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The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

One Year Later


Hi everyone!


Its been a while.

In fact, it has been exactly one year to the day that I “got my R,” which means that I officially got to call myself a returned peace corps volunteer (RPCV) instead of simply a peace corps volunteer (PCV). Its kinda a big deal. At least to the people in country still having massive pizza cravings. I thought that you might want to know a little bit about what has been going on in Cookie-town, and maybe even with me this past year.

I started out my life as a returned PCV by getting onto a plane and flying to….Morrocco. Sorry Mom! Pam and I had an amazing adventure seeing some of the beautiful sights and cities. We went shopping in a bazar, explored some Roman ruins, walked through a mountain side city, rode camels through the Sahara (I managed to fall off. Yes, it hurt), visited a local PCV, got sick from eating too many apricots (worth it), went to a beach on the Mediterranean, and even got to visit some filming locations from Game of Thrones (which is exciting to approximately no one but us). Overall, an astounding adventure.


They let you touch the ruins :)

The offending caramel
Khalessi was here!

And then Pam went back to cookie town to do even more astounding things. 

Remember that library project that you helped me out with? Well, Books for Kids Africa expanded the project, and Pam completely went all out. There is now a whole tutoring program at the elementary school library. High school students who have been taught how to be tutors are now teaching elementary school students to read Portuguese. I wish I could share with you how much it means but it would simply devolve into adjectives and capital letters. To put it simply, future PCVs teaching secondary school will be much more effective when their students can speak and read Portuguese. 





Not only did she run this tutoring project, she also ran the local AND provincial science fairs.  


In other news, Pam is a super hero. And she got her “R” yesterday! And now she is coming home. I'm so excited to get to see her again!
 
Speaking of home, I now present some frequently asked questions from my return:

How are you?
I was awesome. Then not so much. But I’m pretty good now. Coming back is complicated.

What are you doing with your life?
I’m currently living in Norfolk, Virginia studying Medical Laboratory Science. I finish up on December third!

So….what is Medical Laboratory Science?
You know how there is a nice person who draws your blood, and a nice doctor who tells you what is wrong? There is a middle man who takes that blood, runs a bunch of tests, and gives the results to the doctor. I will be that middle man. 

Did you start crying the first time you saw a cereal aisle in the grocery store?
Surprisingly no. I really expected this to happen. Though in my own defense I have not actually bought cereal since I came back.

Aren’t you glad you came back before Ebola? 
  1.  EBOLA IS NOT IN MOZAMBIUQE. The whole of Europe is closer to ebola then my friends.
       2.   Though if Ebola did somehow reach Moz, the results would be devastating. And that is very scary.
Though it has been interesting attempting to talk to people about how a virus like Ebola thrive in the third world due to just enough infrastructure to allow that virus to travel but not enough to be able to contain it. 

How are Thelma/Adelino/your puppy?
Everyone is actually do really well! Thelma is continuing to go to school, and Adelino is living in the city and going to University to become a teacher. I am extremely proud of him! The puppy, after a slight health scare, is also quite happy.

Then there is my least favorite question. One that I thankfully haven’t been asked many times:
Did you love it?
No. Yes. Maybe? It is such an outstanding complicated question. Those of you that have read this blog know how up and down my entire experience was. Yes, I loved watching the faces of my students as they learned, and did well at English theater competition. I didn’t love seeing the face of poverty and the diseases and lack of human rights that go with it. I loved seeing different cultures, through their dances and foods and ceremonies, but hated seeing the culture of poverty which shows itself in misogamy and blatant corruption.  I loved making friends with the children that came to my yard to play, but hated it when they died. 

And while we are on a slightly depressing note (because, after all, it wouldn’t be a peace corps blog without at least ONE depressing paragraph) we will go with: 

How was it coming back? 
The only answer I have to that is... hard. It is hard coming back to a country where things are so good. Where the struggles shifts from will I be able to find clean water to people dying of heart attacks from their high stress jobs in their massive homes. It is hard becoming once more part of this type of stress, and I get angry at myself every time I start to panic about trying to find a job after school. It is hard coming back to a country that has been the epitome of perfection in your mind for two years, but isn't actually perfect. Politicians are still courrupt, though in different ways. Bosses and teachers can still be horrible people. Poverty exists and is so easy to be trapped in. Life isn’t fair. 

But there is a flip side to all the difficulties of coming back. And that is the chipotle wonder of coming back. 

There are the obvious things: running water, a loving family, high speed interntet, chipotle ect.
But I have been making a list of the things that I didn’t even realize that I had missed until I came back:

  • Carpet. What’s more wonderful then walking barefoot on carpet? Nothing.
  •  Food….whenever you want it. Is it after dark and you need a tomato? No problem. Do you want something other then green pepers, onion and tomato? No problem. Do you want ice cream that you don’t have to make and then wait 24hours for it to freeze? No problem. Are you hungry and don’t feel like cooking? No problem.
  • Life without bugs and bats and other creepy crawlies everywhere. I just kinda got used to it. 
  • Hair conditioner
  • Libraries. There are whole BUILDINGS just filled with books for you to look at.
  • Gym Classes
  • Being outside after dark
  • Campfires with no purpose except smores aka fires that aren't simply for burning trash
  • Windows that close correctly


And I know this was on the obvious list. But Chipotle. Oh my goodness. I forgot how absolutely amazing Chipotle was.

And so that’s it. It has been a year since I left Mozambique. I really can’t believe it. Thank you, everyone who has gone on this journey with me. Your love, prayers, and thoughts have meant more then you know.

And so, one year later.
Love from,
Steph

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

T-Shirts

Throughout my two years in Moz I have been adding to a file of photos on my computer. And today, in honor of it being my last day in Cookie-town, although not my last day in Moz, I have decided to share it.

But first, a little back story.

Most of the clothing that people wear in my town comes from two places: the tailor (who makes clothes out of capulana) or "calamadades." What are calamadades? Well, remember all those clothes that you donated to various charities? Well, the nice stuff stayed in America and was sold in thrift stores. The fairly nice stuff was sent to Eastern Europe. The okay stuff was marked "Africa A" and sent to nicer African countries like Kenya and South Africa. Then you have the clothes marked "Africa B" and they get sent here. Once they are sent here, the 100 lb bundles of clothes are sold to distributors for the price of the customs fees. These distributors then go to the villages and sell the clothes. And then what happens, is the random American walking around the village gets ridiculously excited every time she sees something that she recognizes, and asks to take a picture. Except of course when she sees the funniest/best shirts and doesn't have her camera.

But thats enough talking about myself in the third person. And here is my picture collection of the shirts that have made me giggle or given me pause when I have been lucky enough to have my camera on me and the person wearing the shirt hasn't thought me creepy for wanting a picture.


















Love from,
Steph

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Best Friends

Part of the challenge of Peace Corps is making friends.
The challenge doesn't lie in meeting people or getting them to talk to you, pretty much everyone does that (except the people who are convinced that America concocted HIV/AIDS as an experimental way to kill off all the poor people of the world, and that PCVs are actually the tireless grad students whose job it is to go into impoverished countries and take observations of how the experiment is going- but I digress). The real challenge is finding someone that you can trust, whose sole purpose isn't to take advantage of you. Too many times you think you have a friend, when they ask you for huge amounts of money or simply want to use your computer/modem/anything. Or even worse, you stuff suddenly goes missing. Not that this is always, and not that it is even most people, but being seen as a mega-rich outsider tends to draw out the bad seeds. So you just have to be careful. I am friends with other teachers, the director's wife, and other people around town, but Pam and I have one person who is our absolute best friend. Her name is Evette. She has never asked us for anything and always runs up for a hug whenever she sees us.

Also. She is 3 years old.






Sunday, October 20, 2013

The River's Song

Water is huge here in Cookie-town. This is mostly because of how the seasons work. Like we all learned in school the closer you get to the equator, the less you have the 4 changing seasons and the more you have the two water based seasons: wet and dry.

When I came here, I didn't understand the extremities that these seasons go to, So this year, I took pictures.

Way back in January (the height of the wet season), I walked to the river and took pictures. Now we are nearing the end of the dry season, so I went back to take more, if the same river, from the same exact place. I tried to get pictures to match as best I could. Spoilers: You should very easily be able to tell the difference between the January and Now pictures.














 And now people that depend on the river for their water supply dig wells into the river bed. But don't worry, with the new rains coming soon, the river will regenerate in a spectacular fashion!

Love from,
Steph

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adelino's Story


I have met many people in my two years in Mozambique. Some I have liked, some not so much. My absolute favorite, however, is a 12th grader named Adelino. The other day, I asked him to write out a biography of himself. He did so, all in English, which to be honest is something I would struggle with if I had to do the same in Portuguese. And so, with only a few edits, I would like to share Adelino’s story with you.


Adeino Antonio is a young student who is very interested in his schooling. He was born in 1993 in Cookie-Town district in a very small village. (My town is the district capital, meaning that it is the largest town in the entire “county.” Which is a significantly bigger deal when there are no cars.)
He started school later, in 2001, when he was eight because the growth of poor people is slow. When he was 5 he was still a child and unable to walk to school. (In towns out in the bush, schools tend to be a couple of miles away. Malnutrition also causes extremely slow growth in children.) He was taken to work on the farm with his parents, and as a result he is dedicated to agriculture.

His father died in 2003 when he was 10 years old and studying in 3rd grade. The following year he didn’t go to school because he didn’t have anyone to help him. (There are school fees to be paid, as well as the school uniform and school supplies to buy. As a 10 year old Adelino didn’t have any money of his own so he would have to ask his father to pay for these things. With a dead father there was no one to ask). In 2004 his mother managed to get money and Adelino carried on with his studies. 

He finished 5th grade in Nauicio Incomplete Primary School in 2006 (Incomplete primary school- grades 1 through 5, complete primary school- grades 1 through 7. Smaller villages only have incomplete and the students need to travel to a larger town to complete the last two grades) Adelino and his mother sold peanuts and cashews to buy a bike for Adelino to ride to school, which was far from home. 

In 2007 Adelino left home alone for a small village called Gracio where he wanted to study in 6th grade, but he didn’t study the first two months because he didn’t have all proper documents so the principle would not let him attend classes. Then he went back home, where his mother made local wine (an alcoholic substance make from corn powder and yeast called Kabanga. Absolutely disgusting, but everyone here seems to like it) and sold it in order to make money to pay for the documents. Adelino organized all the documents that were asked for and began 6th grade.

At the end of 2007 he finished 7th grade (Not sure how he did this- possibly the school just combined 6th and 7th grade, or he managed to get through both of them in one year, Adelino is a smart kid, I wouldn’t doubt it.) and sold his bike. He worked with his mother making wine from sugar cane, which was a small profitable business at the moment.
With that money, Adelino came all the way to cookie-town alone to pay school fees, but on the way home he lost them (aka they were stolen, so that someone else could go to school without paying the fees) He had to return to cookie town to buy the documents again. He started secondary school in 2009.

There were more problems when he began his studies in Cookie-town because he didn’t have anywhere to live. He stayed with other students from around his home town. Then his uncle bought him a small plot of land in Cookie-Town and two months later Adelino built a house there by himself (land is not expensive here. Even the poorest people that I have met have rights to the land that their house is on. Many students, even those that live with family or friends, have their only separate tiny house in the backyard. It is the American equivalent to buying a cellphone). However in 2010 the house was badly damaged and Adelino was barely able to rebuild it. 


The rest of Adelino’s story is very modest, so I think I will tell it myself. Adelino has participated in all the PCV activities that have come through, since the girl that I replaced started the English Theater group. That means: English Theater, The school newspaper, Science Fair (where he won the Cookie-Town level and went on to the Provincial Fair) and more. He is at our house almost every day to ask questions about English, which he is determined to speak better then Portuguese. He has extra text books that he uses as well as novels that my family has sent over. Thus far his favorite has been James and the Giant Peach. In fact, he is so good at English that some of his teachers make him do their homework for university (if you want to hear an angry rant, ask me more about that). He also corrects my spelling whenever I am writing things down. Despite still being in high school, he is paying(well, I’m helping) to take extra computer classes so that he is more competitive for University. He is going to graduate with honors at the end of this year. I am determined that he will go to university, and will help him as much as I can.
And so that is Adelino’s story.
Love from,
Steph


Photo Shoot

Sometimes in Moz you get very overwhelmed by everything: the cultural differences, the food differences, the weather differences, ect ect. And then something happens and you realize that despite it all, some things will always be the same.

Like when one of my fellow teachers came over and asked me to take pictures of her baby, including 3 costume and location changes. Poor adorable Antonio wasn't nearly as excited about the prospect as his mother.