So life has been crazy busy and internet hasn’t been working in my town…and those are my reasons for not updating this. Just think of my desire to update this often as a new years resolution – a completely breakable promise with the best intentions. The REDES conference was a success! It was in the city for four days with 47 girls, 7 Mozambican counterparts and 10 Peace Corps volunteers. Each day, they had a focus on a certain area – gender, HIV/AIDS and health, women’s rights and setting goals. Also, they had technical projects – painting a mural, sewing a capulana purse, first aid sessions, cleaning a park, and computer classes. Everything ran fairly smoothly. No one got seriously ill during the conference. One of my girls told another girl to tell me that she felt sick. I went and found her and asked her what was wrong, only to have her reply with “I feel a little colicky.” I thought that babies only got that. I just told her to drink some water and sleep, which worked like a charm. That was my response to all reported headaches and minor pains. Yeah, I know. I’m a veritable Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. All in all, I’ve never been that tired in the span of a week. It was stressful and wonderful all wrapped into one. I definitely consider it one of my top achievements in life thus far…besides figuring out that it’s “I’m Shameless,” not “I’m Shaving,” in the hit country song by Garth Brooks.
Since the conference, I’ve had a chance to relax a bit. All of us Nampula volunteers went to Angoche the weekend after to celebrate a fellow PCV’s opening of an impressive youth center and to hang out on the beach. Then, I went to Chocas and Ilha with another volunteer and some ex-pats. It was a lot of fun, despite unnecessarily long chapa rides and a freakishly horrible display of exiting a boat. I have realized that these Wisconsin legs are meant only for land and reasonably small bodies of water. There’s a reason why the Little Mermaid had transition issues. I tried to gracefully descend from the boat, only to slide down the side and fall straight into the water, leaving three bruises (arm, leg and ego, respectively).
One might say I have an irrational fear of a boat tipping over but I think it all circles back to swimming lessons I took when I was about 7 years old. I refused to jump off the diving board until they finally convinced me that it’s not as bad if you hold onto the long metal pole. Well, those teenage swimming instructors were a bunch of Judases because it’s not. When I went to Girl Scout camp a couple years later, Camp Nawakwa, to be exact, they gave me a “yellow zone” swimming bracelet – based entirely on my inability to tread water. The yellow zone was equivalent to what I was bathed in at the age of three. So I stood there in my swimsuit and yellow bracelet, stomping through that puddle they referred to as the “yellow zone” while the other girls got to be submersed in the “orange” and cannon ball like lunatics off of the “red zone” dock. I don’t regret it though. If you think about it, if that lake were an ocean, those red zone show-offs would be the first victims of a great white and I would be the one with all my limbs intact, applying a thick layer of SPF 40 on the shore, saying “well, that sucks.” Glass half full indeed.
My REDES group is going well. We started sewing machine lessons this week. The sewing machine “master” (as he refers to himself) took apart the machine and oiled it. With the machine torn apart, screws lying everywhere, he then tried to tell me that the job would cost 400 mt to complete. I flat out refused and said 100 mt and he laughed. When people try to rip me off and then giggle, I go straight from negotiating to slinging insults. It’s a defense mechanism that doesn’t always get me what I want but it makes me feel a ton better to emotionally maim someone. I went from saying 100 mt to telling the guy that if he wants to take advantage of people and hinder development in Mozambique, he can walk out the front gate and I can get someone else to put the machine together. And then he starts talking to the girls in Macua. Which resulted in me saying “You don’t know how to speak Portuguese, huh? Do you know anything?” All of my REDES girls looked at the ground. I think I made them uncomfortable but maybe it was a lesson in not letting people walk all over you. We settled on 150 and the assurance that he would come when I call to do machine maintenance. That is a promise that might be similar to my promise to update this blog - minus the best intentions.
I am having a woman from the Women’s Club in town teach me a different skill each week that I will, in turn, teach the girls. I tried to get her to come last week. Apparently, in her world, saying to be somewhere at 8 technically falls somewhere between 9 and 9:30. It’s amazing how one can feel like a date being continuously stood up in Mozambique. It’s like Groundhog’s Day meets…Never Been Kissed? We are trying it again this week and I’m hopeful everything will run smoothly and according to plan and other cliches I cant think of at the moment. My ultimate goal though is to give them the basic sewing instructions they need in order to operate a sewing machine and they can take it from there after I leave. Before I leave Mozambique, I have to figure out a location to leave the sewing machines so that the girls can continue the project in order to make it sustainable. So far, we are learning how to work the pedal on the machine and punch holes in a piece of paper. If you are nice to me, I can stitch your name in a piece of notebook paper along with a heartwarming message. Merry Christmas.
I went to the police station next door to finally talk to them about actually sitting down and talking to this guy who stole money from a project I was working on last year. I filed a report and sat in a concrete room with three bored police officers plucking away on typewriters the size of a small SUV. I returned later in the day to walk to the guy’s house with a police officer. I wanted to do it all SWAT-like. For example, send a plain clothes police officer or just send me in first to lay down a false sense of security. But no, the officer goes with me in full policeman’s garb. Apparently subtlety is right up there with chivalry in terms of all things dead. Children in the neighborhood ran screaming when they saw the whitey and the officer. Their mothers were no help either. “Policia! Policia! Policia!” The kids then ran and grabbed guns they had fashioned out of banana leaves and bamboo and pretended to hide from the police while their mothers pretended to turn them in. Would have been cute if we weren’t trying to apprehend a perp. Turns out, this guy got a job working at a banana farm about 50 km from Monapo and is only home on the weekends. The school still won’t let him graduate because of the money he stole and all he can do now is work. If I were him, I would be doing everything I could to get this money back but his priorities seem to be about as organized as my intestinal tract.
I received my COS (close-of-service) date of November 20th. I’m pretty happy about that because it means I will be home in time for Thanksgiving. I will fly home on the 20th. There’s a lot to do before then though so I have plenty to keep myself occupied. I have the library project I’m working on at my school. My sister is coming in July to visit for a couple of weeks and then we are going to Cape Town in South Africa for a week. After that, in August, I have a close of service conference with everyone from my Peace Corps group. September and October will be busy with finishing up projects and beginning that fateful step of searching for a job in the states. I don’t want to be pulled into the black hole of watching The Price is Right and eating frozen chicken pot pies in my parents’ living room for any longer than I have to. And my spider senses tell me my parents would rather not have that black hole exist either. I am thinking I want to work in the Twin Cities for a year or two to save up money for some furthering of education. I’m not exactly sure of what that furthering of education will entail at this point but I figured that it will come to me. Maybe in a dream. Or on a piece of buttered toast in my parents’ living room.