Friday, January 10, 2014

Once I rose above the noise and confusion . . .

I've been back in the United States for about two months now and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for just as long . . . and it's been a little crazy. As I haven't written a blog post for awhile (final apology for not being the most religious blogger over the last two years), this last blog will attempt to wrap things up.

I hadn't taught for several weeks before leaving Mozambique. Classes end fairly early as we have final exams and provincial tests to get through. This required me to engage in my favorite job as a teacher - proctoring exams for other classes, an exercise which I actually despise. Working in a classroom with students I don't know (and therefore can't call out when they're cheating, talking, or generally being ridiculous) was actually one of the most difficult and dreaded parts of the school year. Those who follow my blog - or who have spoken to me at almost any point during the last two years - know that one of my biggest teaching issues was classroom management. And attempting to manage a class that wasn't my own just sucked. Plus, no one else wanted to proctor the classrooms of 50 boys . . . so I'm the lucky one who was signed up for that duty

While parts of the last weeks of school definitely stunk, I also worked to say goodbye to my classes and hosted a party for my winning English classroom. This last semester I had a contest between my 3 English turmas, basically every class the turma would start with 10 points and I would take away points for talking in Portuguese (except to ask questions and for grammar discussions), talking in Xitswa, and any and all cell phones. Surprisingly, this strategy ended up working fairly well (thank goodness because cell phones in the classroom drive me CRAZY) and my reward for the "winning" turma was a s'mores party. I was a little worried about the whole thing - like all teens, my students frequently pretend to be "too cool" for these kinds of things, plus most Mozambicans avoid trying new kinds of food. But we made a little fire and got out my last care package filled with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate . . . and proceeded to create a group of s'more obsessed Mozambicans. They loved the s'mores and the party was a great way to start to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to Inhassoro was strange. By the end of year one I was so ready to be done that I assumed that I would be beyond ready to leave by the end. But really I could have stayed longer. It's not that I wasn't ready to move back to the US (hot showers, goldfish crackers, and the rest of the West Wing seasons meant that the US would win out every time :) ), but it's just that I wasn't as DONE with Mozambique as I had expected. While it has still been a weird transition, it's not the complete jumping-off-a-cliff kind of transition that I had experienced when I moved to Moz. And even though I still don't have a job or a plan for this nine month period before I start law school, I still moved back to an English speaking country where the majority of my friends and family live. Things in the US may take some getting used to - but let's be real, I have lived here before and life is a bit easier and more Starbucks filled.

After leaving Moz, a couple of other COS-ing PCVs and I headed to Ethiopia where we crammed as much site-seeing as physically possible in a two week period. We checked out the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela:

and the castles at Gondar:

trekked through the Simien National Park:

spent some time on the monastery island dotted lake at Bahir Dar:

and enjoyed some time in Addis. Then I hopped on a plane to DC (via Riyadh). I was rather nervous about this trip as it involved spending 15 hours in an airport of a country that I'm not actually allowed to enter (Saudi Arabia requires female visitors to be met/accompanied by a father/brother/husband). But the trip went well and my arrival in DC began the great train trip across America.

After two weeks in DC I took the train to Milwaukee, spent a weekend with Anna and Jeff, took another train to Albuquerque to spend a week with Amanda, and then (finally) took the train to Tacoma. While I love trains, this was a bit much even for me (fyi: the America railway pass through Amtrak was a great deal if you're planning on taking a long train trip).

Since then I've been hanging out in Sequim, getting addicted to various tv shows (Scandal, Sherlock, etc), and attempting to figure out what to do with my life. I have 9 months until law school . . . and it's unclear what that time will involve. But for now I'm trying to remind myself that:
1) I can't/shouldn't stop at the bus stop and ask random people if they'd like a ride. Hitchhiking isn't a thing in the US and what would be kindness in Mozambique is just plain creepy in the States
2) Tangerines here aren't the same as in Moz (same with pineapples, mangos, and cashews). Stop buying them and expecting them to be.
3) Moz slang/Portuguese words randomly inserted into conversations just make life here awkward (even if there is no real English translation)
4) Not having a life plan isn't the end of the world (commence attempts to limit hyperventilation)

And there are probably a million more of these that I need to work on . . . but I can't currently think of them.

In general life in the US is going well . . . although weird at times. And one can only hope that I quickly find a job/hobby/something to do soon. Before I actually go crazy. I miss Moz - all of its random insanity that (somewhat surprisingly) eventually became normal.

I'm still fairly skeptical about blogging, so this fairly unsatisfying conclusion most likely represents the end of my blogger status. My time in Moz cannot be wrapped up in a nice paragraph - the last two years have been full of ups and downs and the intense complexity of attempting to get to know and integrate into a community and culture completely different than my own. While I most definitely enjoyed the experience, it was much more complicated than that. And my current feelings about Moz are best represented in Portuguese (per usual there is no real translation) as "saudades".

So please don't ask "how was Africa?" unless you want to hear "fine" (but I'd love to tell you about my two years teaching in Inhassoro). 

Tchau for now