I’ve been at site for over four months now and little by little, almost imperceptibly, things have been settling into place. Although my peace corps journey will be a continuous process of change and adjustment, daily life is no longer as friction-full as it used to be and damn, does it feel good.
Last Saturday, Sidney and I invited ourselves over our neighbor Vovo QQ’s (grandma keh-keh, qq is short for Quima) house for dinner. I asked her what time we should get there and she said, ‘You come whenever you want to. You’re family.’
We brought along Alda, our REDES counterpart here in Namacurra and my Coordinator counterpart at the District level. Alda, a primary school teacher, is our 21 year old neighbor with the mentality, maturity, and capability of a 30 year old boss lady. She’s funny, sarcastic, whip smart, and laid back. Developing a friendship with her feels just as natural as developing one with anyone my own age at home in America which is very much a breath of fresh air.
Vovo and her husband prepared us an incredible feast along with beers that kept on coming. We talked and teased and enjoyed the beautiful energy that abounds from any group of people gathered to be together over a meal lovingly prepared. We had so much fun. I felt at home. I felt loved.
In preparation for Mozambican Women’s Day I taught my classes how to sing the chorus to “Run the World,’ by Beyonce on Wednesday. The kids loved it – few Mozambicans can resist a catchy beat and a chance to show their moves. After we finished up, the chefe de turma in one of my classes asked if they could show me a song in return. He went up and wrote a small verse on the board:
He returned to his seat and counted down. The class took those four lines and turned it into a song, complete with a clapping rhythm and repetitions, a song that had clearly been practiced. Afterwards, he explained that they wanted to do something to show how grateful they were for my patience, kindness, and willingness to be available to answer whatever questions. Emotions overflowing, I cried in front of the whole class. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so full in my whole life. They say teaching is rewarding and I always agreed, but now I truly see.
Friday was Mozambican Women’s Day, a day of celebration throughout all of Mozambique. Sidney and I put on our capulana dresses which matched those of the rest of our female colleagues and headed over to the praça to watch the performances. Eventually, we found our group and settled down at a bar for the festivities. We ate (and ate, and ate, and ate), we drank until no one could avoid dancing, and dance we did. We danced for hours with each other, with our male friends and colleagues who came by to crash the party, at the bar, in the streets, with food in our hands – it didn’t end. We laughed and sang and celebrated each other and women around the country until one by one, we peeled away and returned home. Mozambican women, for all of the work they must do and all of the pressure forced upon them, overflow with spirit.
While affectionately reflecting on the day’s events I realized that I hadn’t felt or been treated like an outsider trying to fit in or like the new girl my colleagues were respectfully and kindly including. Instead it all felt natural. It was all just fun. I felt accepted and I belonged.
I’ve been happy. I know it goes without saying but being happy is really so wonderful and I am grateful for it. I feel purposeful, I feel rewarded, I feel accepted, I feel supported and I am excited about my future here in Mozambique. It took time, but within me I’ve felt a seismic shift from feeling constantly uncomfortable and guarded to having both my feet on the ground and feeling receptive. It has changed everything. You must be open to love if you want to let love in.
Plus, as if this week hadn’t been wonderful enough, the Heels won the NCAA championship (s/o to Bryson for making sure I woke up for the 3am games and watching them with me from Massingir, you da best) and I received a whopping ELEVEN care packages from you incredible people back at home. I’m a happy Paige with a belly full of chocolate, cookies and cheez-its and for all of the above, I am feeling so very grateful.