I think Halloween fell at an appropriate time for us here in Moz. We’ve reached the one month in country mark and are about halfway through training. Luckily some arrangements were made so we could have a Halloween party at Casa Grande. We needed it too. There has been some tension in the air lately as we approach our first big language proficiency exams and cliques are becoming more defined. A diversity session yesterday afternoon got some tempers flared and feelings hurt. Looking back at diversity training in the college setting I remember similar outcomes but this is a group of 71 very different, very strong, very forward people so it’s exaggerated a bit. We’ll all get through it and be fine but it’s a delicate situation at the moment.
Anyway, back to the party! As every child in the States knows, Halloween is a time for costumes, creativity, pranks and candy. That concept is quite foreign here. I tried to explain it to my sister as we walked to the market the other night but the idea of children dressing up as characters, animals and scary things so they can run around and ask strangers for candy was lost on her. I think I described it quite well but I wish I’d had a camera to capture the look on her face. Last weekend a group of us went into Matola for some pizza, shopping and a break from Namaacha. As we walked through the gloriousness that is Shop-Rite, we tried to figure out costumes using what little Moz has to offer in that department. By chance, Meagan and I found these glow stick mouse ears and thus Minnie and Mickey Mouse were created. Our glowing ears were a hit and made it easy for us to find each other all night! I was super impressed with the creativity in the group. We had a loofah, a couple chapa drivers complete with cardboard cars, some Fanta girls, hula dancers, the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and a whole language group came as a cow with a butcher leading it to slaughter. It was amazing. We danced and talked and reconnected and then went out afterwards to continue the night. For the first time since I got here I was not in bed before 10pm. I actually ended up crawling in through my window at around 11:30 as a miscommunication left my family thinking I was staying somewhere else and me coming home to a locked door. I’m such a rebel!
But I woke up this morning after another vivid, malaria prophylaxis induced dream and was slightly overwhelmed by emotion. At first my dreams were always about being in the U.S., with friends and family, back in Wilmington as an RA. They have slowly transitioned into U.S. settings with Peace Corps people and finally very clear Moz situations complete with Portuguese. But last night’s was a combination of it all. I remember traveling with my family around what was supposed to be my site here in Moçambique; there were other volunteers and definitely some Portuguese being used. And I mean my entire family was there: mom and Marv, dad and Mary, Jesse and his lovely crew, my cousin Rhonda, my uncle Steve and even my Granny was there at one point. The exact details have already started to fade but I clearly remember hearing Rhonda on the phone telling someone that she was at my PC site and that she had lost a shoe to the mud. I wake up from dreams like that with a heavy heart; missing my family, wishing I could just get up and easily communicate all my thoughts with the people around me. There haven’t been as many of those mornings lately, but I imagine there are more to come.
As this one month mark approached I have had a lot of “holy crap I’m in Africa moments”. Sometimes they happen as I walk down the road to the market or sit and study outside in the yard. Moments when I’m reminded of the beauty and friendliness of this country. Sometimes they’re a little more harsh. Like on our return trip from Matola when we were temporarily stuck in Boane as the sun began to set and there weren’t any chapas to Namaacha in sight. Or when we finally found one and shared it with a record breaking 24 people. The most memorable moment thus far is when a masked, hissing man jumped out of the shadows on my road and scared the shit out of me. Don’t worry, I had a friend walking me home, he remained calm and the guy didn’t do anything but slink back into the darkness. The results may have been different had I been alone, although I think he just wanted to scare passerbys, but there was a moment of fear and uneasiness as I realized I couldn’t call 911 or even reason with the guy had he wanted to rob me. Don’t get me wrong though, I feel very safe hear and think that as long as I’m making green-light decisions (thanks Larry Wray) I won’t have any serious incidents. There are just those times when you realize you are completely out of your element and at the mercy of Moçambique.
So we are about two weeks away from learning our placements and four weeks away from being sworn in as real Peace Corps Volunteers. Our tech sessions are starting to focus on lesson planning and we’ll be having model school in a couple weeks. By December 6th or 7th I’ll be at site and come February I’ll be teaching my own classes in Portuguese. I think we are all ready to cook for ourselves, to not have a family watching our every move but at the same time it’s safe and comfortable here. There are 70 other Americans within a 30min walk of me and I know I could call or find anyone of them if I needed anything. In a month I may have one site/roommate and be a several hour chapa ride away from the next closest PCV. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. And for someone who enjoys emotional stability it’s a challenge. But as the PC posters say: it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever love.
Beautiful World – Dierks Bentley and Patty Griffin