Monday, January 23, 2012

Home (USA), Home (Mozambique), and Hope!

Happy New Year! After a long absence from blogging (and from regular work life), I am back! I trust that the holidays went well for everyone.  They certainly did for me! Since my sister’s visit, I have done some traveling around Mozambique, South Africa, and finally ended up in the US for a fantastic 3 week Christmas break. Every part of the trip was amazing! If you ever get a chance to go to Cape Town, do it. It is beautiful. Nothing I saw there could compare to seeing my family and friends, though. After 15 months of phone calls and e-mails, being able to sit down and actually talk was so wonderful. The home cooked food and hot showers were not taken for granted, either! I also finally got to meet my nephew, who just must be the cutest baby ever.

After such a fantastic two months, I can’t honestly say I was super gung ho about going back to my bucket baths and no cell phone service at site, but I can honestly say that I knew it was time for vacation to be over and to get back to the real world. And for me, the real world right now is in Kaunda. So here I am!
Getting back up to site was emotional. After leaving my house empty for so long, I had visions of rodent and insect infestations, cut energy, and overall filth. I was pleasantly surprised to unlock my door and find none of those things! It looked just about how I left it. My fence has certainly seen better days (there must have been quite a few storms), but other than that, everything was pretty much good. My director’s wife and the school secretary were both sitting on the porch next door to me, and gave me a nice welcome. I wandered over to Celsa’s house, and generally just felt really good to be back. I was looking at a week and a half until I left again, so a good start was crucial. I felt like people were genuinely excited to have me back, and that made it impossible not to feel happy about being “home.”

The next week and a half were actually pretty tough. I’m sitting at the end of this stretch now, and I’m happy that it’s done. Now before I say too much, please know that things are overall very good… I just think it’s only fair to include the less than perfect times as well in this reflection. Since Molly’s visit, I hadn’t been alone for a single day. Normally I am perfectly content with alone time, but jumping right into ten straight days of no cell phone service or contact with anyone outside of site was a challenge. It didn’t help that there was absolutely nothing going on at site. The school year supposedly started on Monday, but it’s mostly just been a few teachers that show up each day to do some lesson planning. The students are slowly trickling in, but it will be a couple weeks until the school year is fully going. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit being less than enthusiastic, but I am confident that things will pick up again. The year will be full of new challenges, but there are many aspects that will be much easier than last year, and I’m very excited for it to really get started.

One large difference between this year and last year is that this year I have real friends at site! Whenever I have felt less than peppy this past week, I have made it a point to just get out of my house and find someone to sit with. I remember when I did this last year- I felt like I was obligated every day to get out and “passear.” Every day I would get criticized for “sitting alone in my house” and I remember everyone seemed very concerned about my well-being. I didn’t really get it- at that point, sitting in awkward conversation in a second language was not more comforting than sitting alone reading or doing a crossword puzzle. Well, I must be becoming integrated into Mozambican culture, because this year, those awkward conversations have been my saving grace. When it’s not a challenge to speak in Portuguese, and I feel like I genuinely know the people I’m talking to, just having someone else to sit with is necessary. My women friends really seem to appreciate it, too. Whenever I stop by someone’s house and chat with them for a while, I find that the next day it is almost guaranteed that they will return the favor the next day.

On one particularly rough day, I went over to my friend Fatima’s house. She was one of the first women that was really nice to me at site, and she just had a baby. Holding her 3 week old son and chatting with her about the challenges of being away from home, and feeling like she really understood and empathized, turned out to be the perfect therapy. She made me realize a very large flaw in my attitude. Generally, I have been pretty hesitant to talk about missing home to Mozambicans. I didn’t think anyone would understand why trading in hot showers and nachos for bucket baths and xima would be difficult, seeing as that is the only way of life known here. Family, though, is important in every culture, and the pains of being so far away from family are very much understood. I was mistaken in ever feeling like I am alone in the feelings of homesickness. Although I don’t plan on moping around Kaunda for the rest of the year, I realized it is important to reach out for help and support from my friends here! My community here really wants me to be happy, and if I tell them what I need, they will give it. If that is just someone to lend an ear, I have it here, and I can’t be afraid to seek it out! That’s a pretty great thing to feel.

On the school front, things are looking different than last year, as well. This year, I’ll be teaching English! I’ll have 8th grade again, which meets 3 times a week (as opposed to the 2 for biology). I am pretty bummed to not be moving on with last year’s students… I was really looking forward to picking up where I left off. Instead, I’ll be starting from scratch… but that’s okay! I got to know the students last year, now I’ll just double the number of students I get to know in this 2 year gig. I am excited about teaching English, too. The program at the school, from what I’ve seen, is pretty weak. I think I can bring in some new teaching methods that will be pretty effective. Mainly, I’m pretty jazzed to get them singing! Ha. The school schedule looks a lot different, too. The secondary school is meeting in the afternoon this year instead of the morning, all except for 2 8th grade turmas. Since I’m teaching 8th grade, I’ll have my classes spread out over the whole day instead of just the morning. This is okay with me, since I’m sure it will make me feel much busier! I also convinced the principal to let me make the schedule with my computer, so I’m looking at a pretty nice schedule for my classes. 

So, that brings me up to date. This week classes will start up (hopefully), but I’ll be heading down to Maputo for our midservice conference. This is the first time the whole training class has been together since training. I’m really looking forward to it! It will be great to hear how everyone is doing, and a nice social getaway after these empty days. I’ll spend the week there, then get back to a school that is actually functioning. I’m hoping I can just hit the ground running at that point, and time will start to fly as it supposedly does in the 2nd year of service! I hope I will have many wonderful stories to share throughout the year, I’m sure with a couple rough patches mixed in. Thankfully, I know I have gobs of support back home and at site, and I am truly grateful for that.

I hope 2012 is looking good on the other side of the world, as well. As always, I appreciate any emails and updates from back home! It was so great to catch up with many of you when I was home. I think of you all often!

The song from this back is a throwback to my 6th grade music choice. We’ll go with “Still on Your Side” by BBMak. I’ll never grow out of BBMak, no matter what continent I’m on, or how old I am. I refuse.

So that’s it! Happy 2012!!!