luxurious in comparison: concrete and handsomely painted in cream and brown, with a raised porch and windows and doors of high-quality wood. It is a little large for one person but I’ve managed to spread out between the one large common room and adapting the two smaller rooms into my bedroom and a makeshift kitchen. The school provided me with a bed frame and mattress and a nice table and two chairs, but other than that I have no other furniture yet, so I still feel a little like I’m camping with everything on the floor. There is a bathroom with a sink and latrine outside on the porch, though no running water. I have a sizeable front yard and even an enclosed backyard.
Against what is perhaps my better judgement, I hired a maid. I was taken aback when I heard that most Peace Corps volunteers have domestic help, but it is something that is much more done here than in the States I guess. The first day when I went to get some water at the pump, all the women were like, “Why are you doing that? You need to get an empregada to help you.” So while I could certainly get along without her, I’m happy to be giving someone a job, at it does make things a little easier, especially because the tropical climate attracts more bugs than I’m used to. I have her clean, bring water, and wash dishes and laundry, but I do my own cooking.
It has been extremely hot and people are concerned about the lack of rain. It is a huge change from stormy, muddy Namaacha where I sometimes wore multiple layers to bed. The middle of the day is the worst and much of the activity seems to cease between about 11 and 3 pm while people wait for the sun to cool off. I try to get up with the sun and run errands early, but even so I have to be careful to put on sunscreen before I get dressed, otherwise my skin burns.
The school has a generator that provides power to the houses in my neighborhood between around 6 and 9 every night. Power lines were recently put in, and people keep saying that full-time electricity will come, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now, I find the evening to be plenty of time to charge my electronics so it’s not too much of a problem. Even if I am out, I know the exact moment when the power goes on because everyone switches on their stereos at full blast, making up for being forced into silence during the rest of the day. The bigger challenge is complete lack of cell phone service for several kilometers around. I’ve been told that if I walk la (an expression meaning “over there,” the length and pitch of the “ah” indicating the distance), I can find service, but I have yet to be successful in that endeavor. It will be interesting to observe the ways in which Estaquinha changes and develops over two years, as well as what stays the same.