April 14th marked the end of our first trimester here in Moz and it feels like a really big accomplishment. It was challenging and I made tons of errors but I also learned so much and undoubtedly feel more prepared to take on the second trimester.
During our week off, all of the Moz 27 volunteers in the northern part of Mozambique convened in Nampula City for our Reconnect Conference. The purpose of Reconnect is to do exactly that, to come together and discuss how the first trimester and the first quarter of our service has gone, to reflect on successes and challenges, and to learn from each other’s experiences.
Together, we created an open, honest, and supportive environment where we all felt comfortable sharing our most difficult moments and our greatest challenges as teachers and as volunteers. These include difficulties integrating, confronting corruption and cheating, losing our tempers during class, coping with isolation, working through cultural differences, handling unresponsive or badly behaved students, body shaming, the nonexistence of privacy, among many other things. Being a teacher and a PCV in Mozambique can be tough, and it just felt so good to know that my frustrations and challenges are universally felt by my peers. It felt good to relate to one another and help one another when we could.
We also celebrated our successes and achievements. It was really eye opening to see what my fellow PCVs are accomplishing in the face of so much adjustment (some of my colleagues have close to 200 students in each class!) and we were all just so proud of and happy for one another. Oftentimes, it takes me a while to truly let people in, to really trust people, and to genuinely feel at home among a group. I was so happy to discover that despite the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in so long and only knew each other for three months during PST, this group of people felt and feels like family. I am truly honored to be part of a group of such incredible human beings.
Also, it didn’t hurt that we stayed in a beautiful hotel, I could take as many real showers as I wanted every day (I will never again take being clean for granted), and got to eat Chinese food, shwarma, cheese burgers, and other yummy treats.
After Reconnect, a really wonderful group of us went to Ilha de Moçambique, or Mozambique Island. Currently a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ilha served as the capital of colonial Portuguese East Africa until 1898 and acted as a crossroads for cultures and peoples worldwide. Hauntingly stunning, the touristy half of the island is adorned with decaying colonial buildings which create gorgeous pallets of pinks, blues, yellows, whites, and purples and is home to ancient christian churches, muslim mosques, and a hindu temple which all coexist peacefully. The island is surrounded by sandy beaches leading to crystal clear blue water dotted with white floating dhow boats. Simply put, every glance around is completely picturesque.
Between our busy schedule of swimming, relaxing, goofing around, and eating we found time to explore the Jardim de Memória, or Memory Garden. This garden memorial now occupies the space that until the 18th century, served as the departure point for thousands of Mozambican men, women, and children sold into slavery. The weight of a not so distant past was sobering and brought a history we never had to live to life contextualized by our lives here and our Mozambican friends and families. As my friend Kaari puts it, it is a beautiful reminder of how to treat our fellow human being.
We tried to go on a full day snorkeling excursion off the island which would have been absolutely beautiful but at that point, about half our group was some sort of stomach sick, myself included. #PeaceCorps. Needless to say, we called off the excursion, continued to eat all the delicious food despite being sick, and got in some good quality together time.
All in all, a successful, lovely, and rejuvenating week that made me feel more supported than ever and ready to jump back into teaching.