Site Visits: Manhiça

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” –Susan Sontag

Well, we’re officially past the half-way part of our training.  Somebody said the other week, “one month down, 26 to go!”  It made me remember my resolution in France: I am going to try not to fall into this dangerous trap of counting down!  So one month (but really, 6 weeks) in.  My Portuguese is coming along, I am comfortable riding a Chapa by myself, and I still have not killed a chicken.  I have, however, gotten to travel a bit outside of Namaacha.

Last Sunday Dione, James, and I left for site visits to visit current volunteers and get an idea of what an actual site was like.  When I first found out my site, I was disappointed; I’m not going to lie.  My dreams of flying to the far north of Mozambique (which, by the way, is twice the length of California) were dashed when I found out I would be going to Manhiça, a town less than 2 hours from Namaacha.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would save me the long 6+ hour Chapa rides squished in with goats or the lack of sleep before class due to late-arriving planes.  Instead, we boarded a Peace Corps van at 5am and headed off to Maputo where we were helped onto a Chapa to Manhiça that we would only have to endure for about 45 minutes.  We got off at Imap, the site of the IFP (teacher training college) about ten minutes from town.  We were greeted by Shay and Annie, both experienced volunteers.  They brought us into the school, which had the feel of a small university, and showed us our living space, which was an abandoned “guest” teacher apartment.  It was awesome and a lot of space, but it was also filled with cockroaches, both alive and dead.  As disgusted as I was the first night, it’s amazing how quickly you can get used to cockroaches.

On the first day, we wandered around the town of Manhiça.  Shay and Annie are both very involved in the development of a sewing school in town, which is a fairly common way of making a living in Mozambique.  Here it is common to buy a long cloth called a capulana—which can be used for a towel/blanket/floor mat: you name it!—and have it turned into an article of clothing.  The capulanas are mostly brightly colored and/or in fun patterns, so you can really be creative with them.  Shay was getting some pants made from capulanas while we were there.  The teenage boy working on them has actually been running the school since his father died.  The school is also where they hold English and Health classes at night for the community.  Their latest project is the development of a bathroom in the back, which includes a lot of digging.

Next we stopped by the music school, another project they are helping.  The music teacher was very energetic and had two of his students, 12 year old girls, there dancing for us.  They were amazing! Definitely much better at dancing than I am… He explained how he is teaching them to dance and read music and play instruments, and is hoping to get the primary schools involved next year since music is not an element in primary schools.  He was so passionate, and it was great to see how interested the girls were!  We spent the rest of the afternoon at a bar called Café Fresco that is up on the hills overlooking the nearby sugarcane plantation.  They have amazing burgers.

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The next day we left at 6am to try to go to the beach.  Someone said it was about a 2 hour walk, but we quickly found out that was not true.  After catching a chapa down the road and walking a bit, we were able to belay (hitchhike) to the school on the grounds of the sugarcane plantation with a woman dropping her kids off at school.  There were 6 people in the car when we got in, so we squeezed all 5 of us into the trunk.  When we tried to get out about 10 minutes later, we found the door was stuck due to a backpack buckle.  We were able to get out over the seats, but had to cut that strap on the backpack and leave their trunk jammed.  What really surprised me was that they apologized for having to cut the backpack, even though their door being jammed was probably a bigger problem!

We began walking and were soon surrounded by a group of Mozambiquan women gossiping about us in Chengagna, the local language.  They found us very amusing, especially when Annie used some of the chengagna she’d learnt to talk to them.  As we walked through the sugarcane plantation (literally right through it), people continued to gawk, wave, and be amused by us.  We were able to belay 2 more rides, one to the river where the hippos come out at night, and one to the edge of the plantation.  Afterwards, we walked along a somewhat muddy road for about an hour where we saw a boy who began screaming and crying at the sight of us.  A nice older man pointed us in the direction of the beach saying, it’s not far.

We turned at one point and mistakenly wandered into someone’s yard.  When we asked where the beach was, she also said it wasn’t far and sent her kids to show us the way.  As we walked through the town, we slowly accumulated more and more children who were excitedly running along beside us.  They were pretending to be monkeys in the trees and guiding us along the sand dunes, motivating us to keep going.  We got to the beach about an hour later, but it was completely worth the entire 4-hour travel time (though I’m not sure it would have been worth an 8-hour walk had we not belayed…).  The beach was entirely deserted aside from us and a man fishing way off in the distance.  The children raced into the water and we set our stuff down and got in too.  The water was very relaxing, especially once you got past the choppiest part of the waves, and I can now say I’ve swum in 3 oceans!  And that I got stung by a jellyfish!

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Climbing the Sand Dunes with the hoard of African Crianças (Children)

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Basically untouched…

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Me, James, and Dione

After a few hours, we realized that the nearest barraca (small store) was probably about an hour and a half back and walked back.  While sitting outside the store, we heard a car coming and beckoned.  The man happened to be going our way and had air-conditioning, which is a luxury here in Mozambique! We had a nice (and much shorter) ride back into Manhiça where we could get some frango.  That night we went to a tutoring session with the students, who are preparing for exams.  They were very interested and asked a lot of questions.  It’s making me excited to begin teaching!

On the third day we hitched a ride with Annie’s friend and rode to Maputo where we visited the famous Café Do Sol (they have burritos!) and the art market where I was able to hone my bargaining skills.  We also ran into a former PCV from 2 years ago who is currently living in Maputo/Durbin, South Africa and is getting her masters slash working as a study abroad coordinator.  It was definitely cool seeing someone still here and continuing what she started as a volunteer here!

That night we went back to Café Fresco to hang out.  I took out my sketchpad and began drawing a child who had been lurking in the trees nearby. Before I knew it, I had kids surrounding me and sitting next to me, asking to be drawn.  Even though I’m not really good, they were all so entertained by watching me try to draw their friend! It was definitely a good way to meet some of the locals! We also got to talking with a few other people from the town and the area.  Seeing how well the volunteers were integrated into their community made me excited to go to my own site and meet new people and start new projects.

Yesterday we headed back to Namaacha, which was kind of sad since it had been such an awesome trip.  Heading back though, I definitely realized that, although I am ready to go off to site and start working, there are things I am going to miss, such as the winding roads through and view of the mountains, my Mãe berating me for not calling her, and my nice open space here.  I will also miss my host sister, who has been great for advice and helped me get my first capulana dress made!  (I’m almost convinced to just redo my entire wardrobe…)  At the same time, I’m getting really excited to be in a new place and to be able to travel.  Those who have talked to me for long periods of time know that I am itching to see the world and that I want to go anywhere and everywhere.  I can’t wait to establish myself in a community somewhere else, but also to be able to explore and get to know a new area.  I’m going to enjoy these last 3-4 weeks of training and hopefully use that time to explore around Namaacha, and I’ll find out about my site placement next week!

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My Capulana Dress!

Portuguese word of the day: Escola (school)

Changana word  of the day: Lishile (don’t know how to spell it, but it’s pronounced le-she-lee and means good morning in the local language of southern Mozambique)

French word of the day: Ecole (school)

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