Tragedy! Horror! Terrible inconvenience! A couple of weekends ago now I ran away to Lake Niassa with a fellow volunteer, and just as I got to the beach on a glorious day, I pulled my Kindle out of its case to find the majority of the screen had morphed into a monochromatic Piet Mondrian painting. All lines and random blocks of grey and abstract portions of the screen saver image taunting me. Now, despite multiple optimistic resettings and promises of sacrifice to the gods of technology, I am slowly moving into the acceptance stage of grief. Luckily, I backed up all of my book files, so I can still read on my computer, but that is not nearly as satisfying an experience, or as portable.

So yeah, I was feeling rather woe-is-me-tastic for a few days, until Africa bitch-slapped me with perspective. First our empregada (who brings us water from a nearby well, among other wonderful things) failed to show up for week, which we found out from her husband was because one of their children had contracted a serious case of malaria and been hospitalized. He survived, so tudo bom, but then in class yesterday one of my students (Carla, ironically enough) apologized for missing the previous class because her mother died. This is the second student so far this year who has told me a parent died, could I please give them the notes they missed. Stone-faced. No surprise. Move along. The life expectancy here is still in the low 40s, so statistically most of my students will not graduate high school with both of their parents still alive.

Can. Not. Fathom. It. Of course, just to fuck with me even more, the Larium (my anti-malaria drugs) took this little tidbit and had a grand old time in my subconscious, so after some very vivid and terrifying dreams I stayed awake most of last night. There is still a wall between me and any given Mozambican, and no matter how much I learn about this country, no matter how fluent I become in Portuguese or integrated into my community, that wall will always be there. And honestly, I am glad for it, because I (luckily, thankfully, unfairly) have not had the lifetime of skin-thickening experience each of my students has had, and I could not handle the reality they face every day.

On a much lighter note, I feel like after getting past my Reconnect Conference (its for new volunteers to get back together and talk about lessons learned in our first four months at site) and starting the second trimester of classes, I have passed a very important milestone. I am a real Peace Corps volunteer now, in my own eyes. Lichinga truly feels like home and I have figured out a pretty comfortable groove with school and classes (actually, my most recent classes have gone exceptionally well). I have plans in motion that I am really excited about – more house remodeling, starting a Science Club/Fair at school, Portuguese tutoring to kick me up another level, Moon-style study groups with my students, hopefully shadowing a Brazilian doctor at the hospital – and overall I am probably happier and less stressed than I have been in a long time. They should just put me on a poster for Peace Corps already.

One last comment, I was sitting at the one cafe in town on Tuesday, working on lesson planning, when I found out about Bin Laden’s death, from Al Jazeera news of all sources. Not really going to get into all my thoughts on it, since this is not that kind of blog, but I will say it felt exceptionally surreal to learn the news in a foreign country. I take my nationality for granted most of the time, and it really is not one of those core characteristics by which I would immediately define myself were I asked to make a list, but being isolated from such a landmark American event made me feel that nationality in a visceral way that was very different for me. I’ve got the passport and the gadgets and pictures and all this tangible evidence of where I come from, where I belong, but none of that makes me feel it in the way that the shock of that seeing that news headline, surrounded by Mozambicans, living in the U.S.Antipodes, made me feel American.

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