On Dia do Professor (October 12), Moz 27 received our site placements. Site placements happen for us during week six of in-country training, and you better believe that people have been dying to know where they will be living for the next two years since way before we arrived in country. But basically, the staff take their time to get to know us here before they determine where our skills will best fit the needs of the sites. With that being said, we do have SOME say about our living situations. Here’s how it worked:
1.) Interview with our Country Director (CD) where he basically just asked us why we wanted to serve in the Peace Corps and what our strengths were (week 1)
2.) Interview with another staff member about how our homestay was going and how we were enjoying Mozambique (week 2/3)
3.) Interview with one of the two Assistant Country Program Directors (ACPDs) about our preferences for sites (week 5). Before this interview, we filled out a preference form that asked us if we wanted a roommate and/or sitemate or not (or neutral), how rural to urban we would prefer to be on a 1-5 scale, which subjects we would want to teach in ranked order, two people we would NOT want to live at a site or in a house with, and what ONE SPECIAL MAGIC wish would we make if we could wave a wand that would assure our happiness. I said 3,4, 5 towards urban, I preferred a roommate and a sitemate, I would teach English or be an English Teacher Trainer, and I wished for a roommate from my cohort as my magic wish. My thinking behind these things were a.) I will be happier with some American volunteers around me, b.) I would be happier in a less isolated area of the country, c.) I’m really only qualified to teach English, and d.) Having someone whom I can live with and share days with and get/give support from/to is probably the biggest key to my success.
Somehow, the directors take this information and put it all together with the observations made my training staff and poof! All 65 trainees are given a site. My site is located in the southern province of Gaza, about 3 hours northeast of the provincial capital of Xai-Xai and about 7 hours from the capital of the country, Maputo. I will be teaching English at a high school there and living with a roommate whose name also happens to be Elizabeth (she’s teaching math though). My town seems a bit rural. I can find next to no information about it by googling. I will be replacing a Moz 23er who finishes his service around the time I finish training.
In general, trainees have lots of feels about their sites. Peace Corps reminds us that we are expected to “Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.” (#coreexpectation3) but it can be a challenge to always remember that. Some of us are thrilled with our sites, some are despondent, and some are in the middle. I’d place myself in that middle group.
Pros, in no particular order
- I’m living with a roommate from my cohort whom I really enjoy hanging out with and am looking forward to getting to know better over the next two years.
- Beautiful beaches are just a few hours away.
- We have a bank in our town so we won’t have to travel long distances to get money. This also means we have our two weekends a month that are for banking (ie: spending 4 nights out of site per month) free to travel wherever we’d like.
- My class size is supposed to be about 45. This is pretty small compared to many other sites.
- Gaza has a LOT of volunteers and we aren’t TOO far apart. Yay for socializing!
- My site has a river decently close by and seems pretty close to Kruger National Park in South Africa (safari, anyone? Looking at you, mom and dad).
- I’m replacing another volunteer, so he can help show me the ropes and I might inherit some friends from him. We will also inherit any household items he is leaving at our home, so that’s nice!
- I get to learn Changana so I can finally understand when my host family in Namaacha gossips.
- Our house supposedly has consistent energy, so I’ll be able to charge my kindle/laptop/phone/etc
- I’m not THAT far away from Maputo. It’s a feasible longer weekend trip by bus.
- My site seems pretty mato (in the bush). I wanted to be close to a city, but the nearest city is 2 hours away. And we are the farthest inland volunteers in our province.
- The only bus that leaves my town leaves at 4 am. Which means I’ll have to hitch hike basically all the time. This is something that volunteers are allowed to do here (and do it quite frequently) but it’s something that I have yet to try and am definitely apprehensive about.
- Food choice is limited. According to the letters we received, the only staple vegetables available regularly are onions and tomatoes. Yikes. Looks like this girl will be learning how to garden…
- Gaza is flat. There are no mountains 😦
- Southern Mozambique is in a drought, so water might be an issue.
All in all, I’m pleased with what I have heard about site. Each site has its own challenges, and I am eager to take on the challenges of mine. There are also far more potential perks than potential disadvantages! This weekend, we leave our training site to head to a conference in regional capitals (mine is in Maputo!) and after a couple of days there, we will head to our sites for a 2.5 week visit. I’m so excited to check out my new home! Stay tuned for updates.