Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Casa Sweet Casa

I am now officially a Peace Cops Volunteer.

I have completed training and was sworn in along with my colleagues at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Maputo on Dec. 8.

What this means, in layman’s terms, is that I’ve gotta get busy now.

I said my farewell to Namaacha, Mama Celeste and the family, and packed 26 people with luggage (including two guitars, a violin, a drum and a kitten named Bea) on a 25 passenger bus (it’s Mocambique…that’s high living…).

But, before, arriving at our new homes for the next two years, we were forced to endure a supervisor’s conference in Xai-Xai, the provincial capital of Gaza.

Here’s Jessica and I persevering through it:

The next morning, we all got on chappas and planes to cities (I use that terms loosely) all over Mocambique, which is roughly twice the length of California.

And I said goodbye to most of the people who’ve kept me sane over the past two months. It’s crazy how close you can get to some people in certain circumstances. Especially when they're the only people you have to talk to. Literally. I’m going to miss English.

But there are lots of people within traveling distance, so it’s not a complete loss. Jessica, for example, is in northern Inhambane, and I promised to make the seven-hour chappa ride to visit her frequently over the next two years. The fact that she lives on the beach has nothing to do with it. Kind of.

And, blessedly, I am fortunate enough to have a roommate – Clancy, a recent graduate in Biology from Maine, who (praise the Lord!) loves to cook.

We just moved into our new home in the teacher’s community of the Instituto Agraria de Chokwe. I am THE English teacher. She is THE Biology teacher. Together, we make up THE female teachers.

We are currently working on fixing up our house, not getting cabin fever until school starts, and settling into life as an old married couple for the next two years. We have accepted that fact. We’ve already settled into a routine of cooking dinner together, then doing dishes, then maybe playing a board game before going to bed at 9 p.m., because it’s not safe to go out after dark…and we wake up at 5:30. This is going to be interesting.

But we have plenty to keep us busy during the day. This includes the kitchen, the pantry, the living room, the spare bedroom, and our rooms. We are fortunate that we inherited this house from two other Peace Corps volunteers. However, we also inherited it from the five or so volunteers before…and with everything they owned while here.

When we moved in, the current residents were not very happy. Not one. Not the roaches living in the fridge, the termites decorating the walls in the spare bedroom, the granddaddy long-leg colony in the closet or the bustling bug metropolis thriving on long-expired care-package fodder from 2005.

I don’t think “overwhelmed” begins to cover it. For me, I knew sanity came first. And so, what did I do? Clearly, what anyone would do first in this situation: I arranged the bookshelf.

I cannot describe my joy at inheriting such a library. I’ve also selected a stack that will keep me more than occupied over the next two years, along with those I plan to smuggle back to the states, anyway. Among other things, our library includes:

  • The Economist, January 2008 – September 2009

  • 5 “Lonely Planet” guides to various African countries

  • 13 NY Times Bestsellers

  • 1 novel by TCU Alum Sandra Brown (“Chill Factor”)

  • 8 memoirs, 3 of which take place in Africa

  • “O Calcador de Pipas” (The Kite Runner, in Portuguese)

  • 5 Dictionaries – three English, two Portuguese

  • 6 books that were already on my personal “To Read” list

  • 3 Goosebump books

  • Go, Dog, Go

  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

  • Green Eggs and Ham

The final ones, of course, are for teaching English. But they’re here nonetheless. I’m set.

We’ve been welcomed with open arms into the community and the city. One friend in particular has kept himself busy as our personal chauffer for larger purchases in town. It probably helps that he’s engaged to the last English teacher volunteer, and is waiting on paperwork to move to the United States with her. We’ll be very sad to see him go.

I must say it’s been an awful lot of fun trying to be resourceful and make the house look decent on a PCV budget. I like to think of it as Survivor: Africa meets Martha Stewart. I’ll post pictures soon…if it works…

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