“The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts
These past 6 or so months have been a constant series of dramatic changes, of constant movement. Waves of anticipation, climax, and descent accompany each set of new and in the Peace Corps, this trend has become my new status quo. Constant change is the new normal.
Three weeks ago I left the finally-discovered comfort of Pre-Service Training life in Namaacha to venture to my site, where I’ll be living, learning, and teaching for the next two years.
This is Namacurra:
Located near the coast of Zambézia province, Namacurra is a district capital of about ~9,000 people. It has mostly everything I need and if it doesn’t, I’ll be able to find it in Quilemane, Zambézia’s provincial capital, which is only about an hour and a half away (really, really, close by Peace Corps standards). There, I can find electronics, cheese, a café, pizza, ice cream, and on good days, chocolate. Close to the city and close to two beaches, I have access to abundant food. Close to the EN1, one of Mozambique’s major high ways, I can easily travel to other volunteers throughout the northern part of the country. Zambézia is often considered the prettiest province in Mozambique. Before even arriving, I knew I was lucky.
Phase two was challenging. Move to a new town. Be the third American and second white person people in Namacurra have ever seen. Move in with a new family who has never lived with an American before. Learn to live with this new family. Make new friends. Adapt to a new climate. Eat new foods. Settle into a new job. Leave again in two and a half weeks.
It was impossible not to notice Namacurra’s beauty upon arrival. Sandy, decorated with cocqueiros (palm trees) and mangueiras (mango trees), it is a quaint, quiet little town with gorgeous sunsets and a night sky full of spectacular stars. This helped greatly during my first few days which were among my most difficult in Mozambique to date. The 104 degree temperature outside was exacerbated in the oven I called a room. I had a full body rash and the classic Peace Corps stomach problems. My new family was large, wild, overwhelming and full of tough-love. I was shy and uncomfortable. I was frustrated with Portuguese. I was pushed and pulled to a mini breaking point.
Sidney, my incredible soon-to-be housemate, changed it all with iced coffee, a banana nutella milkshake, good company, and a trip with another colleague to Quilemane and Zalala Beach (I got to frolic in the Indian y’all!). With her care, support, and humor-tinted perspective on service, I took a deep breath and joined the dance.
What a difference it made. Also, to be fair, we bought me a fan and it helped. It helped a lot.
I’m going to like Namacurra. It’s pretty yes, but the people make it outstanding. To their very core, people are friendly. Strangers show me respect and greet me with kindness despite my obvious differences. Neighbors invite me to come over and chat, the crianças (children), shout ‘Tia (aunt) Carmela!**’ as I pass by, the ladies at the market started teaching me bits of the local dialect, Choabo, I was asked to join a group of older female teachers who do PE together after school, the students have made so much effort to get to know me and ask me questions, and my colleagues help me with my Portuguese and are excited for me to join in January. Introductions are always the classic Mozambican questions – what’s your name/how old are you/are you married – but oftentimes conversations grew deeper. Sidney and our site mate, Jhalak, were the best of guides and showed me many of the great spots in and and around Namacurra, introduced me to other current PCVs in Zambézia and made sure I knew the people I needed to know before leaving.
I already feel like I belong. I tutored potentially future students. I taught four classes and truly enjoyed teaching. I had a series of experiences (about which I will write in depth in a follow-up post) that made me feel as if I was growing roots in Namacurra. There was moment after moment of pure, ‘this is Mozambique’ awe. At the end of every day regardless of challenges or difficulties, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this very unique, very special opportunity I have and I am so excited for what’s to come.
**I’m going by Carmela (my middle name) at site because no one in Mozambique can pronounce Paige. Paige quickly becomes Paigey, which quickly becomes peixe, which in Portuguese means fish, which ends up being hilarious for everyone but quickly tiring for me. If you visit me, please, please, I am begging you, do not blow up my spot or I will forever be teased ruthlessly by crianças.