Pt I – Letters from home
Before I left for the Peace Corps, my incredibly thoughtful mother secretly put together a journal of short letters of encouragement from my friends, family, roommates, coworkers – pretty much everyone who mattered to me. I’m not sure when she started this project, but over the course of what must’ve been months, the book was passed between all the important people in my life. The day I left home in Maryland, my mom gave me the journal wrapped in brown paper and told me to open it when I got to Mozambique. My first night in our training village of Namaacha, this package was the first thing I opened when my host family finally left me alone in my bedroom after helping me make my bed and set up my mosquito net.
That first night I cried myself to sleep as I read the first few pages that included notes from my mom and dad. Over the course of training, I probably read about a third of the notes in my journal, trying to limit myself to one or two each time I opened the book, which I only did on nights when I was feeling particularly discouraged and homesick, which was kind of a lot, especially during my first month in Mozambique. I tried to ration myself so that I would have fresh words of encouragement whenever I needed them.
After about a month, after getting my phone activated, making some friends, switching off the anti-malarial Mefloquine, I began to adjust to life in Moz and read some of the notes from home happily, rather than when I desperately needed encouragement to talk me down.
During my first year of service, there have been countless ups and downs (as shown in Peace Corps’ handy “Cycle of vulnerability and adjustment” graph) – times when I go a month without opening my journal, and some times where I re-read notes every night. All and all, I’ve read through probably three-fourths of the letters in my journal.
Pt II – Return to Mozambique
After my whirlwind trip home, where over the course of 21 days I don’t think I spent more than three nights in a row in the same state, I came back to Moz refreshed and ready for year two. I spent a couple weeks visiting the provinces in southern Mozambique, where due to the distance I haven’t yet had the chance to visit. After getting some much needed relaxation came our Mid-Service Conference, where all the volunteers in my group came together for the first time in over a year. I was excited to have time in the capital with many of my friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since training.
Orig fofocadoras back together at last
Ilha de Bazaruto
During the first day of midservice conference, I began to hear from the other volunteers who teach at the IFPs (teacher training institutes like my school) that they were being moved to other schools due to problems with the ministry. After a couple days of being told by multiple staff members that “we will have a meeting to discuss it later,” the country director casually mentioned in his update that we were, “No longer welcome in the IFPs,” but that the effected volunteers should be able to stay in their houses and work at the local secondary schools. Which is great except for the fact that in my town there is no local secondary school, so if this information was true, it would mean a site change for me.
After sitting and imagining the worst until this session ended, I approached my regional director and was basically like:
He told us that at this point it didn’t actually look like the ministry had taken notice of the fact that Kathryn and I were at an IFP and that for now, the plan was to hope they continued to not notice us, although he did throw in the very reassuring fact that “you could be moved at any time.” Considering that all the volunteers in the more northern province of Cabo Delgado found out later the same day that they were going to be moved out of province, I basically decided that not being noticed probably wasn’t the worst outcome.
This all happened on the last day of the conference, and the next morning I was back to site. My school director kindly picked me up from the airport and on our drive home, I tried to feel him out about whether I had a job or not. He seemed completely oblivious to any problems that Peace Corps was having with the Ministry of Education which I took as a good sign. School was supposed to start in a short 10 days, and I figured that soon enough, we’d know whether or not we were teaching. In typical Mozambican fashion, our school was a bit behind schedule, and has not yet even finished up the admissions process, and so the start date has been pushed back indefinitely.
In this time, Peace Corps’ problems with the Ministry have apparently come to our assistant director’s attention. After badgering Kathryn and I to provide copies of our diplomas and transcripts to ensure that we are qualified, he called us into his office for a meeting. During this meeting he told us that the Ministry needs to verify that we are qualified to teach our subjects, science and math, and he was concerned because we both have “art degrees.” We tried (and I think failed) to explain that our degrees are Bachelors of Arts in our disciplines but unfortunately it doesn’t look like our school, or the Ministry will be making a decision at least for another couple weeks or so. For now, we just play the waiting game.
Pt III – Here and Now
This brings us to my current situation, where once again I sitting around with nothing to do, this time with the added bonus of also waiting around for a decision that could make or break my second year of service. I don’t want to sound dramatic (although this has probably been my most melodramatic blog post to date), but there’s not a whole lot that could be worse for my second year than leaving my incredibly comfortable life here in Nak.
These last couple days of extreme boredom and uncertainty led me to opening up my journal again last night… Where the next two unread notes were from my Uncle Tommy and then my Grandpa Bruce, both of whom died while I was in Mozambique. While I cherish having these notes, they weren’t exactly the emotional pick me up I needed last night.
So here I am, experiencing what I hope is just my “mid-service crisis.” I don’t know what the next year will be like, which is hard after being so ready to start my second year where I expected to have a much more solid footing. I hope that I am being overly pessimistic, and we will be able to stay in Nakhololo and have an exceptionally uneventful second year. For now I am ~trying to cherish all that Nak has to offer~ by forcing myself to go into town at a couple times a week even though the oppressive heat and rain has made it easy to choose staying home and reading my book or listening to podcasts.
The mares go down for their evening feed, into the meadow grass.
Two pine trees sway the invisible wind – some sway, some don’t sway.
The heart of the world lies open, leached and ticking with sunlight for just a minute or so.
The mares have their heads on the ground, the trees have their head on the blue sky.
Two ravens circle and twist.
On the boarders of heaven, the river flows clear a bit longer.
The Evening is Tranquil, and Dawn Is a Thousand Mile Away