About a month ago, I was leaving Venezuela. The beautiful country where my father’s side of the family lives – my sweet abuelita, numerous aunts and uncles and all of their children as well. It is a country whose wealth and pride have been stolen by corrupt politics and terrible governance. I will fight you if you try to tell me otherwise. It breaks my heart to hear my cousin say that she is a prisoner, that she is trapped and will not be able to achieve her dreams or plans any time soon. Meanwhile, I am able to get back on a plane, take home an insane amount of unused and rapidly devaluing bolivares, and go to a grocery store whenever I want to buy whatever I want. I did not want to leave. I will go back.

I came back home, or well to Tallahassee, with a heavy heart. Also, an anxious one because I was waiting to hear back from the job in the new city. I was convinced I would not be receiving it. I accepted the fact, and simply wanted to hear the no they had not given me yet. Two weeks ago, I got a call that changed all of that. I am scared – terrified. Everyone says I will be okay, but I have never done this work before. Yes, I will be trained, but once I get to my new city, I am on my own. I have always been the worst at trying to get people to agree with me on something, to convince them of something. While this is not my job description technically, I am trying to engage a community to take local action for children’s issues world-wide. How do I tell people about these things? How do I get them to care?

I don’t know. And that’s what worries me the most.

Since then, life has been really interesting. By interesting, I mean weird (in the best and worst ways). Things are shifting. Everything is going by a lot quicker than expected. I’m starting to feel sad to leave Tallahassee – the place that has taught me so much. Oh, and my new city? It is Miami. How about I bring back the hashtag #moseyingaroundmiami… Just kidding. Y’all: I like Miami. I love the way it feels on my skin. I love the Spanglish vibes. I love the palm trees and Cuban restaurants. Don’t get me started on the beach. This city is good for this Latina heart of mine and I can’t wait to grow in it.

As opções

Options are good they say, and I have some post-graduation options. One would have me in a completely new city working with an organization I am passionate about, but doing things I’ve never done before. The other would have me in my city, Tallahassee, doing the work I am good at and used to while also earning a Master’s degree and living with my best friend.

I’m so grateful to have these options that I know others do not have. Every day I am asked what my plans are after graduation, and every time I get to say I have options. It is a wonderful feeling, but also a terrifying one because I actually have no idea where I could be and won’t have any clue until the middle May which is rough on my anxious, little heart. Then I think of Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Everything becomes a little less concerning knowing that God’s will and plan for my life are perfect without my interference in them. My human nature and independent self struggle with this so much. Time and time again though God has shown me his plan is greater.

Whichever option prevails, I will remain thankful.

No longer moseying around Mozambique

I actually have not been in Mozambique since November 14 and on some days I miss it something fierce. Other days I’m beyond happy to be in the United States. I’ve returned to Florida State and everyone keeps on asking me how it went. It is hard to describe my time there in one word which is usually what people are waiting to hear. I say interesting, but that doesn’t give my experience enough credit. I have also said hard, but then I think about the children I met in Namaacha and I immediately regret my choice of words. I can say amazing, but there were one too many problems for it to be that. I still cannot come up with a good word for my experience.

Since I left Mozambique, I’ve traveled to a few other countries. There is chat that another one might be on the agenda for this summer which is super exciting for moi. No matter what though I still think of Mozambique everywhere I go. I left Mozambique with a new language and confidence. I think if I can live there, I can survive anything. I compare it to other places and talk about the things I learned from time there constantly. I may travel to other places, but I’m not sure if anything will ever impact me as much as Mozambique has.

Currently, I am going through graduation feels. They are real things, my friends. They make you feel bold and terrified all at the same time. What should I do? Where should I go? Am I ready for this? Truth is, no I’m not ready for any of it, but I won’t really ever be ready for it until I’m experiencing it all. I was not ready for Mozambique before I went, but after a week, I got the hang of it. I felt more prepared than when I was on the plane flying over (see here is a good example of me using life in Mozambique to talk about things). I guess this is just how it all works, so I’ll just be waiting to see what happens. Just need to remember, I can survive anything.

I need a new name for this blog.

Tudo a correr às mil maravilhas

I’ve done an awful job at updating this blog since I have been back. I really do accredit it to being busy. I mean it is taking me days and even weeks to get back to some e-mails so that really shows you how busy I can be. However, in spite of all that, here are mini summaries and pictures of some of the fun things I’ve been able to experience.

At the end of August, our group went to the Timbila Music Festival, which is in a vila named Zavala in the province of Inhambane. Timbila is plural for the word mbila and refers to the instruments used to play the music. The festival itself was hard to see because there were so many people there! We were at least able to hear the music and it definitely made me want to dance. We stayed at a gorgeous eco-lodge, complete with bucket baths and all, near the lagoon.

For the first weekend in September, two of my friends and I went on the Hash’s Away Weekend in Macaneta, and it was such a fun experience. Going to the Hash is fun, but going to the Hash and having a beach a few minutes away is even better. My friends and I camped while most others stayed in rooms, but staying in a tent was a rewarding choice because one morning we woke up and there were monkeys outside of our tents and we also saved tons of money. There were drinks, bonfires, great food and fun company. The runs were incredibly hard, but I still enjoyed them.

On September 12, we took a walking tour of a neighborhood called Mafalala. This neighborhood was established during the colonial period. The Portuguese placed all the Mozambicans here and kept them outside of the city; to get in they had to have special permits. The Portuguese also said houses made of concrete could not be built there just in case they needed to take over that area. Historically, it is such an important neighborhood in Maputo. The first president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, the famous soccer player Eusébio, and some of Mozambique best artists, like Noémia de Sousa are all from this neighborhood.

On September 13, we went to a lobolo, a dowry type ceremony that is very traditional here. Essentially, when a man wants to make a woman his fiancé, he must pay a price for her in the form of gifts to her family (which the family demands I might add). I was able to watch the exchange of gifts take place making this a great cultural experience. In Mozambique, a lobolo is often enough to say two people are married.

My language partner, Cleonice, and I went to visit Maputo’s Museum of Natural History. The museum building itself is about 100 years old. Inside, the main room focuses on the animals in the country. A lot of these animals do not exist anymore unfortunately as so many of them have been killed over the years. There is another section on the sea creatures that exist along the coast of the country. The museum also has an anthropologic area.

At UEM’s veterinary campus, there is laboratory sponsored by the organization Apopo, which trains and uses rats to detect tuberculosis in various samples. The rats that are used are the size of small dogs and come from Tanzania. They are absolutely adorable. Maybe the U.S. can start training some of those alley rats to do similar work? Anyways, they are given a row of samples and they sniff each one. When they detect tuberculosis in the sample, they usually stay at the given sample for more than 5 seconds. It takes a few million dollars to train each rat and you can see the investment that has been made into them when they are doing their work. In Mozambique and other surrounding countries, eating rats is pretty common. There is a story about a security guard at a lab that killed and cooked up one of these rats worth millions of dollars. The most expensive meal that man will ever eat was a rat.

And lastly, to get us all up to date, this past weekend was a holiday celebrating Armed Forces Day here in Mozambique. We took advantage of the holiday to travel to one of Maputo’s most popular beaches called Inhaca. It is a very beautiful place and most people take advantage of scuba-diving lessons there because of the sea-life that exists. Unfortunately, doing all of those things is very expensive so we settled on going to an island called Ilha dos Portuguêses. We had the island to ourselves and found some awesome seashells. I was really happy and relaxed.

And that has been my life moseying around Mozambique the past two months.

At the Timbila Music Festival in Zavala

At the Timbila Music Festival in Zavala

At Praia de Macaneta with Joanne and Ivee during the Maputo/Matola Hash House Hariers Away Weekend

At Praia de Macaneta with Joanne and Ivee during the Maputo/Matola Hash House Harriers Away Weekend

Samora Machel's house in Mafalala.

Samora Machel’s house in Mafalala.

Exchanging of gifts at the lobolo

Exchanging of gifts at the lobolo

Cleonice and I at the Museum of Natural History in Maputo

Cleonice and I at the Museum of Natural History in Maputo

Holding Galinha the rate at the Apopo laboratory

Holding Galinha the rat at the Apopo laboratory

Learning at UEM

This week marks the end of the 6th week of the program. The 6 weeks I spent here over the summer and these last 6 weeks have been so different. I was busy working with Livro Aberto, but I had a lot more down time on my hands. With school, I come home after a very long day of learning Portuguese and then I have homework to do. I love being busy though so this is not a terrible thing for me.

Going to a university other than Florida State has been challenging. Our program has two components: strictly language learning courses and supplemental courses. Our language learning courses are incredible. We have three professors that focus on actually teaching us the language and I consider them to be some of the best language teachers I have ever had. I have two other favorites from my freshmen and sophomore years at FSU. Anyways, they are patient with us and are always challenging us. We have two additional courses as part of the program. One is a history/politics class and the other is a arts/culture class focused on Mozambique. I love these classes because I’m learning a lot about the country itself and not just Maputo. I mean learning about pre-colonial and colonial Mozambique and how that has affected the art and culture of the country is fascinating. We were encouraged to take supplemental courses within the actual university. I am taking African Literature and Linguistic Revision. I didn’t really have a choice of what I could take, but I’m not displeased with these courses. African Literature has been interesting so far because we are reading poetry and books in Portuguese and analyzing these texts. Due to some miscommunication, I’ve only been in the class for about two weeks though and I actually have not done all the reading. Linguistic Revision is a class that takes really elaborate texts and simplifies them, making them understandable to all Portuguese speakers like me. It is a really interesting class because we are dictated these super complicated texts and then the homework is to revise the text by taking out unnecessary, pompous, technical and repetitive words amongst other things. I feel like this is a class everyone should take in college.

There are things about the university system that just bothers me and a lot of it stems from Mozambican culture. One of my biggest issues is time. Time, time, time. No one respects it here. One day, I had a professor that was 40 minutes late. No one left the class, so they just sat there because it is just what happens. Very rarely does a class of mine start and end on time. Sometimes, professors don’t tell anyone they aren’t coming to class so that is also fun. It especially bothers me because I arrive to class on time, but I’m sure if I were to arrive late it would be frowned upon. My second biggest issue is the hierarchy. I needed to find out what texts I needed for a class, and a professor told me to talk to the chief of the term instead of telling me himself. It happens within our program itself and it is frustrating when we want something done. My third biggest issue is that no one ever has the answers to questions. I do not know if they actually don’t know or if they don’t care to go find out, but it is very hard to deal with when you are an exchange student trying to learn in a language you barely speak.

You have just got to deal with the flow of the things. Some days I come home feeling so defeated and other days I’m like “well, this is Mozambique.” We’ve made it very clear to the professors we’re with most that American universities have very different standards for how programs are run, placing extra emphasis on the time issue, so maybe they’ll take something from us as students too. Overall, the Mozambican students at UEM are very friendly and helpful and I appreciate their willingness to aid me when I am struggling for answers. I also really do like learning at the university because it is such a different experience.

Rode a chapa sozinha and lived to tell the tale

I’ve been back in Maputo for 2 weeks now and so far, everything has gone well. That’s one seventh of the time I will spend here! I’m enjoying my classes so far. This coming week, two more classes will be added to my schedule so I’ll let you know if I still feel the same way about school after I get through this week. Eventually, I’ll write a little bit more about school, but I’m waiting to get settled in to a more permanent schedule before I start giving any insight into what it is like to learn at a Mozambican university. One of the biggest differences that I can speak towards though is the way people dress to go to school. We were told to pack clothes that were professional but comfortable enough to go to school in every day, and after walking around campus some, I’ve seen how much students dress up to go to school. Like I have not seen one person in their pajamas or in running shorts and an excessively large t-shirt (I’m extremely guilty of the running shorts/baggy shirt trend in the U.S.). I’m not saying they dress up in suits and ties (well, some students do), but the majority just put effort into what they wear and tend to be respectful and mature in their way of dressing. It is also “winter” here so the people are also more bundled up because they are cold. It is also interesting to be an international student, but more on this in a later post!

This past Friday, my friend and I got to visit Livro Aberto and see a lot of the people I worked with. My schedule did not allow me to stay and help out, but in the coming weeks, I plan on volunteering there whenever I can. I figured out how to ride the chapa there and back! That was probably one of my greatest successes this week – getting on a chapa and being able to get to where I wanted to go without needing to ask someone for help. I felt very proud – like I can actually live here and get around the city without walking for days! I’ve actually had a few chapa rides this week with the entire group and they have all been fine chapa rides. I never thought I’d see the day where I would be chapa-ing around Maputo, but it is happening. Visiting Livro Aberto was great though because I got to use some of the Portuguese I’ve been learning and learn more about their recent projects. It made me miss working there full-time, but at least I can still dedicate some time to them.

I have been learning a lot about Mozambican culture through class, but also by talking to my host family and other Mozambicans. There are also a lot of events around the city that are about the culture here. One event was a play by an all-female Mozambican theater group that focused on polygamy and women’s rights. It was such a cool story and the actresses were so talented. I understood maybe about 75% of the play, as it was all in Portuguese, but just from watching the action I perceived what was going on. Polygamy is definitely a thing here and stems from a lot of traditions/beliefs that I am not versed in well enough to actually discuss. However, the play revolved around the life of one woman and her attempts to understand why her husband has 5 other women on the side. It also gave an interesting perspective into why some women participate in these relationships. The actresses each gave so much life and put so many emotions into their characters which emphasized their passion. Eventually, I have to do a presentation on Mozambican theater for class so this was a good start!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be traveling!!! I’m so excited, but until then, I just need to stay focused on school.

Standing in front of one entrance to UEM!

Standing in front of one entrance to UEM!

Scene from Niketche show on polygamy and women's rights.

Scene from Niketche show on polygamy and women’s rights.

No fishy business at the Fish Market

Trying to get a good deal on some grouper, or garoupa, as it is said in Portuguese.

Trying to get a good deal on some grouper, or garoupa, as it is said in Portuguese.

I want to write a post dedicated to the fish market in Maputo because it has been one of my favorite experiences here so far.

Our group took a taxi to the fish market. We had not even pulled up in front of the market and already an overwhelmingly strong scent of fish consumed the air. As we kept on driving, people started coming towards the taxi and talking to us through the windows asking us to have our fish cooked at their restaurant.

In the fish market, they sell all the seafood you could possibly ask for: fishes of all types, clams, oysters, squid, shrimp, prawns, crabs… I mean everything a seafood lover could desire. All the vendors were yelling their prices and saying that they had the best and freshest seafood. We were given the challenge to bargain for our food, and it was a really cool experience. We made one vendor very angry and then some of them looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for certain prices. It was all about learning how to bargain. With the money we were given, we were able to buy food for days.

There are a lot of restaurants there. Each of them wants the business of cooking your seafood so they beg and follow you through the market until you decide on some place. They will even fight over customers. Some of these restaurants are fancy, but most have a very relaxed environment. Luckily, our director had an idea of the restaurant she thought would be good to eat at so we didn’t have too much to worry about. We gave our seafood to a waiter at the restaurant, not really knowing how it would all come out.

In the end, all of our food was so delicious. I bought some grouper and it was prepared perfectly. Someone else got clams and even they were delicious. Everyone said their food was great. With me seafood is usually a hit or miss, but I could not have been more pleased with our meal. I loved that. The fish market is definitely a place I would like to visit again before I leave Mozambique.