Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Ile is the exact opposite of Nacala­- in fact, as I write this it is pouring outside (we got 200 liters of water filled in under 10 minutes), where as in Nacala it never rained. Ile is small; actually ile is tiny. Looking out from behind our house you see only a handful of houses- the rest is open land and sky. The climate is much cooler, although the humidity makes it feel hotter. Also the market in Nacala was much much bigger than the one in ile, in fact, the entire food selection in ile is much simpler, although it does have the advantage of having cheap pineapple, which were rare in Nacala. So far, it´s great.

Getting to ile was a little bit of a challenge- all of our stuff was still in our house in Nacala, and had to be moved before we could go anywhere else. There was a little bit of a mad scramble at the last minute, logistics wise (logistics are very complicate here) but things worked out well. In fact, we got a 1st class flight up to Nampula, which was nice, and once there we were met by a Peace Corps driver/ all around handy-man who was up in the North fixing up houses. He took us in a Land Cruiser pick up truck, loaded all of our belongings, and then took us to ile the next day. I´m not sure that anything else would have fit in (or on) the truck.

We´ve been really happy with our reception in ile. People so far have been very friendly and welcoming. Our director took us to meet some of the important people in town (police chief, city administrator, local brazilian nun, Canadian shopkeeper- he´s from Toronto- etc.) We have been introduced to some of the teachers, who were working on the final grades of the year, and they all seemed excited to see us. One of the teachers came to our house, showed us around town, and took us to his house, where we watched pirated south African music videos on his TV. Then, since we had just moved in, the school took us out for dinner- and lunch the next day.

On one of our first days shopping in the market we met some German missionaries (although not actually missionaries- there are 2 nurses and a civil engineer, but very similar to missionaries), who have been very kind and had us over for lunch- very tasty sauerkraut.

As for our housing situation… For now, things are OK. We are litteraly a part of the school here, though, our house being attached to the building where the kids eat. We even share a wall with the kitchen! Right now there are only half a dozen kids staying here, waiting for their final grades, but once school starts there will be hundreds. The house is supposed to belong to the Director of Student Dorms, but he moved out because of the noise! The school tells us that we will have a new house soon, but I know that can mean in 6-8 months unless we push…. The house is pretty bare right now, there are 3 rooms with no kitchen, counters, closets, etc. Just 3 plain rooms, and since this should be temp housing, we aren´t doing much to build on it. (Although we´re adding some furniture and it is getting more comfortable- who knows, we could be here a while).

We have to thank everyone who gave us flashlights- they´ve come in handy lately! We haven´t had power for about 5 days, and it may be a few more weeks before we do!! Last week we were in our house when we saw orange and red light under our door, and heard a burning noise- I thought someone was welding outside our door! Turns out that a wire burned up, which is not surprising because students had connected a power strip to it, and other connetions to the wire were made with plastic bags and candy wrappers. So we didn´t have power. We thought it might only take a little while to fix that cable. And in fact, it would, the power people could have it fixed pretty quickly, excpet that the director of the student dorms (or LAR) decided not to pay the power bill, so on top of the burned cable, they cut our power! We won´t have a chance of getting it back until next month (and that means we have to wait to finish watching Lost! Aaaarg).

The only serious problem is a dispute Eli and I have over a word in Scrabble- I think she was angry because I was winning by 150 points, but maybe someone can check this word for us. I used Adz which is a noun (some kind of tool) and then I made it plural, so Adzs. If that´s not right someone let me know.

The other disadvantage of ile is that there is no cell phone coverage, but rumor has it that they are building a new cell tower that will be operational within a month. It hasn´t been confirmed, but if I start sending text messages, you´ll know. I hope everyone is doing well back home, things are very good here.

PJ and EO

Friday, December 08, 2006


Even more pix

OK, a few more pix to go with that last post... sorry for everyone on a slow internet connection, let me know if its slow to load the pictures.

This elephant stumbled around after drinking the mystery water from a manmade reservoir

Woodland Kingfisher

The leopard that Eli spotted!

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These pix go with what I just posted

Herd of Elephants... there were LOTS.

Blyde River Canyon!

White rhino with an oxpecker on its back

Me, feeding a vulture!


Going back to Moz

**sorry, long post**

Today 55 trainees swore in and became Peace Corps volunteers, bringing the total in Mozambique up to 113, and most of which will be leaving tomorrow for their new sites. But there´s a lot that´s happened between us leaving New York and attending the swearing-in ceremony today.

Eli and I took an 18 hour flight from New York to Johannesburg where we were picked up by the guy who does marketing for our safari company (he runs a B&B out of his apartment). On the way to his place he took a detour to show us part of downtown Jo´burg. Johannesburg is, by the way, the most dangerous city in the world- as in, it has the highest murder rate. We only went by the edge of the downtown, because he said he doesn´t drive through the actual downtown, but he pointed out hotels and buildings which used to be nice and now were really run down. In the 70´s, he told us, this was the place to live in South Africa. What a change. He didn´t even want to stop at traffic lights because that´s where a lot of car jackings happen.

The next day we got picked up by our safari company. Most safari companies have a set day when they start, but Viva Safaris goes every day, and we were curious as to how that worked. It turns out that there are always groups of people coming and going, and we met quite a few international people. In the van with us were an Australian and a Brazilian, and we also met people from England, Germany, Scotland and the US.

Viva Safaris advertises tree houses but, of the 11 or so cabins they have, only 2 or 3 are actually tree houses, the others are on stilts! But, they do overlook the river, and they are very nice inside (big double bed, chairs, bathroom with hot water). On our first night we did a game drive in a private reserve, which they advertised as a night drive, but which actually ended at sunset. There was a huge difference between the private reserve we went to with Eli´s mom and this place- it wasn´t nearly as nice here! (The place was a sister company to viva safari´s, about half hour away from our camp).

However, we had 2 full days in Kruger Park on open 4X4 game viewing vehicles, which was amazing. Being in the game viewers, as they called them, was great because you were pretty high up, to see through the brush better, and there were no windows between you and the animals. We saw 4 of the Big Five- only lions were missing, and they saw them the day before we came! However, we did see the most difficult to see of the big five, which is the leopard. Eli is the one who spotted it too, while it was napping in a tree.

We saw huge amounts of elephants and zebras, lots of interesting birds including ostriches, ibises, vultures, and a lot of other bright ones. (Eli was really glad that I had brought 2 pairs of binoculars J) . We saw warthogs wallowing in mud, others with its babies, baby zebra and giraffe and baby elephants. We saw groups of baboons fighting and tons of impala. One of the best things we saw were the white rhinos, which we spotted 5 times. Once it crossed the road right by our car, and we got a great view of it. We had a wonderful time on the game drives. Our only complaint was that we didn´t get into the park until about 9:30am (our camp was outside the park on private land that still had a lot of animals), and breakfast was a 7:30- we should have been in the park by 7:30!! Early morning is the very best time to be out a and we missed a lot of it. However, we still did see a lot and have a good time.

Another day we went to a Cheetah rehabilitation project, which was interesting and we saw Cheetah, who were being bred, in cages, and some other animals on their property, such as the sable antelope with is very nice and rare. They have a vulture feeding pit where the bones of dead gazelles´ and elephants are cleaned. Then the bones are sold to be crushed into powder to be used as an ingredient for cheese cake, ice cream, and chocolate etc! After that we did another ¨night drive¨ in the private reserve where we went the first night, which was disappointing. That day we were not extremely happy because although the Cheetah project was interesting, it was a short tour and we had a lot of downtime.

Another day we went to the Moholoholo animal rehabilitation center, which was even better than the Cheetah project. They had a lot of animals which had been injured (birds of prey which had cut their wings off by hitting power lines while in a dive). They had lots of vultures, because vultures get poisoned easily (farmers put out poisoned meat to kill things like coyotes or leopards which eat their animals, and it kills hundreds of vultures at a time). In one cage they had a group of cape vultures, which are fairly rare. We went into the cage with the tour guide to get a close look, and then they offered to let us feed them! Of course I wanted to do it, so they gave me a leather glove that went up to my elbow, and a piece of raw meat to grip. Once I had the meat a giant cape vulture landed on my arm and started trying to pull the meat out of my grasp. It was amazing! A lot of people asked me if it was heavy, because it´s so big, but it wasn´t. We also saw lions, which were only separated from us by a chain link (and electric) fence, so we got very close, and the guide fed them raw meat through the fence. Then we saw a baby rhino who was being cared for. Because he didn´t have a mother, but still needed a mother figure, someone was always with him. We saw the baby rhino sleeping on the grass snuggled up to a lady! He came over to us when he heard us and we got to pet him- he had really hard, thick skin. Next we saw a honey badger, which we were also able to touch. There were giant marabou storks around the place, which the guides threw meat to and we were able to get pretty close to (I hear they are fairly rare from an experienced birder, although we saw one with Eli´s mom).

That afternoon we did a walking safari in Kruger, with 2 Kruger Park guides. There were only 3 of us, Eli me and the Australian girl who came on the same day we did. It was fun, although we saw no large animals (except for a few sleeping antelopes who ran away when we got near) but we did see a decent number of birds. We enjoyed the walk, and the guides were great.

On the last day we were scheduled for a morning walk then a visit to some scenic spots near Kruger. Before we left the camp guide had to rescue some people who were trapped in their cabins by a herd of buffalo! (One of the big 5 animals). The walk was at that original private reserve that we did not like very much. It was funny because at our Transfrontiers safari, the guides were very professional. This time, the guide was wearing a polo shirt, board shorts, and he didn´t even have shoe laces in his shoes! (He was the guide for our driven safaris in kruger too, and he was pretty knowledgeable and very nice). It was a good walk though, we ended up getting really close to a giraffe that was at a water hole. It was short- only an hour, but fun, then we left to get dropped off in Nelspruit. On the way we saw the Blyde River Canyon, which is the 3rd largest canyon in the world and amazing, as well as a few other scenic stops in the mountains.

In Nelspruit we stayed at the same place we stayed at with Eli´s mom, Old Vic´s, which is a great place. The only problem is that when we arrived we were told by the owner that he had heard Americans had to buy visas to Mozambique at the consulate the day before crossing the border, and that it costs $100. That was bad because peace corps told us they were $25 and that you could get them at the border! We went to the consulate and they confirmed the bad news. (Our 1 year visa had expired while we were in the US, so we had to get a new temp. one to come into Moz, and now peace corps is working on getting us a new year long visa). The other problem was that it takes a day to get a new visa, and our bus left the next day at noon. They usually only accept visa applications in the morning, but we left $200 and our passports at the consulate so they could start early the next morning and hopefully have it done for us before noon the next day.

Of course, this being Africa, we arrived at about 11:30 the next day to get the visas and that is when they started working on them! We got them just after noon and then rushed over to the bus station- although the bus actually leaves at 12:30 and arrived late anyways, so it was alright. Everything was going well until the bus stopped for a snack and gas break about half an hour from the border. It never left the bus stop. Somehow, it broke down while we were stopped. So everyone on the bus, which was nearly full, was trying to get on the other buses which were stopped nearby, and this led to a fairly competitive struggle because there weren´t enough seats on the other buses for everyone on ours! We got lucky and got onto a bus with only 7 seats, even though there were about 20 people trying to get on! It was crowded and not as nice as our bus, but they took us for free. I sat next to a South African lady who introduced herself by saying ¨I´m going to Maputo to visit my daughter, who is a dancer. Actually, she´s a stripper.¨ And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

We made it to Maputo with no incidents and joined the trainees for the directors conference the next day in Boane. This is the time when you meet your new school director and go over peace corps rules, etc. It was pretty darn boring, but also necessary. Our director seems nice, and we are for sure going to be in ile, in the Zambezia province, which is where we had wanted to go. Very rural, and no cell phone coverage! Our director also told us that our house is inside the school grounds! We asked for some more details and he told us that the school boards about 400 kids, and our house is attached the building where they eat!! Wow, we´ll have to see how it turns out, but it could be good- a lot of involvement with the kids, and that should make it pretty safe, since there will always be people around. We´re really excited to go there! We have 6 neighbors nearby, and a lot of new people in Nampula, which should be fun.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Nacala, so we can get our stuff and move it to ile. The plan is to arrive in ile with all of our stuff on Sunday night. There will be a peace corps person up there with a car to help us with the move- hopefully everything fits in the car! Ile, by the way, is pretty small, and if you look for it on a map you may not find it. It is between Gurue and Mocuba in Zambezia...sort of close to Malawi.

p.s. They just filmed the amazing race in Maputo!! I don´t know any details but I have been to the fort where the pit stop was. Cool.

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