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In Mozambique on June 23, 2008 at 4:41 am

I am back in Manhattan. In many ways it’s almost as if I never left. It’s funny how life moves forward with such great momentum despite it all. It’s strange how in the blink of an eye you can be transported from one time, one place, one reality to a completely different one. I have had almost no time to process anything. Yesterday, on the subway, Tamika and I kept blinking at each other, trying to understand how we came to be in New York, when only a few… (ok like 48) hours ago we were riding a rusty, rickety chapa.

I am happy to be back. I’m taking it slowly. I’m finishing up my final round of interviews this week. Then I’m heading to Maryland/D.C., Rochester and back to Manhattan to go through the process of re-settling (eeeh…).

I miss Mozambique already and have decided to enroll in a formal Portuguese language course so I can truly become fluent enough to go back (in some capacity or another). I’m definitely going back to Mozie, the love bug bit me the moment I stepped of the chapa, although at the time, I wouldn’t have called it “love”.

Tamika and I had an adventure making our way back home to the states. We almost didn’t make it back.

We left Inhambane for Maputo at 4:30 am. We spent the night at Lynne’s, took a chapa from the central market and arrived at 11:30. This was on a Monday and we were supposed to fly out of Joburg on Tuesday evening. Two weeks earlier, we contacted the ADPP headquarters in Maputo telling them that we were leaving and that we needed our bus tickets to Joburg (our organization is supposed to cover our expenses to the airport, etc.). Sure, no problem, we were told.

When we got off of the chapa in Maputo, we called the office to let them know we had arrived and would be heading to Machava in a few hours to pick up our tickets for later on that day (we were supposed to leave on a bus at 7pm- we just wanted to drop our bags off at our friend Jesse’s apartment so that we wouldn’t have to lug them around the city). When we called, we were informed that they hadn’t purchased any tickets for us and that the bus that we were supposed to take was full. The panic began here.

Desperate and furious, Tamika and I showed up at a particular man’s office (I am not naming names) to get to the bottom of the confusion. We were told that it wasn’t possible to get a bus in time to catch our plane and that they didn’t know we were leaving. I was literally told and I quote “this is not my problem, this is your problem”.

This was one of the most frustrating things about living and working in Mozambique, nobody ever wanted to take accountability for anything, nobody was ever on top of anything. There were no systems in place to check or balance much of anything making it so easy to get screwed over because you couldn’t depend on anyone and people didn’t do anything unless you lit a fire beneath their you know what. It was a backwards mess.

We were so angry. We argued with this man and his buddies in the office. Finally, since there were no buses and we needed to be in Joburg by 7pm the next day, he decided to give us the ticket money and told us to take a chapa. This would have been uncomfortable but fine if there weren’t violent conflicts at the border and people being killed. I couldn’t believe that ADPP had so little concern for our personal welfare that they would send us, two females, on a rickety chopa with Mozambique plates over the border in the middle of a conflict zone where Mozambicans were being targeted and attacked. We took the money and left. We had no other options. The only bus company that we were aware of was booked solid.

We called everyone we knew. Everyone begged us not to risk taking the chopa. We were torn. Our flight would be leaving without us, if we didn’t make a decision and quickly. Literally two hours before we almost took a chapa, my friend Lynne called to let us know that there were two tickets available on the Pantera Azul bus that was scheduled to leave in the morning at 7am which would get us to Joburg by 3pm. It would be a close call but it was our best chance.

Thank god for friends. We were connected with a friend of Lynne’s who lived in town where we spent the night and left in the morning with no problems. Luckily my friends are wonderful, supportive people, without which, I would never have survived the journey or my experience in Mozambique.

That last clash with my organization made me so happy that I was leaving early. I can’t stress enough, the importance of doing your homework before you take a contract abroad.

The Pantera Azul bus was comfortable and spacious. We relaxed our tense muscles and enjoyed the complimentary tea and biscuit service. It seemed that everything would work out in then end after all when about an hour away from Joburg, around 2:30, the bus blows a flat tire. We were horrified. We just wanted to get to the airport so that we could go home. We were so close but it was just not working out.

The driver and his first mate hopped out and worked on the tire for about 30 minutes. Somehow they patched the tire and we slowly puttered onward towards the bus station.

We finally made it to Joburg. We were about an hour late but we were there. The brother of one of the guys we knew in Mozie came to pick us up at the station and took us to the airport. We made it just in the nick of time. We were even able to spend our last rands and mets at the airport mall before boarding.

Despite it all, the flight was great. Tamika and I had two seats each. I caught up on my movies. The amarula and wine flowed freely. We had a surprise stop in Senegal? but 17and a half hours later, we made it to New York and boarded the subway and bam…we were back in the game.

My Mozambique- ADPP chapter is now closed. I am working on a book about my experiences. There were so many things that happened that I couldn’t really write about in this blog that I am recording now. I’ll post my introduction as well as blurbs at a later point. I can write what I want now that I’m no longer under a contract 😉

Thanks for reading!


Memories of Mozambique

In Mozambique on June 22, 2008 at 3:51 am

our place of employment

one of my favorite buildings in town

the bay of inhambane

the town center

that's one large moth

and one large spider

Freaky, climbing a palm tree

sojo and tina, riding in the back of a pick-up truck

my students presenting songs in my class- heads up everyone, heads up!

the lily pond i pass daily on my walk home from work

the old mosque in town

field observations

beautiful children

learning is fun!

passion fruit

active landmine field- the lasting horrors of the civil war

drawing water from our well

everywhere lizards

good friends

great times


goofy moments

the central market


In Mozambique on June 14, 2008 at 3:29 am

I am terminating my contract with Humana People to People and ADPP a month early. I will be heading home next Tuesday. I have many reasons for this decision which I’ll get into later.
The weather is dipping low right now. We’ve had freezing cold evenings where I lay awake shivering. Evenings so cold, I can see my breath when I am outside drawing water from the well. Yet during the day, the height of the afternoon, it’s hot – so hot. I don’t understand. This probably explains why I have a cold or maybe a sinus infection. I don’t know what I have yet, but it sucks.

In other news, we’ve now completely run out of water. We’ve hit the bottom of the well. The only water available is thick  brown and murky. It’s pretty disgusting. The water is basically runny mud and smells strange. I’m afraid to bathe. My roomates and I are turning into beasts of the bush. Luckily for me, I’m in town, hence the internet access, where I’ll be able to take a hot shower at Akisha’s tonight. I feel for our neighbors, we all share this well. I wonder how they are getting by?

To further complicate matters, we’ve got no gas in which to heat anything  and our “lovely” organization is refusing to pay our gas bill. According to our contract, they are supposed to take care of our gas. This means we have no access to drinking water and we can’t cook. We’ve been waiting on a water filter for three months and it hasn’t arrived. The closest bottled water is an hours walk away. The going has gotten tough. I’ve started to hoard water. I need it to rain so I can collect rain water.

My friend Akisha threw a going away party for me and Wendy on Saturday. It was really nice. Her garden was recently landscaped and the event was beautiful. I made fudge. I ate tons of cheese. We had an enormous cake. There was fresh squeezed passion fruit juice. Life just doesn’t get much better.

This week I sat in on a panel at work to grade the students as they take their oral exams in English. It’s nice to have work to do. It’s nice that we are fed not only bread, but bread with cold egg for breakfast (really tasty actually-just a pinch of salt and …yum…). It’s all a giant mess of course. The oral exams aren’t so much oral exams as they are presentations, most of which are not very good. However, when I do get that rare student who nails it, it’s exciting. Some of the students have extremely strong futures ahead of them.

Our little dog Macuti, well, the project dog (Clara’s four year old daughter Suri’s dog to be specific) , is growing up before my very eyes. She now has her real big-dog teeth. I’m proud of her. I watched her develop from a yappy little palm sized creature to an adolescent of sorts. Soon her puppy years will be behind her. They grow up so fast.

Oi my throat is burning.

Time to take some more Sudafed!

There is nothing like a good hot shower. Thank god for my benevolent friends in town with running water and indoor plumbing.
So fresh and so clean clean!

Yesterday I said goodbye to Akisha. She left for South Africa for a well deserved month long vacation shortly after hosting our Friday the 13th pow wow. I’ll miss you akish-kish. C’ya in New York in December.

One of my favorite things about traveling is the fact that you encounter some of the most amazing people. I have met some of my favorite people while traveling. Travelers tend to be of a different breed. Most of the travelers I have encountered on my sojourns are truly open, genuine, caring, and adventurous people, I appreciate that. I will miss my circle here. It’s one of those things I didn’t think much about until I had to begin my goodbyes.

I gave a lecture at the Eduardo Mondlane University for Hotel Tourism. It was a very memorable experience. I spoke to a class of second year students about recycling everyday materials to create useful items that can be used in restaurants and hotels. It went over really well. The students were so creative. It looks as though I have inadvertently started a campus recycling club. I can’t wait to see what the students come up with. They promise to email and keep me posted.

I spent a good portion of my morning running around the city of Inhambane filming. I want to show everyone what Inhambane looks like because I am certain that this city or town, depending on your perspective, will defy all stereotypes of what a town in Mozambique, in Africa, looks like. I also got some great footage of the beautiful bush.

I regret that it will be a very long time, years, before I see another full moon over the savannah. I am saddened that the milky way won’t be the backdrop of my everyday life any longer. I will not miss the insects.

Signing off. Preparing for a girls night out in Tofo- second to last night!

The well has run dry

In Mozambique on June 13, 2008 at 3:23 am

I am falling apart.
I don’t know how it began.
One morning I woke up with a wooden splinter lodged beneath my right eye.
Another day I developed a cold that has now turned into a raging hacking cough.
We have no more gas and our organization has refused to pay for more. This means we have no drinking water and we can not prepare food at home at all.
The water in our well out back is so low, all we have are pools of thick muddy water.
We are all afraid to bathe. I look at the water and the words cholera and typhoid come to mind.
Times are getting interesting.

Happy Friday the 13th. To celebrate, we gathered at Akisha’s to watch the Spanish film “Orphanage”. Kids are creepy. But what isn’t creepy is Akisha’s indoor shower with hot water- aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh, that shower was nice.

I said goodbye to my students today 😦
I will miss them. They were great.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but I have decided to end my contract with Humana a month early and will be returning to New York on Tuesday en route to D.C. en route to New York again. I have many reasons for this decision. None of which I have time to get into now.
I will post a copy of my resignation letter later.

I have to go. This computer is needed for a round of karaoke.


In Mozambique on June 1, 2008 at 3:20 am

Within the past week or two, close to 50,000 migrants from Mozambique and Zimbabwe (mostly) have crossed over the border from South Africa into Mozambique through Maputo (the capitol). The situation is desperate.
The migrant workers are leaving South Africa where they have endured brutal attacks as a result of an explosion of xenophobia fueled by South Africa’s struggling economy and fears that the migrants are taking jobs from South Africans.

People have been beaten, set on fire, harrassed, and over 40 people have lost their lives recently. The situation is beyond the control of the South African government (which with Joburg’ being one of the most dangerous cities in the world – had questionable control to begin with).

The atmosphere here in Inhambane is tense. Everyone is talking about the problem. People are worried about crime which has increased in Maputo due to all of the traffic. The conditions in these refugee camps are deplorable. It is just a matter of days before the refugees make their way further into the mainland. It’s really sad.

Is this even on the news in the US?

More madness in one act

In Mozambique on May 31, 2008 at 3:15 am

(In the teachers office. Sojourner, Tamika and Gierdre have just returned from breakfast)

Teacher: Oh did you forget
Sojo: Forget what?
Teacher: You don’t want to give the exams
Sojo: What? Am I supposed to be giving an exam???
Teacher: You don’t want to?
Sojo: Want to what? Nobody told me I was supposed to give an exam
(The other girls agree)
Teacher: (Laughs)
Yes well it’s very important, you must give, we must hurry
Sojo: Wait what exam am I giving, to which students, what are the instructions, how much time do they have?
Teacher: Ah, did you forget?
Sojo: Forget? Nobody told me anything. Did you forget?
Teacher: Come girls we must hurry the exam has started
Sojo: If it’s started how are we going to give it?
Teacher: Yes, but…
(His phone rings, he looks to see who it is)
Ok wait!
(He goes to the doorway)
Yes, hello my friend, how are you? No I’m not doing anything. Yes, yes, things are good and you?
(He walks away from the building, leaving the Development Instructors annoyed in the middle of the room)
Sojo: Why?

Waiter (yet another tale in one act)

In Mozambique on May 31, 2008 at 3:13 am

(At a cafe)

Waiter: Boa Tarde
Sojo: Boa Tarde, I would like the Italian pizza
Waiter: Yes, Italian pizza
Sojo: Yes, but could I have that without the sausage
Waiter: (looks confused) Italian pizza, it comes with sausage
Sojo: Yes, I know, but can I have mine without
Waiter: It’s not possible
Sojo: Why? You make the pizzas in the kitchen. Just don’t add any sausage to mine please
Waiter: It’s not possible, it comes with sausage
Sojo: Yes, I realize that, but I don’t eat meat and I would like everything that comes with the Italian pizza, I just don’t want the sausage
Waiter: ok
Sojo: Thank you, so you will bring me an Italian pizza without the sausage
Waiter: No, it’s not possible
Sojo: You can’t just give me the pizza without the sausage
Waiter: It’s not possible
Sojo: I’ll have the cheese pizza
Waiter: Yes, cheese pizza

TWIDLWNIWNM (Another tale in one act)

In Mozambique on May 31, 2008 at 3:10 am

Act I.
(The teachers office ADPP)

Teacher who I don’t like whose name I will not mention: Ah, Sojo, my big boss, how goes it?
Sojo: Hi
TWIDLWNIWNM: Sojo, yah, I need something
Sojo: yes
TWIDLWNIWNM: I don’t know what we will do
Sojo: Why?
TWIDLWNIWNM: On the computer, I must make a message to teacher Tracy
Sojo: Okay…
TWIDLWNIWNM: Well you can do it
Sojo: What?
sojo: What do you want me to do?
TWIDLWNIWNM: I need you to make an email
Sojo: Ok…so what do you want me to do????
TWIDLWNIWNM: Yah, well you can write it
Sojo: You can write your own email
TWIDLWNIWNM: No I haven’t the know how
Sojo: You don’t know how?
TWIDLWNIWNM: Yes, No, Yes, it’s very difficult
Sojo: Do you want me to show you how so that it won’t be difficult anymore?
TWIDLWNIWNM: No you see it’s difficult
Sojo: No, I’ll show you
TWIDLWNIWNM: No you will write it
Sojo: You need to learn
TWIDLWNIWNM: No not today
Sojo: You realize I’m going baack to New York soon and then what will you do?
TWIDLWNIWNM: (crazy laughter)
Sojo: (stone faced silence)
TWIDLWNIWNM: Ok so write
Sojo: Write what? You’re not making any sense
TWIDLWNIWNM: (more crazy laughter)
Sojo: TWIDLWNIWNM, I’m going to count to three and if you can’t tell me exactly what you want I’m walking away…1…2..
TWIDLWNIWNM: Oh Sojo my big boss, come sit, tell teacher Tracy I need some papers
Sojo: What papers? You need to be specific. You want me to email Tracy who is back home in Westchester about “some” papers. I don’t think she’s going to know what you’re talking about
TWIDLWNIWNM: (even more crazy laughter)
Sojo: (eyes become slits)
TWIDLWNIWNM: Oh Sojo (pets her on the head as if she is a stupid dog who can’t be trained) Yes

RAK-47 WPO (A tale in one act)

In Mozambique on May 31, 2008 at 3:04 am

It’s the blind leading the blind. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how anything functions.

(It’s a sunny afternoon. Sojourner is walking down a street past a police station.)

Random AK-47 Wielding Police Officer: You can’t pass here
Sojo: What?
RAK-47 WPO: You can’t pass here (he points to the other side of the street)
Sojo: I can’t walk on this side of the street?
RAK-47 WPO: No, other
Sojo: Why?
RAK-47 WPO: (Points across the street)
Sojo: (Begins to cross over to the opposite side of the street)
RAK-47 WPO: No! you have to go back
Sojo: What?
RAK-47 WPO: (Points to the end of the street many yards away)
Sojo: (Stares down RAK-47 WO accessing him. He is small, perhaps 5’2″ and 90 lbs, she thinks she might be able to take him, then re-considers remembering the large assult riffle which probably isn’t actually loaded, but if it were, RAK-47WPO would probably be happy to play target practice with the irritated American. She stares him down and gives in, but first offers up the nastiest snarl she can muster. Pivoting on her heels, she makes her way to the end of the street, crosses over and re-works her way down the street, this time, as requested, on the opposite side of the police station)

Morungulu Beach Weekend

In Mozambique on May 27, 2008 at 2:38 am

This morning I saw my breath as I was drawing water from the well. It’s really getting cold. We’re smack dab in the middle of our winter season. I have to wrap myself like a mummy at night in capolanas so I can sleep because it’s so chilly and of course I didn’t bring enough warm clothes because when I was told I’d be in Mozambique during the winter I grunted and rolled my eyes thinking, yeah, sure, eighty five degrees instead of one hundred.

What’s that thing they say about hindsight?

I am really letting myself go. I’m barely recognizable. I’ve begun to do strange things that I wouldn’t have done before. A few days ago, I drank water with ants, twigs and debris in it, I figured it was alright because it was boiled. Yesterday, I drank my coffee even though there was a fly in it. I just couldn’t be bothered with boiling another pot of water and waiting, waiting, waiting, so I just tipped it on back. I didn’t even remove the fly. I’ve become extremely comfortable with roaches, they don’t phase me at all anymore. A few days ago, I swatted one away with my hand because it was crawling too close. Ordinarially, I wouldn’t get closer than ten feet of one. I used to drink bottled water, boiled my tap water, but now, here, I’ve let myself go, for better or for worse.

Who knows how my re-integration into American society will go. I can see myelf now, my hooves, because that is what has become of my feet, will be clickity clacking down the terminal at JFK, my hair will be wild, I’ll be dressed in mis-matched capolanas and everyone at the arrivals gate will wince in horror as I trot through and inevitably get detained at immigration.

I have seen so many rainbows lately. The cool air has created lots of fog which has created a community of rainbows that seem to link one palm tree to another across the horizon. I try to photograph these rainbows, but they never come out very well so I’ve given up and I’m taking it all in.

Yesterday, I had my first day back at work since my investigation. It is nice to be back to my regular schedule. I’ve been keeping busy fine tuning my pre-school curriculum which I think is turning out nicely.

The students have exams all week so my classes are cancelled. I hate when my classes are cancelled, I have so many things I want to do with the students and since I only teach twice a week, I really look forward to my time in the classroom.

I had the best week-end. A few of us rented a bungalow on Morungulu beach, a few hours North of Inhambane. It was beautiful and secluded. We had the beach and the resort to ourselves. I was in heaven. The water was so warm, I was swimming and being tossed around by waves. I collected so many shells, I can now add clam shells to my collection, large hand sized ones for holding jewelry and sage. I wrote poetry, that I’ll be kind enough not to share with you and worked on my book. I spent hours meditating and sleeping in the sun. The resort was lovely, I’m definitely going to re- visit for my honeymoon. It works out perfectly that our American summer is the off season for the South African tourists who usually occupy the resort. Ha ha ha …

the kitchen at our bungalo on the beach

Writing Break

meditation break

writing break

cloud gazing

and a sunset

group shot