Friday, October 05, 2007


Our trip to Moz

Guest Blog: Monica's and my trip to Moz, August 1-14

Paul was worried. We had packed 50 pounds (27 Kg) of food for our two week (ten day's actual) visit with Paul and Eli. I was going through the 4 pound bag of Dark Chocolate - Peanut M&M's too quickly. I suggested that they hide them, that being the only way to keep me out of the bag, but bless Paul and Eli's heart they didn't. I could see Paul's worried looks whenever I got into them. Good chocolate is at a premium in Moz. That and a lack of whirlpool tubs would probably keep me from ever living there. We would have, and should have, taken more chocolate but before the trip I overestimated my willpower. I had my own food worries later in the trip when Paul pulled a small worm from the cooking water. If I had thought about it in advance I would have suggested that Paul's cook use filtered water when preparing food for us. Despite the worm, the meals were prepared as hygienically as possible given the environment. I tried not to think about the worm when I ate, instead I focused on being careful to chew lightly in case a pebble might have remained in the rice while it was hand sifted. I was lucky, I only got one crunchy bit that might or might not have been a pebble. The two locally prepared meals we had were wonderful, an experience I wold not want to have missed. I even tried to grate a coconut for the Metapa. I enjoyed watching the process of getting lunch on the table unfold. Paul would wake up early, and head to the market with Monica and I following along. We purchased the fresh ingredients for the meal and got them home for his cook to begin preparing. Their cook would light a small wood fire in the tiny outdoor stove, get the water boiling when the coals were ready, chop the vegetables, sift rice, grind corn, and peanuts, grate coconut, and do whatever else was necessary for the meal. From walking to the market to having food on the table was often a five hour long process. Two locally prepared meals were cooked for us. By comparison, most of the meals I prepared took 20 minutes. Paul and Eli were treated to my back country camping specialties-all prepared on their gas stove.

What interested me most in my trip to Moz (besides spending time with Paul, Eli, and Monica) were the people of Mozambique and seeing how they lived. If I were an average Mozambican, I would have died a few years ago. The average life expectancy is 45 years or less depending on your source. Roughly 50% of the population is under the age of 14. These statistics, I believe, suggest difficult times ahead for this beautiful country. Depending on where you live in Moz. the AIDS rate is between roughly 14% and over 25%. While we didn't see obviously homeless children, the number of orphans and homeless children must be staggering. Over 80% of Mozambique's two million people live as subsistence farmers. They eat what they grow and have (hopefully) a little left over to trade or sell. In Ile, you will notice that there is little trash on the streets. Why? Because very few people can buy disposable items. You won't find empty water or pop bottles, candy bar wrappers, or anything similar on the streets other than orange peels and other organic matter.

In Ile and in the country people were on the move gathering firewood, cutting material for thatched roofs, transporting water, and taking care of what needed doing. Homes were built using locally available materials, bricks were made on the spot from the clay soil, thatch from the grasses, and roof supports from nearby trees and shrubs. Beds were simple reed mats which could be folded up and put out of the way during the day. The average home (mud house) appeared to have little to no furniture inside and it appears that homes were mainly for sleeping. Life is an outside affair. The evening entertainment wasn't too hard to guess. There were very few young girls without a baby strapped to her back.

I am really proud of the work Paul and Eli are doing. They clearly serve the people of the United States in their Peace Corps work in Mozambique. The relationships and goodwill that PCV's establish throughout the world makes a difference in how citizens of these impoverished countries view Americans. Paul and Eli have established many friendships and it is easy to see that they are valued and appreciated. I'm sure that the US government didn't set the Peace Corps up just to help. I think the Peace Corps and the work the volunteers do is something we can all be proud of. Knowing that, I would expect more budget cuts .

Mozambique won't be a major tourist destination for American's anytime soon. Despite the relatively low cost and beautiful country public transportation is a problem, arranging air travel within Moz from outside the country can be a challenge, English is not widely spoken especially outside the capitol city, and sanitation is a major issue. However, with the help of someone that speaks the language and knows their way around the country, it can be a great travel experience. I just can't imagine doing this trip as an English only speaker.

While making airport connections, I had noticed that there were a large number of missionaries flying into Mozambique. I talked with one on the flight back home. He had just completed three months of service in Pemba ministering to the people. He told us that his job was to teach the people that "witchcraft bad, Jesus good". I can appreciate his point of view but I wonder if he ever stopped to think about the relationship that witchcraft and the witchdoctor have to the people. We learned from one of the missionaries in Ile that the witchdoctor held the medicinal plant lore within the community. The land is rich in healing plants and the witchdoctor does not share that knowledge. A more sustainable ministry is to first teach the people how to use the plants for healing.

Monica and I decided in our trip planning that seeing where Paul and Eli lived and meeting their friends was more important to us than going on Safari. It would have been nice to do both but I think we chose well given the limited time we had and our interest in minimizing travel time. I especially enjoyed observing the differences between city and country life, and the people that lived with a foot in each domain. The paved connecting roads between cities and villiages was much more than a travel route-foot trafic outnumbered auto trafic by an enourmous factor. The roads were a place for local commerce, socializing, or just sitting and watching people and time go by.

It was a fun trip-wonderful spending time with Paul and Eli and in seeing the country. We played the board game Siedler, read, traveled to Ile de Mozambique, hiked to a waterfall, and enjoyed time on the Indian Ocean at Nacalla Bay Divers. Thank you Paul and Eli!


photo journalism

(Just an add on to the last post) Here's a picture of our kids distributing copies of the photo journal during a holiday. They gave out about 450 copies, and other copies will be put up at school and distributed by the education department. It talks about gender equality and has 4 pictures that the kids took. I think it turned out pretty well, although we had hoped to make a lot more than just one journal all year long! oh well though, we've been busy. We're also rehabilitating a room at school which will be a counseling center next year, and a place for us to store our material (pamphlets and stuff). Its a lot of work since the room the school gave us was an old bathroom, so we had to tear down stalls and break down some walls! It should be nice by next year though.


color by numbers

We're not exactly painting by numbers, but it feels like it with our world map project. We are painting a giant 6ft by 12 foot map at school, and painting the countries according to the HIV AIDS rate (we are getting funding from PEPFAR). It's really a fun project, and the kids are enjoying it, although it's a lot of work, after scraping the area and painting it all ocean blue, we've drawn a grid of 7cm by 7cm squares in pencil, and used these as guides to draw the countries. Some of the kids are really good at it, doing an excellent job of drawing in all of asia, australia and the phillipines almost perfectly.

We are almost done with school, we have 1 more week of class and then final exams, and then school is over! And next friday is a holiday- teachers days! To celebrate there is no class (also, TODAY was international teachers day so there was no class, and yesterday was a holiday as well, also no class... you get the idea). But next friday will be a huge party for us teachers, it should be interesting! (Some teachers have already promised that they will not drink a drop of water the whole day... we expect a lot of hangovers).

The next group of volunteers has arrived (moz 12), there are 69 new volunteers! A large number of them will be coming up here to zambezia. One will come to Ile, a bio teacher, so that after I leave Eli will not be living alone. We will find out who lives with us in November.

Today we had a monitoring visit from the branch of the government that fights HIV AIDS. It's a really good way for them to get familiar with our group and projects, and they will most likely fund our group for next year.

The school is currently working on building a new house for us. (Actually, they are making the mud bricks to build the house, but it's all the same thing). The house is on school grounds, in fact, it is incredibly close to the school, but it should be fine. It will lack privacy, although we will have a fence, which should help, and it will give us easy access to kids, school, and visitors, which is our lifeblood in mozambique anyways. It will probobly not be done until late November, and we will be sharing the house with the new volunteer for the first six months (until I leave).

Overall, things are going really well. Eli's parents visited and we had a great time. I only spent 3 full days with them because I was later coming back from our COS (close of service) conference in Maputo, which was nice by the way. Lyn was very interested in the rotary club project which is funding our library rehabilitation. I brought books up with me from Maputo- about $800 worth, although thats not as much as you might think, books are very expensive here. One book, a complete illustrated dictionary of portuguese, was $100. Eli's parents mostly stayed in Ile, although we made a day trip to Gurue to see the waterfalls, the same as my parents (who still have not written on the blog!) After leaving Mozambique they did a safari in Zambia and went to vic falls.

Sorry for the lack of blog entries, when I have more time I will make another newsletter to email. Take care everyone,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?