Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Also, packages.

Just so you know, packages get to Mozambique without as much trouble if you list religious items in the customs form and value them for less than 5 dollars. Draw all sorts of religious symbols etc. Theoretically this should help. Apparently shipping time is anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks (but the post office says 6-10 days . . . we shall see).

Training Continues . . .

19 days down. Only 51 left until the end of training . . .

I definitely underestimated the change required to live with a family for 70 days (PC training in Namaacha is host-family based). Sometimes I love talking with my host family, they are super nice and usually at least attempt to laugh at my lame/failed Portuguese jokes. Even though they are great people, my existence in their household requires a big change in their routines and a complete reassessment of my own. Needless to say, it has been a challenge for both parties and has required a bit of compromise.

Training is fairly all consuming, so my blog fails to be very entertaining. But here are the “larger” developments in my life since the last post:

1.     After surviving another bilingual mass, I have begun to long for the days before Vatican II.
2.     While the chicken noises no longer bother me, I now notice things that I couldn’t hear before. Like the Islamic call to prayer that wakes me up at around 4 am every morning.
3.     I’ve decided that I’m going to be a cooking vegetarian while in Mozambique (aka: if someone else cooks/kills the meat, I might eat it, but I won’t be preparing any meat). Basically, my first chicken killing was needlessly prolonged due to my inability to use a dull knife, so I’m done with the whole Mozambican chicken/meat thing.
4.     Some of my fellow trainees and I have developed an addiction to popsicles, which can be purchased for the low price of 5 mets (~30 mets = 1 dollar). They seem to be more milk based than usual, but are absolutely delicious.
5.     We have also begun to frequent a German bakery that opened about 3 months ago. It’s apparently run by a non-profit that opens bakeries in developing countries as a way of creating jobs (according to the man we spoke to, they have bakeries in 10 countries). Basically their cookies are amazing. And today I bought a hot cross bun-esque confection that was delicious. This addiction (combined with the popsicles) could become a problem.

Overall, still working on the adjustment thing and hoping that Portuguese wins the ongoing war between Spanish and Portuguese that is currently being waged in my brain. My language professor has informed me that Portugal has never lost a war against Spain (a fact I cannot verify due to my continued lack of internet access), so I’m hoping this trend continues.

Also, I have a cell phone now!! If you’d like my phone number (I feel a little strange sending it out to the worldwide web), please email me.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


As you may know, food is very important to me . . . and over the past couple of years I’ve become a bit particular about what I eat. While I definitely have not been eating the spinach salads (with gorgonzola, pears, and candied walnuts) that I would like to eat, the food here hasn’t been that bad. That being said, I really do not like xima (a cornmeal based porridge/dough thing, which is way different than the stuff we ate in Zambia). My family seems to think that xima is a treat for me, when I would really just rather eat rice. Every time I eat it I ration my juice so that I can have a sip after every bite. I haven’t gotten far enough in either my bravery or language skills to convey this message without hurting anyone’s feelings.

We eat a ton of carbs here (and I only eat half of what even the 1 year old eats). Lots of rice, xima, noodles, bread, and potatoes. My family knows that I like fruit (I now get juice at least 2 times a day and eat 2-3 apples/bananas a day), but doesn’t quite understand that I would like more than carrot shavings in my pasta. The carrot shavings have grown substantially since I said I liked them, but are still too small for my liking.

However, today was a wonderful day because I got peanut butter with breakfast. Not having peanut butter was one of my big concerns about life in Africa (besides the whole health and language thing). I hadn’t quite gotten to the point of asking for it (PC gives the families a fair amount to feed the volunteers, but I’m still not sure of how expensive certain things are) and my family had not offered peanut butter yet. Minha mae brought back loaves of bread from Swaziland and I have been eating bread with butter and jam for breakfast, but still hadn’t seen peanut butter. Today, minha mae brought out the peanut butter and I had a pb&j for breakfast and a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch (along with my pasta). It was basically heaven.

So, now that I no longer need a steady supply of peanut butter care packages, I’d love to get letters  :)  


I have been with my host family since Saturday and, while living in someone else’s house is very stressful, I am VERY happy with my living situation. As I haven’t had internet for awhile, I decided to organize my post by significant events, trying to convey what training has been like so far.

1.     I was supposed to be a boy. Apparently, Allison (or the closest name to Allison) is a boy’s name in Mozambique. On my third day here, minha tia Graca informed me that when Peace Corps had given them my name, the entire family thought they would be hosting a boy. Luckily (if I understood correctly), they preferred a girl. So I was a happy surprise.
2.     My family is very disappointed with my eating habits. Not putting sugar or milk in my tea results in a debate every single morning. And despite the fact that we have discussed this quite a bit by now, I think they are hoping that one day I’ll tell them it was all a joke. They are also concerned that I’m not eating enough. Luckily, they aren’t one of the families that dishes up your food for you, so I don’t feel as though I have to force myself to eat everything on my plate. But they comment on how “skinny” I am and how, if I would just eat more, I could be “gorda (fat)” (Culture note: being called gorda is actually a complement, I haven’t decided if being called skinny is an insult). The food here isn’t actually too bad, but they don’t eat large amounts of vegetables and everything is very starch heavy. I am trying to convince my family that I really do like vegetables and that I definitely don’t want them soaked in oil or mayonnaise (which is how they eat them). My big success is they now understand I like apples more than oranges (haven’t figured out how to say I can’t eat too much citrus), but I am a little concerned that I’ll be sick of apples after eating at least 2 a day for 10 weeks. They have told me that I will be preparing dinner alone for the entire family on Sunday . . . I informed them that we all might go to bed hungry. 
3.     One of the phrases that Peace Corps suggests learning is “sozinha” or alone. I practiced this word every day and night because I was concerned (as this has happened to other volunteers) that my family would think I needed help with everything. Some volunteers have ended up being bathed by their host mother for up to a week because they don’t know how to say they can do it alone. Of course, I ended up with a family whose favorite word is “sozinha.” On my second day in my host family they decided it was time for me to kill a chicken “sozinha.” Wasn’t the most successful effort (I needed a lot of help) . . . While the knife looked sharp, it most definitely was not. I did manage to pluck the chicken, but someone else took out the insides. Next time, I told them that I need an axe.
4.     Mozambican familial relationships are complicated. Until yesterday, I really didn’t even know how the people who live in my house were related (and was still a bit unsure of a couple of their names were). So, I asked my host sister to write down everyone’s names for me, saying that I needed to know how to spell them. From what I understand, I am living in Alcinda’s house (minha mae). Her sister Graca (33) lives here too with her 3 kids – Carolina (15), Nelia (7), and Andre (1). Alcinda’s children are Ginacilda (20), Jucelino (8), and Armando (6). Peace Corps requires that I have my own room, so (as far as I know) everyone besides Alcinda sleeps in one room (3 bedrooms total). Minha mae keeps a super clean house, so unlike some of the other volunteers, I haven’t seen a rat or a cockroach (but did see a HUGE spider). I need to learn her housekeeping secrets before I leave.
5.     My Spanish is somewhat helpful for sentence structures, but absolutely no help with pronunciation. I can understand so much more than I can say, a situation that will get increasingly awkward as I start understanding more of what my family says without being able to convey that I know exactly what they are saying (especially because I have a feeling that they talk about me sometimes). Luckily they can just switch to Xangana (sp?) an indigenous language that is also spoken in Namaacha. My family is super Catholic so we went to church on Sunday (for 3 hours) and they did all of the readings in both Portuguese and Xangana. I’m hoping that one day I’ll wake up and Portuguese (and the nasally pronunciations) will make more sense. Sadly this hasn’t happened yet. I have to pass as an intermediate-high on my language test during week five in order to teach at the model school, so I’ll be working my butt off to get there.
Other than not being able to understand very much, life is fairly normal. I take two bucket baths a day (not really needed, but I’m worried my family will think I’m dirty if I don’t). I have an indoor bathroom with a toilet that you dump water in to “flush”. It’s fairly cold in Namaacha right now, so I am glad the toilet is inside and that I brought so many jackets. Miss you all!