Learning Life in Namaacha

Life in Moz has been wonderful.The vibrancy, the warmth, the hospitality, the peacefulness of this place is fulfilling, intoxicating, and truly satisfying.

I must start by acknowledging that the group of people who make up Moz 27, or my peace corps group, is simply fantastic. Everyone is kind, down to earth, open, non-judgmental and inclusive. So far we’ve spent most of our time together and as a whole are getting along so well that I am in awe every time I notice us gelling. I feel so grateful to already have such a strong support system.

Our first two days of training were spent in the beautiful Hotel Casado in Maputo prior to meeting our host families in Namaacha, which is a two hour ride away. We nervously departed the safety of our busses to discover a courtyard full of people singing and dancing, waiting for us to come home.

My family is so lovely. Måe Victoria (my host mom) is a colorful, enthusiastic soul, always eager to include me in everything, and quick with ‘wow!’ and ‘obrigado! (thank you) for everything I do, making my bed and brushing my teeth included. She gives me huge bear hugs, has taught me to dance, might kill me with carbs, and has a beautiful and full deep belly laugh. Pai Fellippe is a warm, loving man who too is quick to laugh and hug, can start a conversation with anybody, and is wonderfully curious about my life in America. I have three irmãos, or little brothers. Felix, 15, is wise and almost fatherly, Samito, 12, is adorably shy, and Junior, 5, is a joyous little fireball of energy. All three boys are quite obviously great children – intelligent, curious, so very sweet, and very full of love. They have made me feel completely comfortable and have adopted me so naturally that it feels as if I truly belong.

I have electricity. I don’t have running water and so I take bucket baths and have a dump flush. I haven’t washed my hair in days and it’s not terrible. I’ve been guaranteed that I’ll gain weight because of the sheer volume of food I am fed. I eat rice, pasta, bread, beans, veggies with butter, fish, chicken, fried bologna, peanut butter, and yummy sauces made of things like peanuts and coconut milk. I cannot recycle and it feels wrong. I am speaking Portuguese and although it’s broken, we communicate, we make one another laugh, we tell stories. I have 8 hours of lingua class most days with two other PCTs. I am taught Portuguese by Junior, my 5 year old irmão, and sometimes feel like an infant – unsure of anything but certain that I belong. I’ve learned to gut a fish, ‘pilar’ peanuts into powder, and scrape out the inside of a coconut with an ingenious Mozambican invention. I am learning about the world. I’m learning what ‘community’ means in Namaacha.

I’m happy. I miss my friends and family at home already but I also feel so certain that I need to be here, in the Peace Corps, in Mozambique, in a way I haven’t felt in quite some time. It’s been amazing to simply notice how although everything is different, so much is the same. So much of communication is a sense of humor, gratitude, smiles, and the willingness to open up. So much of family is simply the willingness to share, protect, and love. I’ve been exhausted with the time difference, the constant learning, and the constant newness, but there are few things in the world I would rather learn about than a new people, new language, new place, and new relationships. Mãe and Pai took me to church, and I was lost in incredulity. Here I was, tucked away in a small African bairro in a church filled with singing and dancing and passion – an experience most people only live vicariously through TV and movies. It will be my life for the next two years and I am full of gratitude for the opportunity to begin to understand it.

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