Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quckly Coming to a Close (almost following the alliteration theme...)

Well, it’s September 20th. I’m about one week away from a day I sometimes doubted I would actually come to: The 2 Year Mark.

I’ve been browsing other blogs of my Moz15 colleagues, and it seems like everyone’s starting to reflect back on his or her service. “Things I’ve Learned,” “Things I Will/Won’t Miss,” “Things I Love.” How will I reflect on 2 years in Mozambique? What is a good way to sum up how I feel about the last almost 10% of my life that I have spent living in Kaunda? Although the title may be a little off-putting, bear with me as we enter into my 2 year reflection: 

“Things I’m Sick of”

I’m sick of the fact that it is already so hot when I wake up in the morning that I start sweating immediately, and that the heat seems to never subside… but because of this heat, I have been forced to get up so early to jog that I see the sunrise almost every day, something I know I won’t do back home, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of old “mato” men and women staring at me like the devil in running shorts as I come up to them on the road in the morning… but as soon as I greet them with a “bom dia,” they instantly break into the biggest smile in the world, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of cooking with the same 3 ingredients: tomatoes, onions, and garlic… but it has made me realize how to be creative with food, and how to really appreciate all the variety we have in our American diet, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of having nothing to do in the evening but watch Amazing Race reruns on my computer before falling asleep around 9 pm… but I realize I am more well rested than I have been since middle school, and as a result have maintained wonderful health the past two years, and for that I am thankful.

I was sick of living with no cell phone service, of never being able to talk to anyone that would truly understand me when I needed to vent… but because of that, I have learned how to productively conquer my problems. I regularly journal, and have learned the wonderful ability to let something settle before I freak out, and for that I am thankful (and I’m pretty sure my mom is, too).

I’m sick of not having enough work to keep me busy… but as a result, have read so many wonderful books, watched so many wonderful (and, okay, not so wonderful, but all the same entertaining) TV shows, done so many crosswords, and played guitar, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my flat mattress… but after seeing many friend’s houses in town, I realize I am one of the lucky few to have a bed, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of bucket baths… but in the course of the last 2 years, I have had some of the most satisfying bathing experiences of my life (I know that sounds weird, but it’s true). There is nothing like pouring cups of cold water over yourself on a day that is so hot you can smell yourself sweating. I also know that the majority of my students do not have electricity to quickly heat up water for baths before school during the cold months, yet I can heat it up in 3 minutes, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my latrine… but compared with other PCVs indoor “pour flush” toilets, where you have to pour water down them and they never seem to actually flush all the way, I am infinitely grateful for the fact that after I do my business, I never have to see it again, and for that I am REALLY thankful!

I’m sick of speaking Portuguese… but I now realize that I can sit and have an hour long conversation with someone, without any struggle, and walk away without a headache… something I couldn’t imagine 2 years ago! And for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of my school not taking itself seriously, and it taking at least 3 weeks after each break for the classroom to actually become full enough to give serious classes… but because of this, I have been able to travel the country and see some of the beautiful places in Moz, something that not many Mozambicans actually get to do themselves, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of teaching grade 8 curriculum to students that are struggling to read and seem to be at about a grade 2 level by American standards… but after 2 years in the classroom, I have realized how to cater to their strengths, and can see their wheels turning. I feel like they are actually learning with me now, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of teaching with no resources… but the students are used to seeing NOTHING in their classes, let alone being rewarded for good work. Because of this, I can walk into a class of 16 year olds and start putting stickers on their foreheads for participation… and they all start shouting out answers! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have the same effect in a high school class in America… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of trying to plan events where it is impossible to get anything organized more than a few days before… but I realize that in this culture, people just take things one day at a time. There is no stress about next week because no one knows what could happen until then, let alone next year. As a result, people seem much more content, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of anyone dying from heart problems related to stress in Mozambique, and it has maybe rubbed off on me, at least a little… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of people asking me for food, money, or whatever else they think I have that they want… but I realize that if I were to ask someone else in my town for those things myself, they would definitely give it to me, as they would to any neighbor, and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of every single person in town knowing every single thing I do every single day… but I realize it’s only because they are interested in me and want to figure me out. This “celebrity” has also made it so I can’t go anywhere without being greeted by name by every single person I pass, and has made me feel incredibly loved and safe in my community. If anyone messed with me, everyone would know it, and they all have my back… and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of being far away from my family… but I have been forced to find substitutes for my family here in Kaunda. I have my “mom” figures (the secretaries, Beth and Anabela, who always make sure to check in on me the next day if I say the littlest thing is wrong, like I have a headache), my “older sister” (Celsa, my friend from day 1, who although she is at a different place than me in life, is always there to help me out and treats me like her equal), my “older brothers” (all the male teachers at my school who I don’t hang out with THAT much, but still enjoy shooting the breeze with from time to time), my “best friend” (Veronica, my cool Maputo-grown pal who just really gets me and whom I love to just chat with), my “little brothers and sisters” (all my kids in REDES, soccer, and English Club, who I just love to joke around with), and my “children” (my turma, or the kids that have me as their homeroom teacher, who I am responsible for and who actually come to me for all their problems expecting me to solve them), and for that I am thankful.

I’m sick of living life as a “countdown,” thinking how many days until I leave for the weekend, how many days until the next social gathering, how many days until I leave Mozambique for good… but as that final countdown is actually starting, I’m realizing that maybe I don’t want time to go so fast. Sure, I am excited to get back to America, but this place has become my home. Will I really never ever see this new “family” again? It’s a different sort of goodbye that’s coming up… one I’m not sure I’ve ever had to do before. I’ve said goodbye to friends who have moved growing up, to family members who have relocated across the country, to classmates in high school, to roommates in college… but I feel like there’s always a way to keep in touch easily or to see them again. What are the chances that I will come back to Mozambique anytime in the next 10 years? That anyone from here will ever travel outside of Moz, let alone to America? How will I keep in touch with a community that just got cell phone service a couple months ago? Will I still be able to speak enough Portuguese to call them? Will I never ever see my best friends for the last 2 years again? Are these the last few sunrises I will ever get to see in Kaunda, the last few sunsets I will ever watch from my back stoop, the last fresh mangos I will ever eat? I suddenly feel not so ready for that… and although it makes me sad, I know that means the last 2 years have been some great ones, despite every struggle and frustration, and for that I am thankful.

The song for this post maybe a cliché, but is my all-time favorite Beatles song, “In My Life.” I’m sure my emotions will continue to follow a roller coaster through these last couple months… but here’s to 71 more days in Mozambique, whatever they may bring!


  1. I have tears and no words....beautiful.

  2. Oh, Hannah - what a beautiful post by a beautiful woman! I, too, am teary!
    xxxxxxxooooooxxxxxxxxYour proud Grandma

  3. God Bless you, Hannah ...beautiful post.

    Carolyn :)

    Blogging friend of your grandma, Carol.

  4. Hannah, you've proven you're the real deal, plus you've got grit. And that's a very unique quality that everyone will respect you for throughout the rest of your life.

    Have fun on your trip home! -UB & AA