I have asked myself that question about 100 times in the last week. Today marks the completion of my first week at site, and I feel like I have gone through enough emotions to feel like I have been here a year already! I’d be lying if I said everything has been easy-breezy. At least once a day, in fact, I find that I need to give myself a pep talk, and remind myself of why I am here. I still have very positive feelings about my site, but I truly think the next month will be the hardest of the 27 I am in Mozambique. Without a “job” to do yet (since the school year doesn’t start until January), it is difficult to remember why I am here… so far it seems I am just here to embarrass myself and to challenge myself to find ways to fill the days sans cell phone service, friends, and an electric fan to fend off the sweltering heat. BUT before you think I am having a bad time, I do have several stories of triumph to share! I didn’t want to post all about my struggles, but I thought it was only fair to actually share with people honestly about my experience- good and bad. I am sure there will be more rough points ahead, and I want to make sure I adequately reflect on them- that way I can appreciate this journey in its entirety! Alright, enough deep thoughts for the day—here are some more interesting details.
“Where Am I?” Moments:
Saturday, I decided to venture in to Tete City for the “weekend.” I left, not knowing if I’d be back later that day or as late as Monday. My director encouraged me to leave for the whole weekend, seeing as Kaunda is pretty empty this time of year, but I did not yet know if Audrey and Helen were able to let me stay with them at their school, where they were still living while they waited for their house to be complete. Without cell phone service, I started seeing that I have to be extremely flexible when going anywhere. So, I packed up a couple changes of clothes and my tooth brush, and started towards the road to look for a ride. Derek, Eden, and I (all in the Chiuta district, Eden and I with no cell service) had planned to start waiting for chapas at staggered times, hoping that we’d end up on the same one. Shockingly, our plans didn’t work out… I got on a chapa alone, but had a very easy trip into the city. As we neared the bridge to cross the Zambezi River (Where am I??), I finally got cell service and was able to talk to Derek, only to find out he hadn’t even left his village, which was the farthest away. No worries, I’ll just find a coffee shop or something. It was then that the driver of the chapa told me the car wasn’t going anywhere and I needed to change cars… alright. So, I scan for an open chapa and hail them to open the door and let me in. I jump in to the moving car (Where am I??), at which no one even acknowledges me. We cross the bridge, and finally the driver asks me where I’d like to go. It’s about now that I realize I have never been in Tete City before, and have absolutely no idea where anything is. “Where all the stores are,” I tell him in Portuguese. He looks at me like I am crazy. “How about the Hotel Zambezi?” he asks. “Sure!” I answer, at least recognizing the name. So he drops me off in front of the hotel, and they drive off laughing. Alright, here I am. It’s about 7 in the morning and I have absolutely no idea where to go. I wander up and down the streets for a while, searching for anything that looks slightly familiar from our brief trip through the city on our way to site. No luck. Finally, I see a telecommunications center, and ask for directions to an internet café. Luckily, these also led me to the very American looking coffee shop that I had seen when we drove through. Success!
This café was seriously like walking back into America (Where am I??). Tete City is packed with foreigners, and this is where they all go. I attempted by buy some internet time, but the internet was down. I had no idea whether Derek or anyone was on the way or not, so I just sat and read a book for about 2 hours. Finally, I hear from Derek, Eden, and Audrey and Helen, all of whom were on their way to the city! Success!
The 5 of us had a nice day walking around, shopping, and eating pizza. After, we decided we could just walk back across the bridge to Audrey and Helen’s school, where I was allowed to stay for the night. It was only after about 45 minutes in the insanely hot sun that we realized that 5K is a pretty lengthy walk when you are carrying many purchases and it is no less than 95 degrees out. I even relieved my arms for a bit by carrying my stuff on my head (Where am I??) Just kidding…. I wish I could do that. We finally got back to the school where I was able to take a cold shower and lay down for a bit. Success!
The next day, after spending what seemed like the whole night on the phone (have to take advantage of cell service when I have it!), we headed back into the city to meet a current PCV’s Brazilian friends that live in the city for a Brazilian BBQ. She walks us to his house, where we realize he lives in an extremely fancy house by American standards (Where am I??) complete with a shower that talks to you. They were cooking up some meat that was apparently really good, and we just sat outside and drank a beer and enjoyed the new company. We ate an obscene amount of food, and eventually left with one of the Brazilians who offered to drive us to the bridge. As we get in the car, he offers us a beer (No, thanks) or some chocolate (Um, yes!!!) and we cruise up to the bridge in his Land Cruiser (Where am I??) We walked across the bridge, and were met on the other side by a sudden downpour. So, we realized we just can’t win on the walk, and hitched a ride from a passing truck. We crammed in, and quickly regretted the decision as the man turned the car around and drove us back in the direction we were coming from (Where am I??) Thankfully there were 3 of us, and we were able to convince him that no, we did not want to go back to a bar with him, we needed to get back to the school. After much laughter he did turn around and take us to the school. Success!
I spent the night at the school again, and woke up unfortunately dreading my trip back to my empty house. After a weekend of friends, showers, and good food, it was hard to get excited to going back to isolation. Audrey and Helen walked me out to wait for a chapa, but there didn’t seem to be many cars going in the direction of Kaunda. Finally, a truck driver stops and tells me they are going to Zambia, and I can ride with them to my village. Sensible Hannah wanted to say no, but looking at 2 years of waiting for what “sensible Hannah” deems appropriate seemed pretty daunting. Audrey and Helen encouraged me to just try it, and so I hopped up onto the truck bed and started praying (Where am I??). They were actually very nice, and despite the fact that the semi truck was probably going about 20 mph the majority of the time, I did make it back to site. This will just have to be something I get used to, and I’ll just have to listen to my gut when it tells me something is unsafe, and trust that most people are good! Success!
And so here I am, back at site, where I have been for the week. I have completed several little projects, journaled a lot, helped the teachers with their grading, cooked some decent meals, all while counting down the days until I go back to the city to see friends. I sometimes worry that this is an unhealthy attitude, this counting down, but I’m trying to trust that it is normal to look forward to seeing friends, and as long as I am managing to stay productive while I am alone, I am doing alright. I also know that once school starts, my days of feeling purposeless will be over and I will be wishing I could have one of these days again with absolutely nothing to do.
This weekend I have lots of cooking goals to get ready for “A Very Mato Christmas” in Moatize at Audrey and Helen’s. They apparently have a pretty nice house, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone. All the Tete folks as well as some stragglers from other provinces will be together, trying to enjoy our first Christmas away from home. I am dreading the sadness I am going to feel about being away, but I am thankful that I have a great group of people to spend the holiday with! I think we will all share some tears together, but I think we’ll manage to have some fun, too.
Alright, well this was an unbearably long post. I should also mention that it went from being about a million degrees to torrential down pour as I am writing this. I’m supposed to be meeting with my counterpart to fill out some forms right now, but I don’t think I’ll venture outside quite yet!
The song for this post is “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, another Molly CD. I started listening to it right before I left Michigan, and am thankful that I have actually found friends that can give me a “home” away from my family. Happy listening! I will hopefully update again around Christmas time, but if not, Merry Christmas!!! I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday with great family, friends, and food!