Africa

On the Road; Snow before the Sahara

As soon as we told the hotel owner from Riad Ajebel, Corinne, that we were renting a car to drive to the desert she freaked out. At the breakfast before our departure she told us she couldn’t sleep at all because she was so nervous for us. “You have no idea how crazy the road is, and the drivers are terrible.”

But we wanted an adventure so we dismissed her fears and eagerly awaited the rental car representative. Corinne came with us to inspect the car, since the rep only spoke French. Just as I got in the front seat and was about to sign the rental agreement she pointed to the stick shift and said she was surprised I knew how to drive one.

Ahem. I don’t. And neither does Mike!

At that moment the representative called the agency and got us a personal driver for $35 a day! Corinne jumped up and down with excitement, saying, “now I can sleep well knowing you won’t drive off some cliff or end up in Libya.”

Thank god we got a driver because the road was insane. On the first day, we drove a distance of about 60 miles, but since there were so many switchbacks, it took over four hours. Every time we made a sharp turn (which is every minute) it looked like our back wheel was going over the edge and all I could see was a 1000 foot drop below me. Also it’s impossible to know what’s a restaurant along the main stretch, or how far apart the gas stations are, so for this country I would definitely recommend a driver.

Also we had someone to take pictures of us!

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I can’t believe this isn’t a painting.

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One of the many farmer’s villages.

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I didn’t realize we would be driving through that snowy mountain range in the distance.


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Who knew there is much snow in Morocco! We were driving through endless fields of rocks, and suddenly it all turned white.

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Here we’re passing through the highest pass of the Atlas Mountains.

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It starts in Marrakesh

I’m back from my honeymoon in Morocco and tanner than ever! I will post some stories about our wedding as soon as I get the official pictures from our photographer, but in the meantime, I’ll let you in on some of the amazing adventures from our honeymoon.

2013-03-04 10.52.14As custom, they served us with mint tea as soon as we arrived at our hotel. She first poured one glass and put that aside. Then she poured two more glasses and threw those out because supposedly they’re too bitter. Then she poured the original glass back into the pot and added that entire pile of mint. We had A LOT of mint tea in Morocco, but that was definitely the finest.

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I was obsessed with the copper sink in our bathroom and the deep blue walls. Our hotel was a perfect introduction to Moroccan aesthetics.

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We even had our own terrace, complete with matching sombreros.

2013-03-04 10.48.22We could have spent the whole day in our serene suite, but there was an old Medina (an ancient walled in city) to explore.

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In the main square, we were immediately attacked by snake charmers who draped all their nasty snakes all over us.

2013-03-04 11.53.55We had to pay them just to get the snakes off of us. YUCK! I could even see a mouse shaped lump in one of them.

2013-03-04 12.38.10The market place, known as a Souk, was crowded and intense. Don’t be surprised to see half a butchered cow hanging next to necklaces and scarves. You can find anything you need within arm’s reach. Morocco’s really a place to go if you love shopping, but you need to be comfortable bargaining. I never paid more that an eighth of the original price they gave me. Our tour book said they hike the prices up the highest for American and Japanese tourists.

2013-03-09 13.53.37The main square was filled with snail soup kiosks. The smell is intoxicating. We had a small bowl before dinner. I’ve never had snails before, and it was a little hard to get past their little faces, but I got over that pretty quickly because they were so delicious.

2013-03-09 14.46.53Next, we had dinner in the middle of the square. I’ve never had a dining experience quite like this. It’s a maze of little bbq stands and the waiters will actually block you so you can’t go past them when choosing which one to go to. They will put the menus right in front of your face, or grab your arm. Then if you say no, they curse you out. We went through the stands twice before we couldn’t handle the harassment any further and sat down in the closest empty seat. We had tajines (meat and vegetables cooked in a traditional clay pot), coke and olives, for a grand total of $4.

2013-03-09 15.12.39Marrakesh doesn’t really come alive until after sun set. There are tons of street performers, snake charmers, henna artists, and trained monkeys. It can be a little overwhelming to be in the middle of it, but it’s really entertaining to watch it all from a terrace view (while drinking mint tea).

If you visit Marrakesh make sure to stay in the old medina. I loved our hotel, Riad Ajebel, and the owner was incredible (more about her in the next post). The walls of our hotel were built in the 11th century! Marrakesh was like a living museum. We spent three nights here (we traveled during the day), but that was definitely a good taste.

Which planning style are you?

Sultan of Morocco, (1845), Musée des Augustins...

Sultan of Morocco, (1845)Photo credit: Wikipedia

As I think about our upcoming honeymoon (we’re going to Morocco for two weeks!) I’m torn between two modes of thinking:

“Only in spontaneity can we be who we truly are.”

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

I’ve heard stories of people who fly to another country with no reservations and end up meeting an awesome couple and living with them for a week and seeing the “real” parts of the city. I’ve also heard stories of people not knowing that they needed to get a visa before entering a certain country and having to fly back home. Fortunately I’ve learned to straddle the two conflicting planning styles, and had some pretty rocking adventures! I think the key is researching a few things that you’re dying to see, and then leaving every other day free to wander and stumble on cool things.

Which quote best describes your planning style?

On a side note, any suggestions on must-see activities in Morocco? We’re starting out in Marrakesh,  spending three days in the desert, driving to Essaouira for some beach time, then Fez, and then Casablanca. Even as I write this it sounds very planned, but believe me this is restrained for me!

 

An Interview with Caitlin Kelley, founder of Africa Volunteer Corps (Part 2)

And now for the completion of my interview with Caitlin Kelley. If you haven’t read the first part, click here. (Or if you’re lazy read this: Caitlin Kelley is the co-founder of Africa Volunteer Corps, an organization which trains Tanzanian volunteers and pairs them volunteer opportunities. Her mission is to utilize the existing talent in Tanzania rather than perpetuating a culture of dependency on foreign volunteers and aid (which in her opinion, and mine) does more harm than good. This also makes more financial sense. When I volunteered in Africa for 7 months it cost $5,000 (Airfare, vaccinations, visas, insurance and food and housing while I was there), but it only costs a few hundred dollars to support a local volunteer. This Tuesday she will be hosting an event called Visualize the Change 2012, where you hear stories of how local volunteers in Tanzania are making a difference. This even is also raising money for her next group of Tanzanian volunteers). And now for the interview:

Caitlin with Desmond Tutu

Has AVC changed at all since you first came up with the idea for it?

 

Not much. The idea came to me in a flash, in a complete eureka moment, and it felt like the entire vision downloaded from the universe all at once that night. There are ways that we might expand how we implement the vision. For example, there is a huge need for teachers in Tanzania so we are planning how we might create a special program just for teachers. And there are some great possibilities in potentially working with for-profit companies. But the original vision–of incubating African leaders for African development, of unleashing the incredible potential lying dormant in Africa’s young people, in making sure Africans are the ones in charge of improving lives in their own societies–has remained unwavering.

I love what you said about downloading the idea from the universe. I’ve learned from The Artist’s Way that there are so many answers and ideas floating around us and we just need to be perceptive to them; willing to download them from the universe. But every great idea needs funding to become a reality. What are you looking forward to about your upcoming fundraiser on Oct. 9th?

I’m really excited to inspire people with stories of grassroots African activists and the incredible work they are doing to create positive change in their own communities. In this country we tend only to hear stories about the bad things that happen in Africa, and we are aware that there are people in need, but we never hear about the many amazing local people who are doing incredible things to make the world a better place. We as a global community will improve many, many more lives if we can put fire under the momentum of those local people who are already doing great things in their own societies. 

When I was raising money for my work in Africa I met a lot of people who were angry that I wanted to help in Africa when there is already so much poverty in America. Why do you think people should care about Africa when there are so many local problems?


I believe that all human beings are our brothers and sisters. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We don’t need to have an either/or mentality about doing good. It’s wonderful to care about multiple causes. For example, obviously I am quite dedicated to Africa, but I also give a lot to causes in the U.S., especially education, the environment, and women’s health.

What changes are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

We’re expanding! For our pilot year (this year), we placed 7 Tanzanian volunteers to work for a year at 7 development projects. Next year we want to place 20. Our model consists of investing in leaders, so for every volunteer who goes through our program, the ripple effects are huge. Earlier this year, when I saw what our volunteers had accomplished in such a short period of time, I thought, “These are only 7 people. There are 1 billion people in Africa. How many more like them are out there?” So I can’t wait to see what happens with a bigger group.

Also, most of our current volunteers have applied to extend another year, so I am really excited to see what they can accomplish with a second year and how they grow. They already inspire me so much, so I can’t wait to see what they can do with more time and experience.

 

How can people get involved?


By helping spread the word–to friends and on social media. And donating is a great way to make a difference for a cause you care about. Sign up to give a regular amount every month. Even a small amount is great because when nonprofits know exactly how much money is coming in every month, we can spend less time fundraising and more time doing good. We are also currently looking for people to help us with marketing and communications, grant writing, and event planning.

 

Wow, Caitlin, you have a long and exciting journey ahead of you, and you’ve already come so far. Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? What made you keep going?

There haven’t (yet) been any times when I really wanted to throw my hands up and walk away, but there have been plenty of challenging moments, ones where it can be hard to see how we will move forward. But there is always a way. A few years ago, we spent a year preparing to register (i.e. incorporate), including 2 months of meeting for hours every week to hammer out 20 pages of by-laws, taking a 10 hour bus ride to the capital, only to show up at the ministry and be told that we couldn’t register the way we had planned because of a law no one (not even the lawyers we consulted) had told us about. It brought us almost completely back to square one. And it was another 2 years before we got registered. But, like many unexpected setbacks, it work out for the best because we ended up being able to register in a different way that gives us a lot more flexibility for future growth.

What keeps me going is having  a sense of humor, embracing every challenge or failure as an opportunity to grow, and believing with every fiber of my being in our mission. Life is inevitably full of barriers, especially when you are trying to create change, so you just have to remember that impossibility is an illusion. If it’s possible within the realm of physics, it’s possible. You just have to figure it out.

When things are hard or frustrating I try to take some time to connect with the bigger vision, by meditating or writing, or even talking to myself. It reconnects me with my passion and excitement and that fire in my belly. It helps me come back to knowing that every boring task or frustrating problem are all steps up the mountain, all pieces of the bigger goal.

That should be a bumper sticker, “Impossibility is an illusion.” As you can see, Caitlin has a huge and challenging dream but she’s tackling it with perseverance and passion. I know she will succeed because her mission is truly good, and she has the drive. If you’re in the New York area, I’d love to see you at her event, Visualize Change, on Tuesday, Oct. 9 from 5:30-9:30. There aren’t enough people in the world like Caitlin Kelley, so when you find one, it’s important to give them as much support as possible!

An interview with Caitlin Kelley, founder of Africa Volunteer Corps (Part 1)

I met the vivacious Caitlin Kelley over a year ago, and she left a great impact on me. She’s kind of like Lucille Ball meets Princess Diana. While eating tacos in Union Square, she told me about the Africa Volunteer Corps, an organization she started with Jafari Msaki. AVC trains and mentors Tanzanian volunteers, utilizing natural talent and knowledge rather than importing foreign volunteers who (even with good intentions) might not being making the best impact. I was so excited to hear that AVC existed because it addressed all the personal qualms that I had when I was a volunteer in Mozambique. She is currently preparing for her event, Visualize Change, which you can attend (Tuesday, Oct. 9 5:30-9:30), so I’m very grateful she was able to take some time to share her story with my amazing readers:

Caitlin on the left in Tanzania

You volunteered in Tanzania after college. What attracted you to international volunteer work, and why Tanzania?

I knew I wanted to work in development in Africa and I wanted to get my feet wet. From having majored in African history in college, I had a lot of problems with how many development projects are run because they often hurt more than they help by dis-empowering the very people they are aiming to help. I wanted to spend some time on the ground listening and exploring in order to see where I might fit, where I might be able to use my knowledge and passion to make the world a better place. I wanted to find where I could help without perpetuating the relationships of dependence that I had seen repeating themselves over and over again for 200-300 years.

I chose Tanzania because I wanted to learn Swahili. Swahili is very widely spoken in East and Central Africa, and I wanted to communicate with people on their own terms, so it had always been a professional goal to speak Swahili.

You had an amazing time while you were there, but I know that it was also troubling. Can you explain the negative side of volunteer work that you witnessed?

One of the negatives was seeing the chaos other foreign volunteers had created, mostly by not understanding the culture and staying for too short a time to make any real impact. It was also really frustrating to see foreigners coming in to do work for free that locals were qualified to do, which creates a disincentive to hire locals, which in turn harms the local economy, thus harming the very people the volunteers are there to help.

After this experience you came up with the idea for Africa Volunteer Corps, an NGO that unites passionate Tanzanian volunteers with local NGOs (non-governmental organization). How did your friends and family react when you first shared your mission?

I came home from my first trip to Tanzania right before Thanksgiving, so I made the announcement at the dinner table. Totally excited, I announced to everyone, “I am going to start an NGO in Africa!” Crickets. My family was really proud of me for having a bold vision, but they didn’t understand the vision so they were worried it wouldn’t work.

I realized very quickly that it didn’t matter whether my friends and family saw the vision. It only mattered that I did. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” My vision was crystal clear and I believed very strongly in my ability to figure out how to make it a reality, so I just pushed forward, step by step, until I made it happen.

Did you meet resistance?

I can say I have faced a lot of challenges, but I wouldn’t say I’ve faced resistance. Most people tend to be very supportive, especially in Tanzania.

The main resistance that I face is inside myself, fear of making mistakes and the inevitable resistance of constantly pushing outside my comfort zone. I am constantly learning and growing and stepping into the unknown, which can be scary and intimidating and uncomfortable. I get resistance from my ego, which is afraid to be vulnerable or admit that I can’t do everything.

What helped you move forward?

I try every day to be the best version of myself. I embrace growth and am grateful for opportunities to learn and improve. I meditate every day and am a very spiritual person, which for me helps me keep things in perspective, learn from my mistakes, and accept the unknown and things I can’t control. I think positively and find the lesson and the gratitude in every experience. Every problem is just a challenge, and every challenge is an opportunity to learn and get better.


What has been the most rewarding part of running AVC?

Caitlin with her first group of Tanzanian volunteers (photo by  Tegra Stone Nuess)

Seeing the difference we are making in people’s lives. When one of our volunteers tells us that she always wanted to help orphans and street children, but she didn’t know how to go about it, and now she feels confident that she has the skills to start her own children’s center. When one of our volunteers tells me that she didn’t understand the realities of AIDS before working with HIV positive people, and now even though she sees things every day that make her want to cry, she loves her work because she I absolutely lives for those moments.

If someone has a dream for making the world better, what advice would you give them?


Take care of yourself. Nourish yourself. Don’t think that making the world better has to mean you run yourself ragged. If you don’t take care of your body and do things that you love and take time off, you will burn out.

Listen to your instincts. People may not get your vision, and that’s ok. Listen and welcome new ideas, especially from the population you are trying to help, but trust yourself.

Fall in love with fear. Pushing outside your comfort zone is scary, so feeling fear is a sign that you are doing something right, taking risks and growing. If you feel like you are about to jump out of an airplane, you know you’re in the exact right spot.

Great words to end on! Hold tight for Part 2! If you’re interested so far, make sure to bet tickets for Visualize the Change this Tuesday.

Only 2 more days to make a difference!

I think it’s everyone responsibility to help others and give when you can. One of my most rewarding personal experiences has been when I volunteered in Nicaragua, Kenya and Mozambique. However, I’ve witnessed some terrible abuses of donations and some very lazy, or incompetent international volunteers.

Caitlin with Desmond Tutu

My friend, Caitlin Kelley, was similarly frustrated by the volunteer situation while she was in Tanzania. She noticed that there were so many talented, motivated locals who wanted nothing more than to help their people. At the same time, there were numerous international volunteers who had to spend months learning the language and culture before they could do anything.

While these volunteers had the best intentions, they were also taking away volunteer opportunities from these locals who wanted to do good. Caitlin teamed up with her friend, Jafari Msaki, and started Africa Volunteer Corps to help train local leaders and secure volunteer positions with local NGOs.

You can get a set of these beautiful, beaded nesting boxes with a donation of $115 or more!

They have their first group of Tanzanian volunteers and Caitlin is trying to raise $5,000 to pay their living stipend. They only need to raise another $400, but the deadline is FRIDAY! Please visit the fundraising site and give what you can. Make sure to watch the video – she explains the mission beautifully. 

p.s. If you’d like to read the post I wrote about the need for local volunteers, check out her blog!

6 Things I Learned during my First 2 Weeks in Mozambique

Our new pet chicken!

(This was posted in my original blog from when I was living in Mozambique – I’ve decided to consolidate the two blogs.)

1. It is impossible to sleep-in in Mozambique. If you are still in bed after 6 am you’re crazy. By that time it seems as if the entire village is outside my window singing songs, banging pipes together, and killing chickens. Not to mention that my window is just a screen with bars in front of it, so there is really no privacy. Even when we slept over at the beach on our day off I couldn’t sleep in. We rented a hut on the beach for five dollars. I couldn’t wait to get some extra sleep, but then at 6 on the dot the men in town started constructing a new hut right next door to us. No one should be hammering at 6 in the morning on a Sunday. That’s just ungodly.

Some of my students - only an hour late for class.

2. There are two ways you can behave here: Really really stressed out, or really really relaxed. Fortunately I have gone for the later. There is no such thing as a schedule here or a time frame, or even a clock. I have never seen such an absence of clocks in my life. If you want things to be done at a certain time, or if you like to make plans, Mozambique is not the place for you. Flavia was supposed to teach a course on Exell three months ago for the teachers here. She runs around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get all the teachers together for the course, but they always say tomorrow. I need to stay at the school from 8 am to 9pm, but I only have a class for the first and last hour. I usually sit under a tree for those hours studying Portuguese and all the students will come to me to ask questions about English and America. It’s very informal, but for now there is not much more I can do.

3. They really know how to throw a party here. Our neighbors, who we rent our house from, were celebrating their birthdays, anniversary and their car all in one party. They never had a party before so they wanted it to be a big deal. For the week leading up to it there were about twenty women working in our backyard. When I’d go out for a shower at 6:30 they would already be butchering a pig, plucking chickens and shelling beans. They would work until midnight doing this and then pass out on our kitchen floor. The night before the real party they threw an extra party for all the people who were helping. I was walking to the outhouse late at night and when I turned the corner and there were more than fifty people silently sitting in front of a fourteen inch t.v. watching a Jean Claude Van Dam movie with no subtitles. It was quite a sight. The next day the actual party started. Everyone in town was there. They paraded up and down the road singing a song with more harmonies than a Shoenberg 12-tone composition. Then they feasted on every kind of animal possible for the next few hours. Every important person from the community gave a speech congratulating the family, even the mayor spoke. Next the dancing broke out, and this is serious dancing. Even the eighty your old women were getting their grooves on. The party lasted until the last person passed out, which was around three in the morning.

I'm not actually smoking - I just found this floppy cigarette and thought it was funny.

4. They love to have meetings. Especially if nothing is decided during those meetings. They will go on for hours, last Friday we had a meeting from 8 am to 3 pm and the only thing we could decide on was that we should continue the meeting next week. I think they only do this because we get free coca-cola if the meetings last longer than three hours. That said:

5. There is nothing better than Coca-Cola. Nothing.

6. Different cultures have very different ideas of what’s appropriate. It’s pretty distracting when my students pick their noses during class. Apparently that’s a very common and accepted past time here. It’s also appropriate for someone to groom you while you are talking. I’ll never get used to a stranger brushing dirt off my chest, or another teacher wiping off my butt. During our last meeting my director asked me if I was pregnant in front of all the other teachers. I couldn’t believe he did that, but then he said he was joking because I was wearing a kind of shirt that only pregnant women wear.

My Early Days in Mozambique

I’ve decided to consolidate my blog from Mozambique with my current blog. I lived in Inhambane, Mozambique as a volunteer from November 2007 – June 2008. I was teaching English, AIDS/Malaria prevention, agriculture, and pedagogy at a teacher training school. Here’s the first original post, but I’ve added some extra pictures!

My neighbors’ houses

Well, I’m here, and I’m happy. That’s a lie. I’m ecstatic. I love it here. Every five minutes Pricilla and I look at each other with big goofy smiles and say, “we’re in Africa!”
It was quite an ordeal to get here, however. Once we boarded our plane for Johannesburg, it was delayed for six hours, and we couldn’t leave the plane. They didn’t give us food or drinks that whole time either. Every hour the pilot would give another excuse for why we were not taking off yet.

Just when we were ready to leave, a woman fainted from claustrophobia and emergency medics had to come and take her away on a gurney. But twenty hours later we landed in Johannesburg with only a few pee-in-your-pants moments of turbulence.

We were so excited to land and meet our Brazilian friends who landed before us, but then Iliana was detained at passport control because she didn’t have a proper visa. Apparently Guatemala is one of the only countries that needs a visa to enter South Africa. We were running all over the airport to try and find a solution. This was at nearly 1 in the morning after being on a plane for 25 hours. Since half of us needed to catch a bus at 6 in the morning the next day we needed to leave to go to the hostel. Ben, Jonh-soh, and Jacoby ended up staying with her, since they had to catch planes the next day and got her a plane ticket for the next morning to Maputo. It was nerve wrecking. The rest of us got to the hostel at 2 and then woke up at 5 to catch the bus. It was an 8-hour bus ride, but it wasn’t so bad.

These are what cashews look like before they’re processed.

We stayed in Maputo for one day to sign contracts and adjust. When we went to buy groceries for lunch, we just walked over to a machamba, small vegetable gardens that everyone grows here, and asked for some vegetables. The man walked over to the lettuce patch and pulled out a head of lettuce for us and some tomatoes. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.

We rode on chappas into town. I had read a lot about chappas in other people’s emails but I never really understood what they are really like. They are converted minivans that are the most common form of transportation. Whenever one comes by a sworm of thirty or forty people run after it. Then they all push to get into it. It’s so intimidating. We waited for over an hour to get on one because we were too scared to fight in the crowd. There is no way you are going to believe this but there were 31 people in the chappa, again the size of a minivan. I was squeezed between two guys armpits. People were sitting on the smashed out window sills with their butts hanging out and there were about four people in the trunk space. We rode like this for 45 minutes.

The next morning we caught another bus. This time we had to wake up at 4 in the morning. We said our goodbyes to the rest of the team and Pricilla and I prepared ourselves for a nine-hour bus ride to Inhambane. It was quite an eye opener. It was sad to see how Mozambicans talk to each otherThe driver sold tickets to fill all the seats, but then right as we were about to leave he kicked off half of the locals that were on the bus. He said to them that they were just extra luggage and that foreigners pay more for their luggage to have a seat. There was a lot of yelling but eventually the locals left the bus, and the driver gave them back their money.

I didn’t understand why they were kicked off because half the bus was empty, but then we went and picked up about fifteen white people from a nearby hotel. Mind you there were twenty seats on the bus and thirty people with tickets. It was jam-packed, and people were sitting on luggage in the aisle. We drove like this for four hours. When we stopped in a small town, I thought we were going to drop off some people but the driver ended up picking up his family. The five of them brought on huge bags of rice and crops and sat on top of the roof.

My new toilet!

The roads were so awful at one point the driver drove on the side of the road because it was less bumpy. It took us an hour to drive twenty miles. When we got to Inhambane Flavia picked us up. I was so happy to see her. She took us to our house to see where we’d be living for the next year. It is a very cute, bright blue house across the street from the school. I have to share a bed with Flavia because they usually don’t have this many Development Instructors here. We also live with Tamsin (from England) and Jerome (from France). We have no running water and no flushing toilets. But we do have electricity sometimes, which I’m very happy about. There’s a well outside that we get our water from for our showers. We have to get the drinking water from about a half-mile away. The outhouse is hilarious. There are two cement foot shaped things that you stand on and then a tiny hole that you use. The smell isn’t too bad. 

We were so exhausted after the bus ride and the tour that we fell asleep at 4 in the afternoon and slept until eight the next day. That is when we went to the school for the first day. One of the students showed us around, and it’s a pretty clean and modern compound. We talked with the directors about what our responsibilities would be. I’m going to start off teaching English, and in December I’m going to travel around Mozambique with the students for the investigation period. I was so glad when they said we could have the rest of the day off because I had such a headache from trying to understand the Portuguese.

My first picture of the Indian Ocean!

When we got back to our house, we decided to take the hour and a half long walk to the nearest town. When we got there, we met these two guys from South Africa who were so nice. We told them it was our first day, and they offered to show us around. We drove everywhere in a nice air-conditioned car. Then they took us to their hotel on the beach, and we got to swim. It is the nicest beach I have ever seen, and we were the only ones there. The water was the perfect temperature. They said they never saw two people so happy to be in the water. There’s nothing like the Indian Ocean!

Then they took us out for dinner and told us all about the situation in South Africa. They are Africaans (I’m not sure if that’s how you spell it) the descendent of the Dutch settlers in South Africa. They said that all of the white people are trying to leave South Africa because it’s impossible for Whites to get jobs there. A lot of them are moving to Mozambique, Australia, and the UK. They said the guy who will probably become the next president hates white people and wants revenge for the Apartheid, so they want to leave before, as they said, “shit hits the fan.” It was interesting hearing this perspective of South Africa because I usually only hear about peaceful it’s been since the end of the Apartheid. At the same time we were talking to the local waiters and they were saying that they didn’t like all the white South Africans coming in and buying up the prettiest land, but that they can’t complain because Hotel owners offer a lot more jobs and they improve the roads and the water.

Next, they drove us to all of the hotels in the area to introduce us to the owners. When we told them we didn’t have running water they all said that we can come to their hotels whenever we need a hot shower. We got their numbers and they said to call anytime if we need help. It was so invaluable to make these contacts on the first day.

Afterward, we all laid out on the beach and watched the stars. I have never seen so many stars in my life. It was an incredible evening. We all agreed that it was a blessing to meet each other. The two guys then drove us home and made plans to meet up again. They are here purifying water, so we are going to try and get them to teach an evening course at our school about how to purify water.

Unfortunately, we found out the next morning that we were in big trouble. We didn’t know that we had to ask permission to leave the school any time we go out. I’m realizing now that we really won’t have any personal time. We don’t have free weekends, and we can’t go out at night. It’s going to be very hard to adjust to this lifestyle. I want to teach, but I also want to meet as many people as possible and have lots of different experiences. The director said that if I want to do that I should go home. Tamsin and Flavia told us that he pretends to be really mean at first because he wants to have control over everyone. I’m hoping it will get better. It’s hard to know that the easy life is so close by but I’m not allowed to enjoy it, but it’s a good lesson because that’s how it is for most of the world.