Friday, February 8, 2013

5 Things I LOVE about Mozambique

1. "Meus filhos"- Nhemba and Botao. The cat and dog who have been my companions, entertainment and family during these two years.

2. "Minha Empregada"-My housekeeper. Her name is Adelaide. She's only one year younger than me but she has already lived so much and has shown me true resiliency. She is the mother of the most adorable little boy in all of Africa! She's strong, beautiful, determined and has made my life here not only cleaner but a lot more comfortable as well. Whenever I don't know how to do something, where to buy necessary items or how to say certain things there she is with her bright smile to the rescue. She's so much more than a "maid", she's my friend.

3. "Comida da rua"-Street food! You can buy almost anything on the street here. From hard boiled eggs, chicken on a stick and an ice cold soda to socks, perfume, kitchen utensils, gold chains, beer, peanuts, light bulbs, nail clippers, diapers, jeans, sandals, lotion, a glass of wine, chips, towels, hats or even a new (probably pre-owned) cell phone.

4. "Fruta! Fruta!! Fruta!!!"- Fresh fruits. You can literally go outside and pick produce of trees. I have been in tropical fruit paradise! We're currently at the end of mango/pineapple season which means mango salsa, pineapple fried rice, mango pasta saucem pineapple jame, mango jam, pineapple-mango juice!! The possibilities are endless and the products are virtually free! Soon we'll over run by avocados, oranges and tangerines. YUM!

5. "Boleia"- Hithc hiking culture. I would NEVER attempt this in the States (and officially have never done it in Moz**) but here it is nothing to put your hand out and be offered a ride by a complete stranger who just happens to be going your way and who would love to have your company along the way. There are the occasional creepersm but most people just want to talk about what on Earth I'm doing so far from home and how much we both love President Obama!

Until the next 5!
Peace & Love
Mama Jay in Moz

The Countdown Begins

It's been a long time since I've written a post like this, but I find myself at a point in my service and life where I need a bit of introspection...

It's February 2013 and I have roughly five months left in the Peace Corps. I know I say this all the time but where has all the time gone??? Don't get me wrong I am BEYOND excited to be going home so soon but at the same time I'm nervous about leaving Mozambique.

The future is so uncertain. What will I do when I get home? Where will I live? Who will I hang out with? Can I still relate to my old friends? My family?

Many people have heard me talk and sometimes complain about the sloooooooow village life, but for the last 1.5 years it had suited me. I rise early and am in the house most nights when the sun sets. I've created a routine for everyday and with that have become comfortable here. I've grown accustomed to having a cup or two of tea (no matter how hot it is) every morning before work. I have set market days where I spend my afternoons buying produce and conversing with my favorite veggie ladies. I enjoy taking the time to prepare my meals and have been able to expand my repertoire to include fun spins on traditional dishes like feijoada (a savory bean stew) with a Thai twist (thanks for the recipe Mom!) and even homemade peanut butter and mango jam! *Have you noticed that I love food?*

At time the nearly glacial pace of life here annoys me but I try to look at five hour meetings that never start on time as less a nuisance and more a chance to chill with my co-workers and learn the local language (Ani babwata kudoku-I speak a little).  A fellow PCV and one of my best friends in Moz put it like this: when else in our lives are we going to have the time to lounge, read, cook, and relax as much as we do right now? I'll probably never ever get another opportunity to take a whole month off from work to hitch hike around whatever country I'm living in. <== Great Northern Adventure Post Coming Soon!

So while life in Moz is not always the most exciting it just happened to be exactly what I need at the stage in my life.

I only have five more months left and I definitely plan to spend them taking it easy, depending less on a schedule or watch and over all just living. Taking each day at a time, because I know that when I get back to the good ol' U S of A everything will be a blur. It'll be back to the busy city, back to school (prayerfully), long hours at work (hopefully), late nights of clubbing with the girls and plenty of time with the new man in my life :D

As much as I CANNOT wait I must remember to appreciate my time here, because before I know it all these smiling faces, pounding songs, genuine salutations and  pure, natural, unadulterated culture will be just a
faint but fond memory. 

Here's to Tchillar-ing the Mozambican way!

Peace & Love
Mama J in Moz

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top 5 Questions I get/HATE from Mozambicans

#1 "Where are you from?"
** This question usually precedes several guesses at my country of origin. "Angola? No, no, Brazil? Oh I know, South Africa?" Surprisingly, most people don't even throw Mozambique into the mix.

This leads us to...

#2 "You're American!?! I didn't know there were black people in America"
** My natural response is to ask them where they think Lil Wayne and Jay-Z are from and then remind them that President Obama is Black. <-- THIS is why we need more Black PCVs

#3 "But where are your parents/grandparents/great grandparents from?"
**I have gotten this not only from Mozambican's who don't have a good grasp of the African Slave trade or of American history/pop culture, but also from what I mistakenly guessed where educated Europeans. I am so tired of having to enumerate my family tree. This question has however, made me very interested in doing a genealogy test when I get back home.

#4 "Are you married?" *slash* "Do you have kids?"
**In Mozambican culture, a person -woman or man- isn't considered an adult until they have a household to care for. This means that since I live alone without a husband or children that I am, in their eyes, still a "menina"+ little girl. When I first got here I was vigilant about telling people that I am a woman, because I have ___ years on the Earth and have this or that degree and pay my own bills. After a year in, I know that they aren't trying to disrespect me. That's just they way it is here.

#5 "Will you marry me?" *back-slash* "Can I go to America with you?"
**Self explanatory.

 Bonus Question!!
#5a "Can I have your phone number?"
**My best friends will tell you that is question plagued me even in the United States. Mozambique and Mozambican men are just the same. Men everywhere are getting hip to the fake number thing. They call you while they're still in your face to make sure the number is real!! ::Creeper alert::

*** I have picked up a few tips to combat the creeper call epidemic:
  •  "Oh sorry, my phone is only for work."
  • "How about you give me your number instead"
  • And when that doesn't work and they insist on taking mine, I store their number as "DO NOT ANSWER"
  • When I'm really getting the creeper vibe and just don't wanna deal I give them the "NO!" and walk away. 
::Disclaimer:: I really do try to be open and honest in the name of cultural exchange but if I hear any of these questions ONE MORE TIME!!!!! ...but I digress

Peace & Love
~Mama J in Moz~

One. Year. Down...Un. Ano. Mais...

My first year of service...

There's so much to say. So many thoughts going through my head. So many feelings in my heart. Part of me is just counting down the days until I'm back in the States, continuing my life. Then there is the other "me" who feels nervous and even a little worried about only having one more year of service, projects, and the "vida Mocambicana".

It basically boils down to this: I'm extremely homesick and also mentally exhausted from the daily ebb and flow of Peace Corps life. Yet, at the same time there are still so many things left to do before I can go home. I won't truly feel like I've completed my service unless I accomplish the few (but rather grand) goals I have set for myself.

But I digress...

...The point of this post is not to worry about what lies ahead of me, but rather to recollect and reflect on what I've already done, seen, and experienced during my service.

In just one calendar year I have learned to effectively communicate in a new (and rather complicated) language. I've become so comfortable with my Portuguese that I have been able to give small-group lectures on various health topics. I've lived on my own for the first time EVER! I've made what I hope will be lifelong friends and have even earned a nickname based on my more maternal nature. I've been accepted and loved by a whole new family and community. I've learned to subsist on the bare minimun (much to my mother's chagrin-but sometime it be's like that). I've tested my will and courage by tackling large spiders, giant fish and "integrating" into a whole new world.  I have fallen in love with the cutest cat and dog this side of the Zambeze river and learned to find peace and contentment in being alone. I have become my own loctician and manicurist and have found that I am actually very good at both! I've survived and managed to successfully navigate Mozambican public transit. I've turned a reed hut into my HOME. I have learned how to blend savory and sweet into some of the most delicious dishes I have  ever tasted. I have come up against agism and sexism and proved my worth as a young, educated woman in each situation. I have provided counsel to my fellow volunteers. I have amassed an impressive collection of handmade, custom clothing made from traditional fabrics. I've lost weight, and learned to incoporate exercise into my everyday life.  I've learned some new dance moves to bring back to the US club scene. I can speak about 10 phrases in the local dialect and can count to 5, which really impresses the older ladies at work. first year has been full of so much. There have been tears, laughter, anxiety, excitement, hugs, early mornings, songs and dances, large locally brewed beers, experiments with food, cultural exchange, fun and most of all tremendous personal growth.

As I enter my second year, I am feeling more confident and am ready to take on whatever life throws at me. I have been extremely blessed to have this opportunity to fulfill a dream I've had for a very long time.

In year two I am planning to start a club for adolescent girls, a home garden, income generation projects for the organizations I've been assigned to, a road saftey activity, and so much more. I am going to travel more, laugh more, love more and enjoy the time I have left.

They say the second year goes by even quicker than the first. So, with that said...I better get on it!!!

Peace & Love
~Mama J In Moz~

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Body Images

Before I left for Mozambique I attempted to lose a few LBs, to no avail, unfortunately...or was it?


So, my first day in Namaacha minha mae (my host "mother") and I were talking--or trying to given that I hadn't really begun my Portuguese training yet...ANYHOO!!!--I could understand only fragments of the conversation about my family in the states. She asked if I had kids???? Do I look like I've had kids!?

I had to take a deep breath and realize that in her culture the fact that I was 23 years old meant that I could/would/should have already begun to have children. It had nothing to do with my weight. In fact a lot of people here in Moz think that I am "bem gordinha" (loosely translated to thick...i guess lol)


August 2012
I've been in Mozambique for a full year and some change and thanks to a healthy diet, lack of preservatives (ha ha) and more rigorous activity i.e.; walking everywhere! I have lost a fair amount of kgs. I'm quite happy with my transformation, but people in town are beginning to worry. I get asked everyday why I've lost so much weight. The locals have suspected everything from me missing home so much that I don't eat to me being sick. My personal favorite explanation for my weight loss by a Mozambican was that I was missing "lubrificacao biologica"---yup---biological lubrication. It sounds like exactly what you think it is! This man told me that I  was missing that certain something in my life and that I needed to find a "friend" to "play with" so that I wouldn't lose weight. The nerve!!

That's Mozambique for you! Where a girl can lose weight and it be seen as a bad thing!!

My Hairstory: A journey through photos (sorry they are out of order)

The boys got all the hair...

Freshly twisted locs in Moz

They're starting to loc! -Sept 2011

Still a few unloc'd Nov 2011

Senior Yr of High School I rocked braids (headed to a 70's party)

Blonde Ambition -Summer 2010 

Love a good Dominican Blow Out!

Twisted up do for HU Homecoming 2010


Two strand twists to start locs!

Tried Tree-braids Winter 2010

I love a good accessory!

My very last blow-out Summer 2011

My Graduation Weave May 2010

Rocking Curly locs in Moz Aug 2012

Loving my locs. This is why I'm hot!\(and I made those earrings!)

My Hairstory

This morning, I looked in the mirror, gave myself a wink, untied my hair and fell in love with the woman staring back at me. Now a days I do this everyday. I fall in love with my eyes, my lips and especially my hair, but it wasn't always all hearts and roses between us.

No, for a good long while my hair and I were not even friends. We were constantly at odds. I wanted straight, it wanted curls. When I  wanted curls, my dear hair wanted kinks! The only time I could control how my hair looked was when I covered it with a weave or by braids. I wanted desparately to be proud of my hair and wear it as it was, but I had a few other things to work out in my mind first.

It wasn't until the winter of 2003, after a horrific at-home relaxer incident, which left my hair in patches and my scalp with scabs, that I made the decision that would transform our relationship forever...

After years and years of relaxing my mane, starting at an involuntarily early age. I decided to go "natural". I was told that the best way to go natural was to start with a "big chop" which meant that I would have to cut all my hair off and basically start from scratch. Having never really had what you would call long hair to begin with, I was initially appalled by this idea. I opted instead to grow out my relaxer with the help of twist extensions which I loved! I kept these up for a pretty long time, but it eventually became really expensive and all the while stalled the inevitable introduction I would have to endure with doing my own hair.

After about a year and a half of braids and twist extensions I finally decided it was time to contend with my "pouf". After clipping away the remainder of my relaxed hair, it wasn't very long and in my eyes didn't provide for many versatile styles. Most days I just wore it pulled back in the front-which my dad hated! He urged me to either loc my hair or keep it braided. As I wasn't quite ready for as  drastic and permanent a step as locs and with dad paying -I rebraided my hair time and time again.

By the time my freshman year of college came around, I still wasn't very comfortable with my natural hair. I rocked my "pouf" and occassionally got my hair braided. Every now and then, I would go with one of my best friends to get our hair pressed (she's never had a perm, chosing to have her hair pressed regularly to keep it straight). During winter break, I decided that I wanted to dye my hair-hoping that a new, brighter color would help me begin to love my hair.

I dyed my hair a gorgeous sun kissed bronzey color and LOVED IT! My mother told me that if I wanted to keep my color treated hair healthy, that I had to keep it moisturized. Never being one who liked to have a greasy head-this didn't really appeal to me, but I didn't want my hair to break off (it was short enough already!) so started to use coconut oil and to my surprise my hair became soft, manageable and more importantly-HEALTHY. I learned that if I twisted hair while wet and letting it dry in bantu knots that it when it dried the result would be a bush of soft curls. LOVE LOVE LOVED this style. I got so many compliments and other girls actually began to ask me for natural hair advice!

I began to tinker, toy, twist, knot, pin, braid and overall just enjoy and experiment with my hair.  I even got a fun asymmetrical haircut during my sophomore year. Going to a school as fashion forward and trend setting as Howard University afforded me the chance to swap stories, style ideas and product reccommendations with other Natural Divas. With every passing semester I grew more and more enamored with my hair and realized that as long as I took care of her, she would take care of me.

I learned that natural hair is as fun, sexy, edgy and as unique as the woman rocking it! I discovered that although my beauty has nothing to do with my physical appearance (although, I think I look pretty hot in any fro'd, twisted, braided or loc'd style), it's the confidence I derive from having beautiful, healthy, natural hair that makes me feel gorgeous every single day.

In the summer of 2011, after joining the Peace Corps and moving half way around the world to Mozambique, I made the decision to loc my hair. Initially, I was apprehensive-locing is a process which takes committment, patience and skill, especially when attempting this venture alone. Before leaving home I had  had a little bit of practice maintaining locs for friends and after seeing how easy and fun it was, my interest was piqued. A friend of my mother's who has had locs for many years introduced me to a few worthwhile products and her secret style! I spent an entire day (if not longer) looking at videos on how to start, maintain, style and dye locs. After seeing literally hundreds of amazing locs I was convinced! Locing was the next natural move for me. I started with two strand twists and now retwist them about every three weeks. As of today i'm about a year into my loc journey and I think they are coming along beautifully.

  I may not keep locing for the rest of my life, but I know that the feeling of independence, creativity and confidence I feel by maintaining my own natural hair in whatever form it's in is what makes my mane amazing!!

The moral of this hairstory?

 Work, rock and love what you got! As my granny always says "good is what covers the scalp".