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May 11, 2002

Terra de Boa Gente

I have now been in Mozambique for one week. It feels like one day! I am trying my very hardest to take everything in. I feel like a wide-eyed child seeing the world for the first time. Mozambique is beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

When the Portuguese first came to Mozambique, they deemed it Terra de Boa Gente...the land of good people. I have found the exact same thing. It is striking. People are so patient with my very broken Portuguese, they are willing to explain something over and over again until I understand. Mozambicans, in general, live a very difficult life. The poverty and sickness is overwhelming. But, there is an amazing spirit that shines, constantly. I feel very lucky to be here and to be a part of it all. To be a part of REAL lives with REAL struggle and REAL accomplishment and REAL happiness.

I arrived in Mozambique on the May 4th and spent 4 days near Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, with my teammate Shannon. She will be working on a community based HIV/AIDS campaign in a village, Boane, which is near Maputo. For the first days, though, we did not have much to do. We got to slowly acclimate ourselves to a new country, culture, time, everything.... not that either of us are entirely acclimated! It just helped to have a slow start.

We had little tasks each day, such as, finding our way on the bus from Boane to Maputo and hanging posters to advertise the HIV testing site in the community. We certainly enjoyed every moment and laughed many times over at ourselves.

On the second night, though, we had our first real encounter with the wildlife of Mozambique.... cockroaches.... now, to appreciate this, you must first understand that Shannon is squirmish about anything that can flutter. But, we were on a search and destroy mission. Armed with a can of bug spray. In all, we killed about 50 cockroaches in her kitchen alone. And, if you can just imagine Shannon squealing and standing as if she would dart out of the room at any moment!

I took the bus to Lamego on Thursday with my Mozambican counterpart, Atanasio. We arrived on Friday afternoon.... very tired. The hours on the bus allowed me to see much of the country. In 2000, Mozambique was plagued by awful flooding that killed many and displaced many many more. We drove right through the heaviest hit area. The government has provided the people with provisions to establish new communities. It was very interesting to see the new villages constructed very simply but obviously very new.

I am living in a dorm style house. There are four volunteers who have been here for about seven months and who will stay until September. They have been sharing all of their knowledge with me and have, thus, made the transition quite simple for me so far. Next week is an introduction week to the project here. I will be sampling many different aspects of life here. I am looking forward to it all!