Tragic Holiday Away from Home
These stories began as letters home to family and friends and have become wonderfully descriptive of the Peace Corps experience. Anonymous posting has been requested while the author is in Africa. After Christmas update: 12/28 The past few weeks have been a blur. I am not sure if I you by chance saw it on the news but two girls from my group were killed in a car accident. There were three injured and have been released from the hospital, I think both will be going back to the states and they have 45 days to recover before they have to discontinue their service. If they choose to before the 45 days are up they can come back to Mozambique. The third is still in bad shape and will be taken back to the US for further care once he is stable. He is in and out of a coma and cannot remember what has happened. As far as I know, only his family is here to support him. We also just heard that the driver of the car has not been found and there were also other Mozambiquens in the car that were injured as well. Nothing has prepared us for a tragedy like this and we are all trying to keep our focus and give each other support. With that said, Christmas was hard. We are split up into three different regions, North, Central and South so everyone from the central region from my group, came to my house. There were about 11 of us in total. It was wonderful to be all together and at least share our grief with each other. We ate so well, had peanut coconut curry, baked cookies, cinnamon rolls, a chicken pasta dish, lentil soup, ect. Even though my little house was crowded, I will have pictures soon (next couple of weeks I hope) it was still lovely to have everyone together for a few days. We are all now in the district capital with the group from the south as well because the memorial service for the two girls will be tonight. After a hectic 2 weeks I am finally back at my house. We found out today that we are actually beginning teaching on the next Monday, but we still have no word from our director or pedagogical director. We’re all trying to get our minds back into why we are here but a lot of volunteers from our group are choosing to go home for ‘med-vac’ (you have a chance to recover for up to 45 days and are allowed to come back or you can choose to leave the peace corps). Or you can choose to ‘ET’ which means you choose to end your service now. At least 6 of us have chosen to med-vac and another two have chosen to ET. I wish I could describe to you how rattled we all were and still are. It might become easier with time but trying to get through the three hardest months at site with a tragedy on top of it seems nearly impossible. But enough with the sad talk. There hasn’t been much going on since we got back. A few minor robberies in our neighbors houses, but we have a dog and bars on all our windows and doors so we are fortunately not a target. Or we are but they can’t figure out how to get in! What has been frustrating is trying to get the community to understand we are volunteers and not people who are rich because we are white. The people we have made friends with know and understand because they also knew the past volunteers but we are constantly asked for money or the dress I am wearing while we go to the market or walk through the barro’s (they are little neighborhoods). Yesterday we had 4 little boys follow us home and stand outside our gate and beg for money. Usually saying, ‘No I have nothing, please go away’ will make them leave us alone. Instead it egged them on, they wanted water, cookies, rice, books, ANYTHING they could see that was in our house, they asked for. I eventually got tired of arguing with them and slammed and locked my front door thinking that ignoring them was the next best strategy. Next thing I know they are climbing our fence and trying to get into our yard. No idea what they thought they were going to do once they made it over but I sure as hell didn’t want to find out. So much for Hurley, our dog, protecting us, he is sitting there wagging his tail watching them. I start yelling random words in Portuguese because I’m so flustered and they eventually jump off the other side, not before spitting on our sidewalk. Now I’m pissed. This stupid kid is begging for anything in site but now he is disrespecting us and we can’t do anything to stop him. I wish this story had an end but it doesn’t. It starts to downpour and they run away…but come back when the rain stops. The only thing that finally got them to leave us alone was 4 men walking buy struggling to carry their suitcases and they run to help them. It’s really hard to determine who actually needs help here. A well-off person will still ask for the shirt off of your back. On a brighter note, my first week of teaching went surprisingly well. I’m now teaching English for 11th grade to two different classes. It’s not a lot of work, I will probably teach only 5 or 6 hours a week. The hardest hurdle I will have to overcome are the different levels each student is at. And not to mention over half of my students are older than I am. Quite a few students are able to have a conversation with me where others do not even know how to say good afternoon. Since I only teach in the afternoon I was able to convince the hospital to let me volunteer as long as I teach the doctor there how to speak English. I’ll start on Monday morning helping two nurses with weighing and vaccinating children. I was surprised about how careful they keep track of every child born at the hospital and their vaccine records but the system they have in place to accept patients is completely ridiculous. It starts outside at about 7am with one woman weighing every child and then their mother is given a piece of paper with the weight on it. The women then turn in their child’s vaccine card and wait for their name to be called. Then the same woman sits down and the women bring up their kids one by one once their name is called. The woman records the weight (no idea why she can’t record the weight on the vaccine card as she is weighing them but this is Africa and 30 billion steps must be made instead of just 3) and yells at them if they’ve missed an appointment. Then, after about 20 cards or so, the same woman goes into a small room and starts writing down each child’s name and type of vaccine for those same 20 cards. Then she goes into another room, calls the children in one by one and gives them a vaccine. Then she goes into yet another room, records if they were there to get the vaccine and by now it is 12 pm and only 20 children have been given vaccines. It was utter chaos and I hope on Monday I can make some sense of what to do so that way things will run a lot smoother.