Well Africa, I have arrived. After a rough string of (mostly) sleepless nights, 48+ hours of traveling, two cushy days in the capital city, and two weeks of already intense training, I am now sitting on the floor in my room in Namaacha, Mozambique. It’s a little cold on the cheeks, and completely spotless save for a few stray beads leftover from when this was Suzy, my 9-year-old host sister’s room. My piles of books and shoes have joined the beads on the floor since there aren’t many surfaces, but honestly my room is NICE. Check it out:
When we arrived in Namaacha, piled in our fancy chapas with Phil Collins on the radio, I had so many butterflies I thought I was going to be sick. We pulled into a meeting site and our host mãe’s were in a big circle, wearing their traditional capulanas and singing, holding our names on little pieces of paper. I found my mãe, Anabella, accepted an uncomfortable half-hug, and awkwardly followed her back to the casa while she carried my purse. (She joked that it must be full of rocks). The first day was hard. After a few brief attempts at conversation I realized my Spanish /Portuguese /Incoherent Babble mix was a completely inadequate form of communication. I have so much to learn. On top of that, I’m the 9th person to stay with my host family, so I feel a lot of pressure to bond with them and be memorable in some way. I don’t want to be just another mulungu that stayed with them and helped them pay the bills; I want them to like me! This is difficult considering all I want to do is lock myself in my room and study Portuguese, nap, or hang out with the other volunteers. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to sit down and have a nice conversation with my family. I just don’t have the vocabulary yet; and at the end of a long day I’m too tired to form coherent sentences. Luckily my Portuguese lessons are going well: I’ve already noticed significant improvements. Hopefully it won’t be long before I’m fofoccaring with my mãe about the vizinhos!
On another note, I already experienced my first Mozambican holiday! Last Friday was Dia da Paz, Day of Peace, and we didn’t have any classes. Instead, all the volunteers came with their families to the praça (like a town square) with fresh-cut flowers and branches. After lots of singing, dancing, and a few good speeches, we lined up to lay our flowers on the monument in the middle of the praça. It was pretty cool. We got there early, so I played some games with the crianças and snapped some fotos. The kids LOVE to take pictures. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone, but every time I have my camera out they swarm around me, asking to tirar uma foto. I can’t complain – they’re adorable.
As far as health and such goes, unfortunately I’ve already gotten sick. Figures. I lost my voice for a few days, got it back, and now I can’t smell or taste. The medical support we get here is wonderful, and I’m already on some meds to clear up whatever infection this is. In the meantime, it’s a little frustrating: I don’t know if I smell, I can’t taste any of the new foods my mãe wants me to try, and I’m just worried this problem is going to plague me wherever I go… (I don’t think I posted about it, but I had sinus surgery in August to clear up another bad infection and fix a deviated septum). Hopefully my meds will kick in ASAP. We’ll see!
So that’s all for now. I’m still in the early stages and most of my time is concentrated on learning Portuguese. Unfortunately communication with the U.S. has been last on the priority list (and the possibility list – I JUST got a phone and internet). I have a feeling that blog posts won’t happen very much during training, but once I get to site in December, expect to hear a lot more from me. Até logo amigos!