Seven days ago, PC Moz 27 touched down in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Since arriving, we have gone through a series of vaccinations, lugged our hundreds of pounds of baggage around a few times, moved in with our Pre-Service Training (PST) host families, and started taking Portuguese language classes. It’s been an eventful week, to say the least. There is more than enough to write about. However, I’ve been feeling some hesitations about writing just yet.
As most of you know, I’ve had this blog for the past year or so, blogging about my experiences in Ecuador. Overall, blogging has been an extremely positive addition to my life. This blog has been a wonderful way of both informing my friends and family of my experiences abroad and also a way for me to process my thoughts. Basically, it’s been for my own benefit.
Blogging as a Peace Corps Trainee in Mozambique (we aren’t volunteers until we swear-in after training) feels somehow different. I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that as volunteers, one of the goals Peace Corps has for us is specifically to share host country culture with Americans at home. The second reason that I have been slower to write is a bit less work-related. Two days ago, on our first day of Portuguese classes, my lingua professor asked us what we knew about Mozambique before Peace Corps. The class was silent for a second, and then all five of us admitted we knew next to nothing. I shared with him all that I learned about Africa during my university and high school years: the Biafran crisis (thanks History of Human Rights class and Chimamanda Adichie), King Leopold’s Congo (from Heart of Darkness and that same class), slave trade in West Africa, and the Rwandan genocide. Most people in the States don’t even know where Mozambique is located on the continent, let alone the fact that it’s in Africa. And most US citizens haven’t traveled anywhere in Africa, except for a scattering here and there of people who go on safaris in Botswana or Tanzania or South Africa. Until I considered applying for the Peace Corps, I couldn’t have told you that Mozambique even existed. Even after I was accepted, what I learned about the country, I realized I learned pretty exclusively from reading PC volunteer blogs.
So where am I going with this? These two factors, combined, made me pause a bit before writing about my experiences here. For most of you, this will be the only information you hear about Mozambique or life in Africa in general.* Many of you will never study African cultures or histories. Many of you will never travel to this huge continent. I feel a big responsibility on my part, thus, to share my life in Mozambique accurately, fairly, and thoughtfully. I don’t want to write things too quickly.
That being said, a lot has been happening around here, and I want to begiin sharing. I’m living with a host family for the second time in my life, and let me tell you, it’s a lot better this time around. I was apprehensive as heck on the 2+ hour bus ride from the capital, but it was for nothing. My host mãe is a 53-year-old widow named Farida who is forte and super impressive. She’s up every day at 5 am doing chores like sweeping the dusty yard and she goes to bed around 11 every night (to put in perspective: I wake up at 5:45 and go to bed around 8:30 or 9 and could still go for a mid-day nap). She’s a market vendor and all-around badass. I have four host “siblings”, though two are actually mãe’s niece/nephew and the others are her grandsons. I am already feeling like a part of the family here. One of the first things Farida said to me was, Eu sou sua mãe, e você é minha filha (translation: I am your mother, and you are my daughter). My host sibings call me “Mana Eliza,” which is the respectful way of calling me sister. They include me in everything. I wash dishes with my little host brothers, I cook with my mãe, and I go passear with my older host brother. He even took me with him when he went to pay an electric bill. Everyone participates in family life here.
Mozambicans are incredibly hospitable. I base this on personal observations and also from what our lingua instructors and other training staff tell us. Most people here greet you as you walk down the road with a bom dia or boa tarde. On my first night in this village, I went to passear with my brother Ricardo. We stopped by the neighbors’ house, and the woman immediately offered us a drink, then invited me to go to church with her family in the morning. My second night here, my little brothers took me to visit mama Farida’s daughter, Zurema. Zurema lives about 40 minutes from mae. When I arrived, the boys dropped me off in the living room to chat alone with Zurema. We talked about our families, our jobs, and differences between the USA and Mozambique. One thing that she said really stuck out to me, though. I was mentioning how carinhoso the people here are, and she said, “Eu sei que algum dia, num lugar que eu nao conheço, uma pessoa que eu não conheço me vai receber. Então eu quero mostrar a você hopsitalidade e carinho.” I know that some day, in some place that I don’t know, a person that I don’t know is going to receive me into their home. So I want to show you hospitality and affection. If that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.
There’s a lot more to talk about: the other volunteers in my cohort, the food we eat, learning Portuguese, and the difficult or seemingly strange aspects of living in rural Africa. But tonight, I am going to leave it at that. Life here is hard, but good. For now, I’m focusing on the good.
*Here’s a link to a newsletter about the current events in Mozambique, for anyone who would like to learn more and stay updated: http://clubofmozambique.com/investing-in-mozambique/newsletter/