Where We Live Series: Starting Tomorrow

Mozambique is about twice the size of California and has Peace Corps Volunteers scattered throughout it. From the rural desert site of Mabalane, Gaza to the urban beach town on Maxixe, Inhambane, our living situations vary drastically. From not having any accessible water to having a washing machine in a three bedroom apartment, our living situations drastically shape our Peace Corps experience and our daily activities.

Current RPCV, Peace Corps Trainee, casual passerbyer, or someone interested in applying to the Peace Corps, hopefully these explorations into the lives of current volunteers will give you a little idea of how we live and spend our two years serving in Mozambique. This country has a variety of cultural and experiential differences that will shine through as each person shares a bit on his or her site. You will see what we are doing, how we live, and the people we call friends around us.

Every Saturday we will dive into the life of a current Peace Corps Volunteer’s. Tomorrow we will begin the Saturday series with the girls from the Cateme, Tete.

For a little taste of the series, check out some of my friends that have already written theirs below. For future reference, you will be able to find the series under the Peace Corps Life tab. Have fun exploring Mozambique through the eyes of volunteers.

The Matts (Matt and Matthew) – Nacuxa, Nampula

Jessica and Olivia – Machipanda, Manica

Just a peak into tomorrow's post

Just a peak into tomorrow’s post

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A Long Way From Home

A cool breeze, no power, and a nice book was the perfect day as I lay in my hammock sinking into a foreign world. So entranced in the plot, I hardly recognized that someone was trying to talk to me. “Hello” she kept repeating. As I peered out of my hammock, I saw a fifteen or sixteen year old girl staring back at me in front of my veranda. “Como está?” (How are you?) I instinctively responded. She met my question with a look of fear and confusion spread across her face. After a conversation in very broken English, I discovered that she was from Tanzania, did not speak Portuguese, and had nowhere to go. She was lost, looking for some help, and willing to do anything to get it.

We walked to the priest on my compound to look for some guidance. After I explained to him what was going on, we realized that neither of us what going to be able to effectively communicate with her. He called on the only other person in the compound: the cook. The lost girl finally was able to catch a break as we discovered that the cook and the girl both spoke Chichewa. Through the cook’s translation, we learned of her story.IMG_1403

The girl had lived in Malawi when she met a man from Mozambique. One thing led to another, and they began dating. As things tend to be at the beginning of relationships, everything was going along smoothly. However, there was a hiccup; the man had to return to Mozambique. As they were parting farewell he told her to meet him in Milange, Mozambique (a border town with Malawi where I happen to live). His promises of a brighter future and marriage encouraged her to muster everything she had to get to Mozambique. Leaving everything behind and having faith that everything would work out, she began her journey.

However as you have probably put the pieces together by now, she arrived in Mozambique to no man, no home, and no marriage. She was alone in a foreign country without anyone or any way to get back home and somehow came across us.IMG_1404

As we were figuring out what to do and making arrangements for the girl, the cook told me that the this type of deceit often comes to an end in border towns like mine; she said that the girl was beyond fortunate to have stumbled into the compound that she did because often these situations often end tragically for the girls. The cook continued on to say, too often men will go into a foreign country and exploit the local women, promise more than they plan on keeping, and destroy innocence.

Reflecting back on this situation, the truth of it was not easy to swallow, but unfortunately this is a reality for many girls across the world. Although this girl is now living with other girls on the nun’s compound, many other girls throughout the world are not fortunate enough to have this luxury.

 

If you feel like checking out more information about what ends up happening to these girls in the human and sex trafficking field, here are some organizations you can check out that are doing something about it:

Human Rights Watch

International Justice Mission

Polaris Project

Faces of Mozambique: Orronzo

Orronzo Afonso Clemente

Orronzo Afonso Clemente

Name: Orronzo Afonso Clemente

Age: 26 years old

Location: Milange, Zambezia, Mozambique

Languages: Portuguese and Txuabo

Background:

Orronzo and I did not have one of those friendships that burst out of a great story; we slowly got to know each other because we were neighbors. It slowly turned into us hanging out everyday, sharing cultural differences, joking around, and then discussing topics that are not even easy to talk about in English: absolute truth, effective development strategies, and how to deal with cultural norms that may be detrimental to a community.

Orronzo would be someone that would come over to my place for no apparent reason, but we always found ourselves talking until dusk descended upon us. These long conversations have been some of the most meaningful that I have had in Mozambique thus far and one’s that I have cherished.

Unfortunately for me and fortunately for him, he has adventured onward to Maputo (the capital) to continue his studies. Although he is far away we still keep in touch and continue to remain good friends. These questions were answered on the eve of his departure and show that he has a true goal and path in mind on how he wants to live his life.

If you have any questions for him feel free to leave them in the comment box, and I will make sure to let you know what he says. Enjoy.

“Why do you want to be a priest?”

I want to be a priest to help people in the spiritual aspects and moral aspects of life.

“What is the most difficult part of studying to be a priest?”

First thing is that it takes a long time to become a priest. Secondly, many candidates want to be a priest. There is a special path and a particular lifestyle that one must fall into; however, many seem to adventure down this road. It is difficult for the Catholic Church to select who should be a priest and who should not.

The other difficulty is the difficulty of finances. The necessities are supposed to be given by the congregation that you are going to serve. However, it is difficult because many times the congregation does not have the means to finance a priest, and most often that congregation cannot do it on time.

Also just for clarification, there is a difference between priests and missionaries; I want to be a priest. The priests have more of an impact in the community because they are in touch with the local people, but the missionaries more than likely follow just the laws. Missionaries come in with their background; they have not lived, grown up, and spent most of their life in the community. They do not understand how to properly foster relationships with the people here because they are too busy thinking in a mindset of wherever they are from. Also, each local congregation has individual needs that are not always met.

“What is your favorite part about studying to be a priest?”

Philosophy.

“Who are your favorite philosophers?”

Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Hobbes.

“What is your favorite book?”

Right and Reason by Rev. Fr. Austin Fagothey

“What is your favorite part of Mozambique?”

Quelimane and Inhassunge. Inhassunge because I was born there. I have a lot of friends that still live there. I spent a little bit of my childhood in Quelimane with my grandparents, so it is special to me.

“If you could visit any country in the world, which would it be?”

The US in the world; in Africa, I would like to visit Angola and South Africa. Angola would be easier because they speak Portuguese as well, and South Africa is the United States of Africa. However, it is more realistic that I visit the provinces in Mozambique. It is expensive to travel, and I will not have the resources. However in Mozambique, I would like to visit Nampula. But more than anything, I would like to visit the United States; it is a dream of mine to get there one day.

“If you were given a million dollars, what would you do?”

I would start off by forming myself and getting a good degree. Education is the first thing to helping people in need. Many people need help, especially in Mozambique, and I will not be able to help without knowing how to execute things properly. Things are not always done properly here, so it is more important to do something right and take time doing it than just doing something quickly because there is a need. That is where corruption comes into play.

My dream would be to open up a place for handicap people and displaced people to live and live productive lives. Many people have lost their parents in the war, and they have lost many possibilities because of this misfortune. They are on the road begging for money, and their lifestyle is morbid each day. Furthermore, these people are discriminated against because they have no one to go to; Mozambique is a very familial country, and one usually follows in their parents footsteps. Most people here accept to this as a part of life, you do what your parents did, because there is nothing else for them to do. The unknown if often too intimidating.

With this home for these people, I would like to teach people the way to get out of poverty. I truly believe that all people have the chance to get out of whatever their current situation is. Too many people just get stuck in what they are doing or what is expected of them; they have lost hope and don’t see a future. I want to give people hope in anything that I can do.

First Time with Selfie Stick

First Time with Selfie Stick

 

Reflection:

Orronzo is certainly an idealist. However with all of the apathy in Mozambique, the people need someone that has ideas for a brighter tomorrow. He is determined to get something done; when he was talking about helping people out he was getting so excited that he was lifting out of his chair to make sure everything was written down. As he continued to speak, you could see his face lighting up at the potential of something doing something in the future. He can see a brighter future and wants to get there. I certainly know that he is smart enough to get things done; the only question is if everything will be able to come together.

How To: Cut Grass

Yes. We have grass. I am sure it will be as shocking to as many Americans as it is to the other Peace Corps Mozambique Volunteers. Zambézia, the province where I live, is a lush wonderland this is full of glorious mountains, tea fields, and green landscape. The beauty does come with the small price of having to cut your grass, and during the rainy season the grass gets knee high in a matter of a week or two. Without lawnmowers and usually no grazing animals, Mozambicans have a tool of their own.

The Faca - Mozambican tool for cutting grass

The Faca – Mozambican tool for cutting grass

Like most other Mozambican tools, there is an abundance of manpower that goes into cutting the grass. You mix in a little manpower, sweat, finesse, and time and you will be done in no time.

1. Have grass that needs to be cut. This may be difficult for some of the South Provinces of Mozambique.Cutting Grass 1

2. Have a volunteer and a tool

Cutting Grass 2

3. Hold the faca back and swing at the ground at a twenty-degree downward angle.

Cutting Grass 3 Cutting Grass 3.5

4. Follow through the grass with the faca. Discard the grass behind you as you finish your follow-through.

Cutting Grass 4

5. Bring the faca back to its original position and repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of the grass is cut.

Cutting Grass 5

You should now have a fairly manicured looking space. Give yourself a big pat on the back and go inside and get yourself a cool glass of water. Actually it will probably be difficult to be cold since you probably don’t have a fridge.

 

Thoughts:

After cutting grass for a little bit, I actually found it rather amusing. The swoosh of the blade through the grass was relaxing. However, my experience was completely voluntary and did not last very long. This task would be significantly more tiring and backbreaking if done consistently for a long duration of time.

During my experience, the man featured in the picture and another person on my compound were laughing hysterically. After they caught their breath they reassured me that it wasn’t because I was doing it horrifically wrong, but they had never seen a white person do anything like cut the grass before. It looks like we will all get to chalk this one up as a new experience.

Transportation throughout Mozambique

Have you ever gotten into a car and felt like you are going to die? If not, than keep on doing whatever you are doing; if so, welcome to traveling in Mozambique.

Now don’t get me wrong; I do not feel this way every time I hop into a car. However, with the high prevalence of drinking and driving, extreme exhaustion, and lack of car maintenance for years, Mozambique has a serious problem with some of its drivers. Luckily there is always a choice to get in the vehicle or not, and there are plenty of vehicles to choose from.

The chapa is the Scooby-Doo Vehicles that hasn’t had an inspection since I stopped watching it in the 90s. The Mystery Machine holds true to its name with the magical amount of people, animals, and breastfeeding children than can be crammed in. Once inside the vehicle expect all extremities to go numb within thirty minutes. If you thought you have been in a tight spot before, think again, and for you taller folks out there, expect your knees to hit you in the face consistently as the drive rampages along the bumpy, unpaved roads.  You are likely to be the entertainment for everyone in the car; if it is not for your knees being up to your ears, it is funny enough to them that a foreign would choose to travel in one of these death traps. If that description is not enough to sell you on it, this beautiful ride is guaranteed to get you to your destination in the most time possible with the least amount of comfort. Welcome to the chapa – the most common transportation throughout Mozambique.

The Beautiful Chapa

The Beautiful Chapa

People sit where the clutter is

People sit where the clutter is

At least 4 or 5 to a row

At least 4 or 5 to a row

The “My Love” chapa is just as romantic as it sounds. “Everybody love everybody!” Without hugging your neighbor in the scorching heat, you are sure to slip out of the bouncing pick up; everyone is a team looking to stay in the truck. It is not a bad experience except when your hands fall onto the wrong part of the caravan; if your hand finds it way anywhere close to one of the many chickens in the truck, you are likely to be that chicken’s last chance at survival. It will peck at you as if you are personally offending it. With all of this close nature, “My Love” shows the love and trust of Mozambicans with a nice breeze and hopefully not too much rain.

My Love Chapa

Can you spot the chicken?

The machibombom is the Greyhound of Mozambique. You are guaranteed to maybe get a seat but certainly have “leg room” in front of you. These busses are a straight-shot to your destination and have a bathroom break every hour. The luxury machibomboms sometimes have at least one working television in the middle of the isle; this television, if it is not blocked by someone’s head, will certainly be playing the worst kung-fu movie you have ever seen. If this blood ridden, Portuguese dubbed action movie is not sufficient for your entertainment, you will have at least a couple of drunk people making a fool of themselves. If you get lucky and hit jackpot, then that person will be your neighbor and you will get to hear the screaming in your ear the entire ride. With all of these luxuries, it is hard to deny that the machibombom is a not well-oiled machine full of activity. However, you should not expect to grab one unless you are traveling on the main highway.Machibombom Outside

Looks like we have an aspiring model

Looks like we have an aspiring model

The semi truck, 18-wheeler, or camão, whatever you want to call it is a common and often cheaper alternative to a chapa or machibombom. I’m sure the picture that settles in your mind consists of the comfort of the seat next to the driver. Ha! If only that were the case. Allow your mind to go more towards a vagabond lifestyle on top of whatever cargo the truck is carrying. While you may worry about the climb to the top, the view once up there is beyond being in any car. Once you are on top, you have the paradise of a nice breeze and enough room to stretch out and lie down. You should lay back, close your eyes, and imagine slightly choppy waves aboard a Caribbean cruise ship.

On top of the truck

On top of the truck

The boleia. Of course there has to be an option that puts all the parents’ minds at rest. The literal translation of a boleia is a ride, but it most closely resembles hitchhiking. I know a red flag goes up as soon as someone in the States hears hitchhiking. However, with all of the problems and accidents related to public transport here, there is no better option; furthermore, it is Peace Corps recommended for the northern part of the country. When you are used to sweaty, stuffy, animal filled cars, a personal car is a sweet sigh of relief. If you are lucky, you may have the incredible blessing of air conditioning and someone that speaks English. From the time the car pulls over to when you get out, you better be counting your lucky stars because the boleia is the best ride you that you could have in Mozambique.

The stories of traveling range long and far from having someone die in the chapa seat next to you to having help push a chapa through knee high water. Though the choices may sound bleak, the sites of Mozambique are well worth any troubles along the way. After all, sometimes the adventure lies in the traveling, not always the destination.