From Namaacha to Nampula, Trainee to Volunteer

 “An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks, or jumping off cliffs.  It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all that you meet along the way.”

I’m a bit behind in my blog posts due to shaky internet, so bear with me: these past few weeks have been busy!

After Model School, we were essentially done with training.  On Thursday (Thanksgiving), we had our model school celebration where we gave test results to our students, followed by language and skill tests to make sure we can make it in Moz.  I’m not sure I’ll ever have to explain to someone what a traditional healer does, but at least I can communicate in Portuguese! I’m excited to say that I got an Intermediate-High language level on the test.  There is still a lot of room for improvement, but considering how I came in with nothing, I am pretty happy.

On Friday we woke up bright and early to start Thanksgiving preparations.  I headed over to Cara’s house to help make makeshift green bean casserole.  We were working with the mashed potato people and using ingredients found in Mozambique.  We also were partially cooking on charcoal stoves, since we only had a few burners.  It was definitely interesting, but turned out a lot better than we expected.  At 2 (an hour late) we made our way to the English hub and met up with the other groups.  Our country director and other PC staff joined us, and we feasted on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, apple crisp, cornbread, biscuits, baked beans, and pumpkin and pecan pie! It was delicious, and we even had leftovers, which is surprising looking at how many people were there and how much some of them ate!

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Pumpkin AND Pecan Pies!

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Our Green Bean Casserole

The next day we had yet another celebration: Homestay Celebration, or Festa das Familias, with our host families.  My mãe was super excited and had been talking all week about the 65 chickens they had gotten (and then killed, plucked, and cooked) to feed us.  On the day of the celebration, she left early to go help prepare food.  I made my way there around 11.  My mãe presented me with a capulana that matched the one the other trainees were wearing (they all had gotten the same one) and we went to sit under the shaded pavilion for the ceremony.

First, there was a performance by the dance group that we had seen in our first week, joined by Dione, Caitlin, Thelma, Tania, and Erin.  Afterwards, a PC staff member gave a speech, and one of the mães gave a speech on behalf of the families.  Next, Jordy gave a speech on behalf of the trainees.  Finally, they presented each family with a certificate.  My mãe sent my host sister up to receive ours.  Afterwards, we ate (a lot), danced, had some cake, and celebrated with our families.  I got the chance to hold a lot of adorable children too, and got some great pictures!

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Me and my host sister

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Me and my mãe

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That night Namaacha was hit by a pretty bad storm.  Trees were ripped up, power lines were down, a few people’s roofs even flew off in the storm.  The mood the next day was grim.  Many of us made our way to the hub to meet up and check on everyone.  On Monday when we went for a run, there were still power lines down across the street.  It was interesting: there was power because they had patched up the power lines, but they hadn’t put them back up, so they were still lying in the road.  It will definitely take a little while for Namaacha to recover though.

We left Namaacha on Tuesday morning, bright and early.  All of us had been denying that it was coming, and were especially thrown off when given 2 hours to pack during a lunch break, but we got everything packed and sent to Maputo in the truck.  On Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:00 and took my last bucket bath and ate my last breakfast in Namaacha.  I gave gifts to my mãe and host sister: a flashlight, since the power often goes out in Namaacha and my mãe only has her phone, and an umbrella, since my sister said that she hates rain because she has nothing to keep her dry.  I also gave them some candy and a letter in which I attempted to express my gratitude in Portuguese.  My mãe told me I was blessed, as I had never been sick, and that she thought there were great things in my future.   Although it was very difficult at first living with a host family (and especially not being able to communicate), I am so grateful in the end that I have been able to have this experience.  It definitely gave me a much better understanding of Mozambican culture and improved my Portuguese.  Plus, I have a new family in Namaacha which will always welcome me.

My mãe walked me to the hub and saw me off.  Some of the others were there with their mães, waiting in their Swear In capulana clothes in front of the rented chapas.  We were all quite the sight in our matching clothes and piles of baggage.  We boarded the chapas and took off, picking the rest of the crew up on the way.  Around 9am, we got to the Peace Corps office, which, about to be real volunteers (and not just trainees) we were finally allowed to enter!

The office was pretty neat.  It has a big map of Mozambique with pictures of every PCV and a string attaching them to their site.  There is also a library and lounge where we were able to hang out.  We got our bankcards, and then headed over to the U.S. Ambassador’s house for Swearing In.  It was huge! The house had probably 3-4 stories and a pool and trampoline in the backyard.  It also had a beautiful view of the ocean.  I never made it inside (the ceremony was in the back), but I imagine it’s beautiful.

The ceremony was partially in Portuguese, partially in English.  We sang the Mozambican and American national anthems, Carl (the country director) spoke, Sienna (one of us) spoke, the ambassador spoke, and then we took the oath to become official volunteers!  This was followed by lots of picture taking, eating small hors d’oeuvres, and relaxing.  After an hour or so, we were ushered back to the PC office to put our own pictures up on the map, and then taken to our respective hotels (we were separated by region: north, central, and south).

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All of us after Swearing In

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Proof that we were at the Ambassador’s house

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The Manhiça Crew

So now I can say that I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer.  What does this mean?  Well, I have to pay for packages.  I get my picture on the wall and can enter the PC office.  I am held more responsible for independent work.  I get to live on my own.  I am earning vacation days.  I’m sure it means a whole lot of other things, which I will discover over the next two years.  Sadly, it also means I had to say goodbye to a lot of awesome people, at least for a while.

While it has been frustrating at times living in “American summer camp” training in Namaacha, I can’t deny that it’s been great having such a support system around me all the time and getting to know everyone so well.  A lot of the PCVs with me in my group are amazing people, and it was so difficult to say goodbye after that.  We met up one last time as a group in Maputo the night of Swearing In, all of us soaking wet from having arrived in the rain.  Rayna, Sienna, Justin, Nick, and I had just gotten back from an eventful trip to Café do Sol which involved taking a super crowded chapa in a loop around Maputo and then walking back partially in the looming thunderstorm before splurging on a cab.  We were pretty wet from running out of the cab and around the corner, but it was nothing compared to some of the people who ran 10 minutes from their hotel to meet with everyone one last time, soaking wet.  I stayed for a bit, making the rounds and chatting with everyone, before saying goodbye, at least for a year, to lots of awesome people.  I was doing so well too until Sarah started crying, and then I lost it.  It made me feel so great though to have people who it was so hard to say goodbye to.  I definitely have a great support system already, only 10 weeks in!

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Just a few of the people I’m going to miss!

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We’re so far apart 😦

At 4:30am the next morning we gathered to fly north to Nampula.  After some hassle getting enough room in the chapas, we eventually made it to the airport, checked in our baggage, said one last quick goodbye to the central people who were already there, and headed off.  We landed in Nampula around 8:30am.  It was a really cool city to fly into because there are a bunch of random large rock formations that are just sticking out of the ground.  It also seems a bit more tropical than Maputo, being hotter with more palm trees.  We collected our baggage and loaded up, then headed to the hotel.

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Off to the hotel in Nampula!

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What Niassa has to offer 🙂

The next two days were our Supervisors Conference.  We met our school directors (or in our case, the random tech guy that our school sent in place of the director), made rudimentary plans for the first two weeks, and bought things we needed to bring to site, like our stoven (stove + oven).  It all was very busy and passed in a blur, and before we knew it, we were off to Cuamba, once again saying goodbye.  It was definitely both a tough and exciting week—the end of training and the beginning of service—but it marks a transition from preparing us for this life to actually starting what we came here for, and I am so excited for all that is to come!

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Portuguese word of the day: Mala/pasta/baggagem are all ways to say bag or suitcase.

French word of the day: Partir, which means to leave 😦

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