As of Saturday I will have been in Mozambique for 100 days. 100 DAYS! That’s more than twice the amount of time that Noah had to theoretically cruise around in his ark with thousands upon thousands of romantic animal couples.
And while a quarter of the year sounds like plenty of time to accomplish and see many new things, somehow it feels like I just got here. At this point, a gesture of reflection seems necessary to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of this experience so far. What better way to organize my thoughts than the ever faithful exercise of list-making.
This might be a bit longwinded, so I’ll only offer my Top 3 Shortcomings, Successes and Goals:
- My Portuguese is still shamefully limited. While I can understand (and even translate) the basics pretty well, I still stumble on my words and can hardly carrying on a graceful conversation.
- One of the things I was most excited about before I arrived, was having a real community of local friends. I have befriended several great expats, peace corps volunteers and fellow VSO colleagues – however making friends with actual Mozambicans has been a struggle. It was not this way when I was in Ghana or South Africa, but the combination of the language barrier along with the social climate of my touristy town (and admittedly, a lack of energy on my part) have proven challenging.
- Building a legitimately strong relationship with the artisans I am working with. I have gone out to the field to observe training, take photos, and ask questions, but I would really love to be able to know many of the women by name, be able to communicate more comprehensively and even have hands on training with their weaving technique.
- My friendship with the Pehams. Helga, Andreas, Flora and Caspar have been so generous and kind. I do yoga twice a week with Helga, Andreas is my boss (at least for a few more weeks), and I spend pretty much all my weekends hanging out with the kids. They have included me in weekend trips to the local dunes, hotel pools, parties and many a meal. Their company and conversation has filled many days and evenings that would have otherwise been quiet and lonesome.
- Feeling at home in my cabana and housing compound with Europeans, Africans and Americans living in a beautiful and supportive community. How lucky I am to be living in my charming cabana. I wake up looking across the Mozambican channel and sleep with my windows wide open to the sea breeze.
- Still feeling inspired about the real potential my project with CARE. There is a lot to do, and often I feel overwhelmed with how to approach the sector, but I am not jaded about the prospect of getting it up and running more smoothly and productively. Many people say that the first year of a two year contract is often spent getting your bearings and then the second year is when you actually feel like you are getting things done. Therefore, this year I really am trying to focus on getting to know the established project and weaving communities better; being patient and observant, yet also trying to push things forward and streamline the training, design, marketing and business plans as I go. Phew…. Overwhelmed but not hopeless.
- Friends – Okay. So making local friends is hard, but I am not without options. My tutor, Hamida, is great. I will make a more concerted effort to participate in her activities and include her in my own. I’m sure that she will offer new experiences and perspectives as I go. Also, every single expat that I have met has a story to tell, especially about how they ended up in Vilankulo; Margie, Uli, Michaela, Nathalie, Rex & Mica. I will have to nudge my way into their lives, little by little, until I am a instinctually included.
- I am living in Africa!!! While I work 5 days a week from 8 to 5 and make very little money (approximately 9 dollars a day) I will not use this as an excuse for not exploring the country and surrounding area. Really, what’s the point of coming all this way and not traveling? Top of my list is Zimbabwe. I haven’t been to Zim since I traveled there with my family as a child, so I’m very curious to see it as an adult and bear witness to what Mugabe has done. I am saving most of my time and money for when guests visit, but my list of activities is growing.
- OWN IT. I guess this really is an all encompassing point. Basically, it means make the most of this time. It’s limited and two years will fly by. If I have a chance to practice a new language, I will swallow my inhibitions and attempt to communicate in broken Portuguese. If someone invites me to a party, well heck, I’ll come and participate. If the sun is shining and I’m bored – I’ll go swimming. If someone offers to teach me archery (funny story for later) then yeah, I’m gonna embrace my Amazon-woman instincts and shoot a bow and arrow. When work is frustrating, I’ll take a deep breath and try to find a solution.
My list of things I miss most from home is actually rather short. I’m sorry I am missing Marta’s pregnancy, Sam and Heidi’s homecoming, Merritt, Christmas and New Years Eve parties, and my overalls. But I am not wanting for much other than a real hug and familiar company. I am confident that these things will come to me, with patience and perhaps a few incentives.