Sunday, September 30, 2007

bom dia from Africa!

So, per the request of my fam, I will blog about what´s happened thus far. I made it to Africa with all my luggage intact. I didn´t get anything stolen from my luggage surprisingly. Maybe they just cut the lock to find nothing was worth stealing. Hehe, suckers. I didn´t end up saran wrapping my stuff because it costed about 15 dollars per bag plus tip. So I was willing to take the risk and it ended up in my favor. Last night I had a great time. We had a meeting at the hotel everyone else is staying at (I´m with a group that has been staying in the middle of Maputo at another hotel). The current PCVs did a skit on their experience with homestay and any things we might find odd. For example, women are supposed to handwash their underwear as it is inappropriate to hang women´s underwear out to dry. You can only shake with your right hand. And you place your left hand on your right elbow as a sign of respect to people who are older than you. It is also bad manners and wasteful to leave food on your plate. That last one makes me nervous because I don´t have much of an appetite. So, yes, I meet my homestay family later today and I´m nervous. It´ll be a whole new experience. Boy oh boy, did it rain last night. Last night we had our cookout and afterward we danced to African pop music. However, it started to rain, so the DJs had to move the music player so it didn´t get damaged. So we crazy americans stayed out in the pouring rain and had an impromptu dance circle with one person constantly moving to the middle, which mostly consisted of, for example "go Erin, go Erin, go go go Erin." I did the running dance from flashdance. After there was a major bolt of lightning, we stopped but some people ran and jumped in the pool next to our dance floor. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I got soaked. And then after that, we stood around for a bit and two PCTs played guitar and harmonica. I have to go. I´m not sure when I´ll be able to use the internet again. Hopefully, my new town has internet. If not, they´re taking us to an internet cafe next weekend in Maputo. All the peace corps trainees I´ve met have been really nice and this last week has been fun with all the activities we´ve done together. I´ll post more about it later but I have to go get my luggage from my room to take down to the bus. Tchau!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mozambique Overview

So - since I leave in two days to go to the Cities to spend the night before I leave and I have a ton of packing/repacking to do, I felt that this would be a good time to sit around and do a bit of a Mozambique presentation, thanks to the handy dandy CIA Factbook.

Mozambique is on the coast of southeastern Africa, bordering with Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland. It is a little less than two times the size of California. It is a tropical to subtropical climate and the Zambezi River flows through the north central region.

Mozambique flag - the only national flag in the world to have a gun on it

Population: 20,905,585
Life expectancy: About 40 years
Languages: Emakhuwa, Xichangana, Portuguese, Elomwe, Cisena, Echuwabo and more
Literacy: 47%
Government type: Republic
10 Provinces: Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Maputo, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia
Independence: Won independence from Portugal in 1975
Civil War: From 1977-1992
Agricultural products: cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava (tapioca), corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus and tropical fruits, potatoes, sunflowers; beef, poultry
President: Armando Guebeza

That's just a snapshot of the country. Just reading about it all gets me pumped for the flight. There'll be l...o...n...g flights. But I have sudoku, crossword and The Brothers Karamazov to keep me company, not to mention, fellow Peace Corps trainees. Everyone I've met online in Moz 12 seems incredibly nice so I'm excited to meet everyone and get this ball rolling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

butter knives are not made to chew on

So I had a busy afternoon/evening. I went with Erin (not me, another Erin - another living, breathing, separate entity) out to eat and to a movie. It was a pleasant meal until halfway through when a small child sitting next to us with her family decided to straddle her chair like a detective playing bad cop with the interrogation of a murder suspect in a cheesy cop film. Yes, this blonde minion found us to be interesting specimens to examine while chewing on her butter knife. And she was only about seven feet away. Do you know how hard it is to eat french toast when you have a child, whose meal has already been ruined by her poor coordination and inability to keep her burger on her plate rather than on the poorly vacuumed carpet, stare at you? The mother just sat beside her and didn't bother to correct her. My parents would have never let me sit, staring at complete strangers and ruining the enamel on my teeth with a knife. Kids these days. Don't they know that they should chew on butter knives in the privacy of their own homes? I wasn't even doing anything fun enough to attract attention. There was no song and dance routine. I might have missed my mouth a couple of times with the fork but that was probably due to performance anxiety. She looked like a swashbuckling pirate, preparing to descend to the deck from the watchtower by slashing down through the sails.

I am finishing up paperwork and packing up still for Mozambique. Putting things in, taking things out. Testing the waters, if you will. I bought checkers tonight. That was thrilling. I also bought a mini bottle of body spray. Yes, I am sure you are thinking "what kind?" Well, I'll tell you. Mandarin. And it smells good. Not much has happened lately to be honest. I rented some movies. I returned some stuff to the library and paid off my $1 fine. Tomorrow night I eat at my grandparents' house, Thursday night I eat out with a friend and Friday night are for my mom and I. Saturday, I head to the cities with my parents to see my sister and go to half-price books and we are spending the night at a hotel. Then I fly out at 7 on Sunday morning. So that means I'll have to get up at an ungodly hour to get to the airport. I'm starting to get sad, I'll admit. I got home at ten tonight and my mom had already gone to bed and I was sad that I didn't get to say goodnight. I only have a few more nights of being able to say that in this house. Man, I can't even express how difficult the airport goodbye is going to be. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

On another note, we saw The Brave One tonight. Excellent movie in my book. Jodie Foster kicked serious behind.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

cubicle corners and burping

I have officially finished my summer job and now have a week to slob around. In fact, I already took a nap and I only ended work three and a half hours ago. I woke up to the sound of a gigantic burp, thinking "was that me?" Because I never burp. Never figured out how to do it. Burping shall forever remain a mystery to me. Come to find out, the dog was getting sick behind the recliner. He always goes and hides. I have never yelled at him about it and yet he slinks off to some corner that's practically uncleanable without rearranging the living room. The kitchen floor is an ideal place in my book but apparently he never got the memo.

When I got into work today, the women I work with had decorated my cube with streamers and good luck signs and there were cards on my desk. Next to the cards was a bottle of hand sanitizer with a post-it saying "Figured you could use this. Hehe." I wished she would have given it to me a week earlier with that campground because I probably would have made better use out of it. As much as I don't mind talking about my impending trip to Mozambique with people, I had grown a little tired of repeating everything about my trip to each person who dropped by my cube to say goodbye. I bet the people who I shared cubicle borders with grew tired of it too because they heard everything.

I am going to miss those crazy cubicles though. I loved hearing one person pick up the phone and dial it and then the person on the other side of me picking up and answering. We might as well operate with cans connected by string in that place. That'd be excellent. We could be like the Little Rascals. I'm not going to miss the corners though. I always found a way to run into one at least once a week. I have this problem with underestimating corners and there are constant corners in cubicleland. So cubicle corners, your days of tyranny and bruised arms are no more.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Little Campsite by the Big Grain Elevators

We have returned from our camping adventure in Red Wing, MN. I figured that with the label of "campground," we would pull up to a lush, green campsite, surrounded by the wonders of nature. I might even hold a dove and feed Bambi oats directly out of my hand. Instead of frollicking animals and a rendition of the scene from Snow White, we were situated next to a Marina, in a campground consisting of mostly whirring RVs and under the Mississippi bridge, across from the Archer Daniels Midland plant, with their gigantic grain elevators and two sets of train tracks. And on the other side of us, a beautiful fungi-infested, mosquito-swarming swamp. I actually befriended a few of my fine, malaria-carrying friends and we are planning to get together next week to cross-stitch and discuss current events whilst watching General Hospital.

As soon as we got to the campsite, I stayed in the van and my parents hopped onto a golf cart so that the lady in the office could show them the site. On their return, when they got within 30 feet of the office again, the golf cart died on them and my parents helped push it to the golf cart shed. That's when I turned to the dog and said "what a craphole." I think I might have seen him nod but I'm not 100% certain. Anyway, we found out that our electricity in our small pop-up camper wouldn't run properly so as my mom put it - we would "rough it" by the light of our TV set. And we did. After we'd roughed it for five minutes, we hightailed it to the casino for some gambling and a heart-felt family sing-a-long to Petula Clarke's "Downtown."

I've never been gambling before and I expected it to look vaguely similar to the hit NBC dramedy "Las Vegas." I was expecting to rub elbows with a Josh Duhamel type or James Caan. If any of you visit the Treasure Island casino with these expectations, you'll be sorely disappointed. From a distance, when driving toward it, the entire establishment looks like a giant Arby's, which immediately had me foaming at the mouth for curly fries. As we parked near the back, under the sign of the banana, I was amazed at the large quantity of vehicles in the lot. We went inside to find a band playing "Island Bonita" and a vast ocean of slot machines. I immediately thought back to my neighbor's thoughts on casinos and the germs. Hand sanitizer would be helpful, if not necessary, and I made a mental note not to lick any of the chairs, as my neighbor informed me that some people find themselves on a winning streak and find it unnecessary to get up to relieve themselves. I found myself thinking how any of this could really be avoided - one should not walk into a casino wearing a garbage bag with a hole cut for their head to protect themselves from germs. After sitting down for a while with $10 credit, I became quickly bored. I don't see how people can get addicted to it. I did accidentally pass up the free soda and mixed drinks wheeled around on a cart by a bored casino worker and I paid the piper by being parched for the rest of the evening.

On Saturday, we drove to Prescott and went to Prescott Daze and tested some of their exemplary deep-fried garlic cheese curds and went to the car show, which meant nothing to me - just boys and their overpriced, over-worked on hunk-of-metal toys. I did buy homemade chapstick in Mint and Tutti-Fruiti, which was refreshing. It always comes full circle between me and chapstick. From there, we moved onto Pepin for Laura Ingalls Wilder Days. From what I recall, the Ingalls family didn't even reside in Pepin for long, so I can't help but question the validity of holding a fair. Anyway, there were little girls dressed in prairie garb everwhere. They even had a fiddling contest, a Laura-look-a-like contest (which we also questioned due to the fact that no one really knows what she looked like without the impression that Melissa Gilbert made on the TV show. If they are really going to go by the show, I think they should have a reenactment of that younger sister taking a digger on the hill). I think that the one girl only won because she had a lunch pail and braids. There was also an essay-reading contest and I felt that most of the girls were lacking important public speaking skills. Their presentations were too canned. I thought it would have been fun if they had been like "I like reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books because she helped save my life. I was a drug addict and reading her books helped me overcome my addiction" or maybe a girl could drive up in a covered wagon that she built from scratch. Now that's entertainment. But they did have excellent ice cream in waffle cones and I was halfway tempted to buy a bonnet. All in all, an entertaining weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chapstick is delicious

I was talking to a receptionist at work yesterday about Africa and she asked about supplies I would be taking. I told her that I don't know what type of resources I'll have but I'm bringing stickers because they're kind of a little prize and easy to transport. Today she rolls the mail cart past my cube and hands me nine packs of stickers she bought. What a sweetheart! That made my day.

Also, news. I have booked my flight to staging and am eagerly awaiting the day. I have actually been pretty busy. I called the hospital for immunization records (check), canceled my cell phone (check) and picked up power of attorney papers (check). Tomorrow I get the papers notarized (and unfortunately not by my sister, who actually owns a t-shirt that says "world's least responsible notary," as she is a certified notary person). And man oh man, I am stressing about the luggage deal. Computer or no? It'd be easier for creating lesson plans when I start my teaching post. But am I willing to sacrifice some of my rationed luggage weight for it? Ah, the agony of indecision! I do love those space saver vacuum bags for traveling though. My mom and I put some clothes in one tonight - first she sat on it and then I sat and stood on it, finally resulting in the perfect pancake of clothing. Brilliant. I'd like to give the inventor of that two thumbs up and a great big hug.

I was talking to my mom about how kids have difficulty parting with their mothers on their very first day of school. I thought I had no separation anxiety but my mom said that wasn't the case. I have run into my kindergarten teacher a few times since she taught me (18 years ago) and she still remembers what I would do. Apparently a little before it was time to go each day, I would go up to her and ask her "is it time to go home yet?" When she would tell me no, I would walk over to my purse (this shoddy little yellow number with red hearts) and slather on Chapstick. I guess this happened every day. My mom said that at five, I must have had the smoothest lips of any kid around. I think I just wanted to get home to sit and watch Days of Our Lives on the recliner with my mom.

I am going camping this weekend with my parents and we are going to attend Laura Ingalls Wilder days (kick it Wisconsin style) and go to the casino for the first time in my life (watch out penny machines!). The dog is coming so that should provide endless entertainment. He has more personality than a dog should. He is attached to my sister every time she comes home and my parents and I automatically become second-class citizens in his eyes. She came home this last weekend and he would sleep on her bed each night. After she went home Monday, I was up in my room watching a movie and I heard the jingle of Kirby's collar upstairs. I called for him since he tends to steal things (mittens, socks and hairthings are his faves) but he didn't come. As a result, I went into her room to find him sprawled out on her bed, as though sucking in every molecule of her spirit she could have possibly left behind. He gave me a look like "what did you do with my beloved Kara? You're boring and stupid. Leave me alone in my grief."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Flea Market Day!

Wow - three weeks away. It's getting so close! It's kind of a scramble to get things together. I am still on the fence as to whether I should bring my sister's old computer with me. To make matters even worse, my digital camera has decided to become a pile and it has stopped working on me. So that's more money! It's neverending. I bought new shoes for wearing on hikes or long walks (plain old New Balances) but they are so white. Before I leave I think I'll go out to the field behind my house and rub some dirt on em. Give em that weathered look.

I went to a flea market in Hatfield, WI today with my parents and our dog. To give you an idea of how large Hatfield is, the sign coming into town says "Summer population 5,000 - Winter population 50." They had a rollerskating rink though, which is adorable. It was a much larger flea market than I expected. There were people with some good stuff but also loads and loads of stuff I can't imagine anyone buying. But one (wo)man's garbage is another (wo)man's treasure, I suppose. I bought a lot of homemade soap from a few different vendors because it seems to last SO much longer than the soap you buy at the store. One woman sold soap that smelled like dirt - on purpose. She said that it was for hunters. They take a shower with dirt soap before they go hunting? I don't understand. Either way, a wild animal is going to smell or see you, no matter how much camo you wear, how high your tree stand is or how much dirt soap you lather up with that morning. Seems a bit excessive - but then again, I'm no hunter.

We then went to Black River Falls where my mom went to a spinning shop (the wool spinning - not the torture on a bike kind) where she bought this liquid to wash wool with. She just made me a shawl to bring with me to Africa. Something to have to think of her and home. It's beautiful and she spent so much time on it. She cleaned the wool, carded it, spun it on a spinning wheel and knit it. I'm glad to have something like that with me.