First thing's first: gotta brag ;)
Totally ran about 24miles this week (now if I can only cram 7 days worth of mileage into 1 morning I'd be almost ready for this race!)
Also, I won that position I was nominated for with the youth groups in Mozambique! You are currently reading the blog of one of the Southern Regional Coordinators for JUNTOS! (There are two people in that position.) I was totally shocked but I think it'll be fun to have an extra job -especially one that allows me to travel around the southern provinces, has a lot of public speaking to large groups, bunches of logistical planning, and requires some bomb people skills. The hand-over and training is in 2 weeks down in Maputo.
Now for some anecdotal updates :)
Last Friday I was invited to a meeting with another international aid organization at the provincial capital and it went great! My primary organization here doesn't receive funds from them so I was never on their radar before, but they heard that I was trying to start up a GAAC program with my district hospital and they want to support me. They provided me with transportation to and back (door to door in a private SUV instead of 6 hours in public trans), the meeting was thorough yet quick and to the point (something almost unheard of here), and it looks like they're going to help me train the rest of the hospital staff and give me the materials necessary for implementation. Fingers crossed!
On Saturday I decided to visit my “site mate” who lives about an hour away (but he's technically still my site-mate because we live in the same district). The only way to get to him is to sit on the back of an open pick-up truck for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how many stops it has to make to pick-up and drop off other passengers), to get off at a small wooden sign on the side of the highway (one of those things where if you don't know what to look for you'd never find it), and to then walk 4km into the bush through a winding maze of dirt paths until you stumble into his community. I, however, caught a lucky break that day. In exchange for purchasing the truck driver a beer (which he promised he wouldn't open until he arrived at home) I got to sit inside the truck, didn't have to pay the 75 cent fare, he offered to drive me INTO the bush, and he even picked up my friend on the way for free who had been walking to the road to meet me. Although I hate buying people alcohol, I was pretty happy with that deal.
The tuck driver dropped us off in the middle of a rolling field of coconut trees with music drifting from over a hill. When we reached the top of the hill we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a wedding and before we knew what was happening our bags were taken from us and we were seated at the one of the head tables with plates heaping of food in front of us. Unlike back in the states where we have RSVP lists, here wedding crashing is totally acceptable – especially for two white people out in the middle of the bush. Since my friend has lived in this community for 2 years now he knew a lot of the people at the wedding, which meant we were even more obliged to stay and eat and drink with them because he didn't want to be rude and insult his community members. So even though we had food already prepared back at his house for dinner we buckled down and dug into our plates of rice and beef and made small talk with the head men of the community we were sitting with. Weddings here are full weekend-events: on Saturday everyone accompanies the happy couple first to register and attain their official wedding license from the state, then everyone follows the couple to the church for the religious ceremony, and finally it's party-time at the bride's family's home. The following day everyone meets again to the groom's family's home and spends the entire 2nd day just giving presents, eating and dancing. Quite the event. At this wedding there was music, hundreds of people dancing, lying on reed mats under the coconut trees, playing soccer, cooking and eating. One of my favorite moments of that meal was when I exclaimed how lucky I was to get a potato in my curry and then bit down into a big chunk of pure white beef fat. Luckily, living in Mozambique for 2 years has altered my friend's standards of what is edible so we sneaked all of my fat-potatoes onto his plate the rest of the meal.
Long after sundown we were finally able to sneak away through the trees, and then continued on our trek back to his reed house where another friend of ours had been waiting for us. Let me just insert a few words here to describe this community.... it's absolutely gorgeous. It's located on the coast and is all sand and hills and coconut trees and flowers. I really don't think there's a single place where you can't see a view of the ocean. There's no electricity but I was lucky enough to visit on a cloudless night with a huge bright full moon. So for our second dinner the three of us threw down reed mats on the sand outside my friend's house and ate soup, salad and bread under the moon facing the ocean out beyond the coconut trees. Totally worth the full stomach :)
Last Tuesday was Mozambique's Independence Day and I went to the ceremonies with some friends. For hours and hours on end we stood in the hot sun watching theater plays and dances, listening to speeches, songs, and poems, and shifting from foot to foot. Most of the ceremony was in local language which was a bummer but to compensate for that was the fact that the entire event was held outside under a huge budding mango tree.
The next day was Morrumbene Day so it began with the same general ceremonies, only this time after the first few songs, salutes, and speeches we all migrated to the club (which is kind of like a community center). The JICA volunteer in my town who works with the agriculture department had organized my district's first Farmer's Market and I'd asked my JUNTOS kids to participate. We were going to perform a play about trash and sanitation but in the end the kids lost their nerve and instead we all just wore our t-shirts and one of their friends sold bead jewelry that she makes. The fair went great, and people from the local radio even came and interviewed my kids about what our group does and our mission. After the fair I invited my kids back to my house and we made a chocolate cake :) They hung out at my house watching english tv shows and listening to my music, then the boys found some computer games and spent hours playing mortal combat and racing games. All and all it was a great day :)
This past Friday I went to a near-by beach town to meet up with some girl-friends from around the province and we had a girl's night dancing and catching up with one another. The next morning, although sore and sleepy, I still pulled on some shorts and a sports bra and went down to the beach for my morning run. I started off slow and a bit queasy but after 10 minutes all that was forgotten. All there was was me, the waves, the wind, and the little crabs scurrying into their holes in front of me. I was feeling strong enough to set a goal: I'd run to the point in the distance where the coast disappeared. I knew it'd only be about 2 or 3 miles away, but what I didn't count on was the fact that the farther away I ran from the town, the less of a “beach” there was to run on. Eventually the beach had completely disappeared to just tall steep sand dunes at the edge of the water, water which was chock-filled with sharp black rocks and just a few yards away were huge waves as tall as I was. But no matter, I'd made up my mind to run to the point and it didn't matter that I was running in sand up to my ankles at a 45 degree angle – I wasn't going to turn back. Of course, the trouble of saying you're going to run to a point in the coast is that you never actually know when you've reached it. I'd reach one bend only to see another a little farther off, and then another, and another.... At one point something moved in the corner of my vision and I looked up to see a gray and black monkey frolicking up on the sand dune next to me, and then another joined him, and then 3 more... Soon there was a family of monkeys running along side me up on the sand dune :) They didn't accompany me for long, and after about a minute they stopped and silently watched me trudge along through the waves. Finally, long after the amount of time I'd planned on running, I decided it was about time to turn around and head back (especially since I couldn't even see the coast I'd started from on any more). I stopped for a moment at my final bend to take a deep breath of the ocean air, and what did I see on the other side but two old white tourists walking along with sun caps collecting sea shells! (I guess they must have been walking from the next beach town along the coast?) Oh wells, not completely alone with the crabs and the monkeys but that's the price you pay for staying at a tourist town!
Okie dokie, time to wash some laundry. Before I go though, just want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA! Can't wait to see you guys in 3 weeks!!!
Big hugs :)