Sonia

It’s been a long time since I added a post and it’s not that Okay?Okay! hasn’t been on my mind. It’s just that, honestly, I don’t know where to start. The last three months have been a rollercoaster ride of great highs and real lows.

I’ve had 5 visitors come visit me and I’ve done some fantastic traveling; through Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and back. And while I want to review all these great highlights, I am still struggling with how to write about the more serious moments. They are important too. It feels wrong not to address them or to pretend  that my experience in Mozambique has not been shaped by some of the more sad realities of life and death in Africa.

The most serious news is that my counterpart passed away in June. Sonia was not only my main colleague in the arts and crafts sector at CARE, but she was also my next door neighbor and friend. Although we had the occasional communication breakdown and frustration, she was an asset to the SEED Project and was dedicated wholeheartedly to the improvement of rural women’s lives in Mozambique. We were all shocked by her sudden death and left reeling while the future of the arts sector seemed vulnerable and uncertain.

Sonia was only 33 years old. She had a 16-year-old son and a great fiancé. She was building a house and planning to open a store when the project ended next year.  My heart sinks when I think of her family these days and I wonder how they are rebuilding their lives and coming to terms with this tragedy.  I’m sure they miss her incredibly and there is no way to replace a mother or life partner, but I have found that Mozambicans are particularly stoic when it comes to loss.  Every Mozambican I have met has experienced deep sorrow at some point in his or her life whether it was during the gruesome civil war or at the hands of HIV. But I am living in a country of survivors and deep misfortune is met with great courage and maturity.

Three months later, things here are strangely almost back to normal. I was a bit of a mess after Sonia’s first week gone – trying to figure what was done, what was not, and what responsibilities were to be divided and absorbed. In true African fashion her death was met with deep sympathy and a sense of realism and pragmatism – probably one of the more efficient transitions I’ve seen since I got here.

I think of Sonia often and still struggle to fully realize and understand that she is really gone. It is a surreal feeling to lose such a young friend, but I am ever grateful that she was apart of my life, even for a short time,  and she will always be ingrained in my memories of Mozambique.

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Mystery Botanics

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Pre-Visit Rev Up

I have 3 visitors coming to from abroad in the next week, and I’m getting so excited about having old friends here to laugh with,  share my cabana and show around Vilankulo.

One of the best things about having guests is the pre-guest rev up, which basically means I get so excited about doing fun things with my friends, that I start to sample my list activities before they even get there. You know, just to make sure they are as entertaining and worthwhile as I envision.

For example, I have the ocean at my disposal all the time but weeks go by and I forget to hop in. Now I’m so eager to get my friends snorkeling with me that I’ve even been braving the colder winter waters and am rediscoving the sea in my front yard.  I’ll be ready to introduce them to the moray eel that lives under the rock at the reef and the new shark/ray creature I’ve yet to identify.

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Jofane Camping Trip

One of my newly announced goals is to be more adventurous. Yep, I’m trying to embrace life and jump right in – meaning I’m making a real effort to actually leave my cabana for more than work and the occasional market run.

Outing #1:  Jofane Camping Trip

I made for the hills and joined my friends Uli,  Berkhart, and Roz for a long weekend.  Uli has a little plot of land that overlooks the Save River (pronouced sah-veh) where he is planning on building a lodge. Until that day, we get to camp outside in the wilderness. Roz and I shared a tent and the guys were very brave and slept outside with just a mat and a mosquito net.

Basically we spent the whole weekend sitting around and enjoying the expansive view.  We hiked down to the river to find the local pod of hippos and stomped around snake country for several hours, braving giant spiders, their equally creepy webs, and befriending one local little boy who wanted to be our guide.

Turns out that our “guide” didn’t really know where to go either.  Everything was really overgrown and after a few hours we only found one vantage point that looked suspiciously like a crocodile entrance,  so we gave up and turned around. (Adventure does not have to include wrestling crocs.)

Everything, from the night-glow purple lilies in the swamp to the golden orb spiders hanging above the trail,  is just a bit bigger and more impressive in the bush – totally worth leaving the cabana to see.

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Reevaluting Comfort Zones

I was recently asked by my friend Sarah Branigan to answer some questions about new beginnings for her blog. The questions weren’t particularly hard – I was not expected to discuss my greater opinions on the universe or life but her questions sparked a lot of internal reflection on my year’s goals as well as several long conversations with friends.

One key question really threw me for the loop:what are some of the things you are hoping to begin this year?”  I found myself overwhelmed and somewhat disappointed in myself when I realized that many of my goals for 2011 were more about re-starting or re-focusing instead of starting from scratch and conquering new ambitions. Finally I responded to Sarah’s questions several weeks later than planned, humbled but with a greater understanding of what I plan to start this year. You can check out my answers and her blog here.

While my new goal of being more adventurous was still fresh on my mind, I found myself being critical of certain peoples’ seemingly total disinterest in leaving their comfort zones. I, all high and mighty, passed judgment on that their distant, safe, routine-filled lives… until I came to a shocking realization, that I myself might be living in a foreign land but I am just as inclined to fall into routine, socialize with the same group of people, and find comfort in the privacy of my cabana. In fact, I tend to be a reclusive home buddy, preferring to stay home to read and paint instead of partying and making lots of new friends. Just because I am living abroad does not necessarily mean that I am any more active in challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone.

With appreciation for the perspective, inspiration and self-evaluation that her inquiries sparked I offer full apologies to anyone (cough, cough … you know who you are) that I may have said some harsh things to. 

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Human Slug

Thursday was a national holiday and I took full advantage of the day off. I acknowledge that my DNA  chemically changed and that I temporarily  de-evolved into a non-vertebrae human slug hybrid.

I woke up early, got a bowl of leftovers and got back in bed. I spent the entire day rotating between Sudoku puzzles and reading the last book of the Millenium Series.  Living on a balanced diet of sliced cheese and homemade dulce de leche, I only got up to relocate to the couch on the front porch.

It was such a satisfying experience that I maintained my slug-state through Friday and Saturday. All this 100% guilt free because slugs don’t feel that emotion.  Scientific fact.

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Fancy Shmancy

As of December,

(I must give full credit to one Uli Meiners for this little cabana improvement)

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