I feel confident that if you were to open the Oxford English Dictionary to the entry on Clusterfuck (Royal) you would find a detailed account of my life this past week.

It started out deceptively 5-star with the Peace Corps putting all the Moz15 trainees up in one of Maputo’s swankest hotels for the night of our swearing-in ceremony. I lost track of the number of scalding hot showers I enjoyed during my 24-hour break from PC life, each was deliriously wonderful.

The ceremony itself was nice, but did not quite live up to the magnitude of expectations I had built up. The Ambassador’s house was appropriately chic, and it rained (good luck in Mozambique), but most of the speeches/formal bits seemed hollow and formulaic, like fill-in-a-name letters of recommendation.

Anywho, I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer!

Celebrations that night were pretty mild, and mainly I just made good use of my lovely hotel bed, air-conditioning, aforementioned shower-from-heaven, and BBC news on the TV, for all of which I have grown infinitely fonder during our time apart.

Let us pause here to discuss an important new concept in my life: the Third Law of Motion (Peace Corps variant). In physics, as Mr. Newton so handily described, every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. Within the unique physics of Peace Corps, this translates as every comfortable, successful, or fulfilling day must be paired with an equal period of frustration, inefficiency, and confusion.

So yeah, on Saturday I said goodbye to all of the south and central region volunteers (whom I probably won’t be seeing much of over the next two years) then all of the north region volunteers (i.e. the cool kids) loaded up to fly to Nampula, the largest city in the north of Mozambique.

Clusterfuck the first appeared at the Maputo airport, where the concept of orderly lines apparently goes to die. Thankfully we had PC staff with us to shove everyone in the right direction. Our flight only took off two hours late, which is pretty admirable in MMT (Mozambique Mean Time). Paradoxically, the in-flight service/food on Linhas Aereas de Moçambique was far nicer than any US carrier I’ve flown on.

Nampula is a cute city, and we stayed in a decent hotel for our Supervisor’s Conference. Unfortunately for my roommate Jonathan and I, this turned out to be (Clusterfuck #2) the Useless & Bored Conference. You see, the entire point of this two-day series of presentations was to introduce the volunteers to an administrator from our respective schools, and introduce them to the purpose, policies, and expectations of Peace Corps. One slight problem – no one from our school showed up. In their defense, Lichinga is close to absolutely nothing and national exams were wrapping up the week of the conference.

So I spent two days surreptitiously reading a Terry Pratchett novel on my Kindle (The Color of Magic, think the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets The Lord of the Rings, Liz you would like it).

The lack of a supervisor also meant that as we set out for our site on Wednesday I still basically knew only the name of my destination for sure. But of course that couldn’t be the only thing we were lacking. (Clusterfuck #3) Because Mozambiqe raised the cost of work visas ten-fold after we arrived and the U.S. Embassy is still trying to get Peace Corps an exception, we were delayed in Nampula for four hours waiting on official explanatory paperwork in case we get stopped by the polícia.

So finally made a delayed exit from Nampula in a PC Land Cruiser over-loaded with the combined luggage of me, Jonathan, and Kyla (the nearest volunteer to Lichinga). And I just have to say – snaps to Japanese engineering. We drove 600+ kilometers on the most godawful road imaginable and that Toyota performed admirably. As did my stomach, thankfully.

I had anticipated both a painful and beautiful drive to Lichinga, and my expectations were well exceeded on both counts. All in all it took sixteen extraordinarily bumpy, occasionally terrifying hours to reach my new home, including a short sleepover at the Bates Motel of Mandimba, Niassa. But the view! Ansel Adams and Robert Frost together would have waved a white flag in surrender, as neither photos nor words could do it justice. I had to stop myself from saying wow every ten minutes.

Keeping in mind my above statement about words and insufficiency, I will try to describe: once outside of the city, green covers everything, a great blanket of life spreading to the horizon. This is dotted with small communities of mud and cane huts, with the occasional twelve-foot tall (and delightfully phallic) termite mound. Most arresting, however, are the inselbergs – towering mountains that spring up randomly from the otherwise flat plains, as if God had a hippie African brother who thought that forming mountains in a range was just way too square, man. But these aren’t just traditional mountains, each is wonderfully unique – some are thin spikes and some have smoothly-rounded rock bellies, some are covered in trees to the summit and some have massive sheer rises of naked granite. There was even one with several peaks that looked like a face in profile, like some rock giant from Norse mythology decided to take a nap in Mozambique. Just stunning.

But yeah, the shit-show of site delivery must go on, so where was I. . . we made it safely to Lichinga Thursday morning and took a brief driving tour around the city (I think in order to give our director time to get to school to officially receive us). Lichinga is a Goldilocks town, not too big or too small, with wide avenues lined with Jacarandas which will be gorgeous when they bloom. The buildings are the usual Mozambican mish-mash with a general veneer of disrepair, but some early passear-ing confirms that we will be able to find most everything we need/want here. To one side of the town is a large pine tree plantation from the Portuguese days, and mountains are visible in the distance, so overall it’s meningue charming. Best of all, we found a delightful café with real espresso and all kinds of good food which I will be patronizing far too often.

So after the tour we met our school and director, both of which I quite like (Jonathan and I established that I will be the optimistic one while he reserves judgement, just to keep things balanced). Escola Secundaria Paulo Samuel Kankhomba got a facelift last year, so it looks awesome. Of course, because we are in Niassa and there are far too few schools to serve the student population, I will have 100+ students in my classes (less awesome). Currently we don’t have seats for those students, but the Director assures us they will be here by the start of the school year.

Speaking of whom, Senhor Director Sousa gives a great first impression. He’s well-spoken, gregarious, not overly formal, and seems genuinely excited to have us here and help us get settled.

Alright, this post has gone on wayyyy too long, and I haven’t even broached the subject of our house, which is its own separate series of clusterfucks, so I’ll save that for next time. Suffice it to say that the picture is optimistic here at the fim do mundo, and I’ve still got a Little-Engine-that-Could mentality.

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