Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tell me, how long you gonna stay here Joe?

So about a month ago I left you all hanging on the edge of your seats, waiting for the next installment of tales from Allison's summer vacation. And this of course was where the trip became really fun.

I stayed with some PCVs in Cuamba and the next day woke up bright and early to catch any form of transportation heading towards the Malawian border. Niassa was my 10th province to cross off the list for a good reason - it's basically the Siberia of Mozambique. The unpaved road between Cuamba and the border was like driving on those extremely bumpy lines they put on the side of roads in the States (can't remember what they're called). Except this continued for upwards of four hours. Then I got to the border town and had to use my favorite form of transportation - the bike cab - to get across the border. When you think of a bike cab you probably think of one of those bikes that are sometimes used in cities - the ones that have more or less a carriage/cart attached to them for passengers. This was not one of those cabs. You know the thing they put on the back of a bike to carry groceries? Yep, that's what I was sitting on for about 30 minutes while some poor guy peddled me across the border. Of course I also had my rather large backpacking backpack that weighed at least twenty pounds. So it was the "driver", me in the grocery spot and then my backpack. I was fairly positive we were going to flip.

When I had fully recovered from the most awkward form of transportation I have yet to use, I got to the Malawian side of the border. And realized that I do not like travel in Malawi. Unlike in Mozambique, the chapas (minibuses) from one place to another have no set price (for example, in Mozambique all chapas that go from Inhassoro to Vilankulo charge 80 mets) and I seemed to meet all the wrong people. As far as I understand Malawi has two national languages, but everyone refused to speak to me in the one I understand (English). At one point in my ridiculously long journey to Blantyre there was someone speaking a local language to the guy sitting next to me who would then translate into Portuguese. Which seemed to kind of defeat the whole purpose of travel in an English speaking country

When I finally made it to Blantyre, it was dark, I was exhausted and I never wanted to take a Malawian chapa again. Made it to the hostel and realized that I did not have enough money to pay for the room and they did not take cards. So one of the workers walked me out to the cash machine in front of the hostel. Of course, that cash machine had no money (but deducted money from my account anyways, fun times). So the security guard had to walk with me for about twenty minutes to find a functioning ATM. The next morning I woke up bright and early in order to get on a bus that was going to Zimbabwe (it had to cross through Moz and would be the easiest way to get to my next destination). At 4:30 I was more than ready to go, but the bus people claimed that the only bus going to Zimbabwe would be leaving at eight. Okay, fine, not great, but whatever. The driver said we'd definitely make it to the crossroads for Chimoio by 2pm, giving me plenty of time to make it to another PCV's house.

That was obviously a blatant lie. The bus did not leave Blantyre until almost noon for reasons still unknown to me as the bus manager informed me that since I was in Malawi I should be able to speak their local language and that he didn't have to translate anything into English. By this point I was basically freaking out. And things only continued to go downhill. When we stopped at the Malawian side of the border I got out of the bus, had my passport stamped and was back on the bus within ten minutes. It took everyone else almost three hours. It wasn't because they had problems with their passports or visas, it was just that no one got into the line until we had been sitting there for two hours. After all of that nonsense (plus another bus breakdown or two) I made them drop me off in Tete City where I stayed with two other PCVs who had been evacuated from their sites due to the ongoing political situation. Tete was my 11th (or 10th, depending on how you count) province which officially means I have visited (and stayed in) all eleven-ish provinces! YAY!

Actually this is where my trip was supposed to end. In theory, I was to travel to Chimoio the next day and bus/boleia it down to Inhassoro. But this is Mozambique and we really like to keep things exciting around here. So nothing went as planned. As I had previously mentioned, the opposition party had blocked a very key point in the (only) road that runs from the south to the north of Mozambique. Which also happened to be my only route home. As of now I believe the road is still blocked, military convoys are being used to ferry people across the blockade. But back in the beginning of July we had no idea how long the road block would last, so the PCVs in the Sofala province (the province where the incidents were occurring) and I just sat in Chimoio, waiting for news of when we could go back to site. We made up projects to keep ourselves busy such as bagel-making (best bagels I've made in Moz) and had a great Fourth of July party thanks to the variety of foods that are available in larger cities (I made brownies that were topped by a layer of peanut butter cream and then a layer of chocolate fudge. Win.). And I ended up staying there for a week. At which point Peace Corps put me on a flight to Maputo and the next morning I got on a bus to Inhassoro (only to have there be a traffic accident so I couldn't make it to Inhassoro on the same day and stayed with Laurie and Chris in Mapinhane.).

And so concludes the epic summer break trip in which I passed through all but one province (which is pretty impressive considering the travel conditions in this country). At this point I resolved never to leave site again . . . a promise that was a little difficult to keep as on August 25th I headed back to America, to the great state of Minnesota for Anna's wedding. While the travel itself was a little crazy (I've never had a bag lost before and on this trip the airlines managed to lose and recover two) it was so great to be able to be at Anna and Jeff's wedding (I can't imagine not being there). Plus I got s'mores and a Costco run out of the deal :)

And now I'm back at school . . . where things are crazy, but quickly coming to an end. We're almost done with the third quarter, all of the Moz-17 PCVs have our close-of-service conference in September, there are only 82 days until I'm a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I have started working on finding a some form of post-Moz employment, and law school applications are slowly but surely being put together. And depending on the day I feel both completely ready to head back to the States and so beyond unprepared. So here's to the next two and a half months in Moz (and to me having a life plan for once I get back!)

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