As I sit down to write these entries I always wish I was better with words. The things I experience, see, hear, taste are all so unique and new. I want to be able to put them into words to share with others as well for me to remember down the road. But really no words, or even pictures, can truly describe the past eight weeks of my life. I still find it hard to believe that I’m actually here. I get so wrapped up in the day to day activities that technically I could be doing anywhere that sometimes I forget I’m not in the States. And then I remember that I’m teaching in Portuguese and that my lessons are based around African biomes and the mutualistic relationship between a pico-boi (a type of bird) and a boi (a steer). Or I see a young woman with a baby strapped to her back with a capulana and a bundle of wood balanced on her head. It’s really an indescribable feeling but I’ll try my best over the next couple years to give everyone an idea of what it’s like.
Take this weekend for an example. After the craziness of the first week of model school and site placement, we had a long weekend free. With the help of current PCVs, most of us went out to Bilene for a little beach relaxation. We had big houses, running water and actual showers, and spoke very little Portuguese. It was incredibly easy to forget where exactly this beach town was located. Friday night we drank, danced and socialized just like you would in any college town across America but then someone would come up and ask what province you were placed in and the conversation would turn to who has access to what and how long it takes to get from point A to point B in a chapa. As I swam in the lagoon the next day I drifted back to all those Outer Banks vacations with my Uncle Steve, my beach bum college years and lazy weekends away from Don Lee. And then I would look around and remember that this was Indian Ocean water and not Wrightsville Beach. A mix of amazement and sadness washes over me every time because I am so happy to be right where I am but I miss my family and friends and wish they could be here to see everything as well. On the bus ride back to Namaacha this afternoon I stared out the window at the most beautiful scenery of savanna, grass houses, road side markets and children playing with homemade toys. Then there’s the woman working in her machamba answering her cell phone and I realize I’m not quite as isolated as I think. It’s an odd combination of rustic living, abject poverty and modern conveniences that I still haven’t quite gotten my head around. You’re family may not have running water, a car, a refrigerator or a stove but everyone over 15 has a cell phone.
Everyone has been comparing what they know about their sites determining who has pizza and ice cream, who’s near the beach or the mountains and who is too mato (in the bush, very remote) to have cell service. My friend Meagan will be in a big city on the water with access to everything you could possibly want while Hannah is headed toward the mato of Tete Province without electricity. Meagan says she’s not going to get the quintessential “Africa experience” but obviously there are people that live that same modern way or she wouldn’t be needed there. Since we will all live at the level of our community everyone’s “Africa experience” is going to be different based on where they’re posted. Of course I would have loved to have been put at the beach, but I am stoked to be in the mountains with more mild weather and a plethora of reserves. I like the idea of being at my school but hope the rest of the community is nearby. I’m crossing my fingers for internet access or these posts will become fewer and further between. I’ve decided that I am fine going without soda for the next two years so long as I’ve got chocolate and/or ice cream around. I’m excited to be opening a new site, even though replacing someone means lots of hand-me-down household items, because this house can be whatever Mona and I want and there isn’t the reputation of a previous volunteer to compete with. I imagine the roller coaster of emotions is only just starting and that I will proceed through every possible one in the coming months and years but right now I am happy and anxious and ready for this next step of the journey.
I Can´t Wait - Ryan Montbleau Band