Monday, May 27, 2013

the story behind the "preschool project" and how/why YOU can help

This is the story behind the Paypal "donate" button to the right...

One of my sitemates, Ariel, started going to the preschool in Monapo last year once a week to read to the children. As an education volunteer, she was given children's books (in Portuguese) as a sample from a company called Books for Africa. One week, I decided to join Ariel at the preschool. After reading one of the books to a room full of noisy, rambunctious children, we decided to instead sing songs and play games.

We quickly discovered that the preschool's space was insufficient for the 78 children that are there Monday-Friday. Children from three to six years of age all occupy one small room. There are four open windows (no glass panes to block out rain) and a thatched grass roof. There is one traditional latrine for all of the children and they have no hand-washing stations. The preschool's one teacher, Samuel, only has one other helper. Rosalina is responsible for making breakfast, usually a traditional porridge, and preparing juice to accompany the snacks which the children bring from home. Samuel built the existing preschool from his own personal money and regularly gives up part of his salary to buy toys or food supplies.

Samuel told us that it was his dream to expand the preschool in order to serve more children. Unfortunately, however, he has been unable to save for the funds needed. After much discussion, Ariel and I decided that it would be a good project idea to improve the preschool. We also decided to convert the preschool into a Community Child Development Center in the afternoon once the preschool children return home. Children, youth and adults would be encouraged to use the center as a library- to read books, do homework, play educational games, etc. The Center would allow all members of the community to have access to books and a safe place to learn instead of limiting access to only those children attending the preschool.

Unfortunately, most Mozambican adults do not realize the importance of early childhood education. Parents often delay the education of their children until primary school which students begin between the ages of 6 and 8. My neighbor, Carla, is in 6th grade and can barely get through a beginner-level book. Another neighbor, Eddie, is in 2nd grade and just learned how to write his name at my house. It is not uncommon for a high school student to be illiterate. But the lack of help at home isn't the only problem. Even if a child wanted to practice reading, where would they do so? Their schools don't have books. There is no Community Library. Surely they don't have books at home.

Therefore, in addition to rehabilitating the space at the preschool, we hope to raise enough money to purchase the whole Portuguese set of books (over 200) from Books for Africa that range in difficulty for primary to high school students. In the afternoon, people will be welcome to come to the Center and read with their children and younger siblings or by themselves.

With the construction of a new, two-room building, the preschool children will be devided according to age. The project will also provide funding for Samuel to employ an additional teacher. Besides the preschool, there are no other organizations in the community providing structure and resources to young children in Monapo. Many parents do not understand the benefit of early childhood education and those who do may not have a guaranteed placement for their child in the preschool. This project aims to create a better learning environment for the children enrolled in the preschool while also creating an early childhood development center available to everyone in the community. Along with providing resources to educating young children, the center will aim to advocate amongst parents and youth the importance of beginning education at a young age.

I cannot count the number of times I've had someone tell me (or write to me) that they admire what I am doing here in Moz and wish they could help. Well, this is your opportunity. Normally I am not a fan of simply doling out money as a form of aid. But this preschool is already fully functioning. There is no room for failure because we are investing in something that already exists and works. But there is a tremendous need for growth and improvement and your donations will help Samuel and the community of Monapo achieve this. 

If you'd like any more information, please feel free to contact me at Or see my sitemate's website at 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Longs' Adventures in Africa: take 2

March was quite the month. My family was here in Mozambique for nearly 3 full weeks. We stayed in Nampula city (the city they flew into) the first 2 days to give them a chance to relax and lets be honest- to not have complete culture shock. I think they were pretty shocked anyway. I saw them as soon as they stepped off of the airplane. Well, I saw a white man with a safari hat and large fanny-pack and figured it had to be my dad. I walked around and met them outside of the luggage pick-up. We were immediately swarmed by taxi drivers and airport staff looking for a quick tip by carrying bags. I'll never forget the drive from the airport to our hotel. My mom and sister were screaming at literally everything. Completely mundane, everyday things. “Look at that man standing in the back of that truck!” “Look at those tires on the side of the road!!!” And my personal favorite, “oh my gosh, you're really speaking Portuguese!” I mean, really? I've lived here for 2 years! Of course I'm speaking Portuguese to the taxi driver. Its pretty surreal having your family in the place that you've come to think of as home and suddenly realize that they know next to nothing about what your life is like.Probably the greatest thing I learned from their time here is just how much I've learned living in Mozambique.

Our time in Nampula was fairly uneventful, from my end at least. My mom and sister were able to do some souvenir shopping and I took full advantage of the meals we enjoyed at restaurants I normally can't afford to eat at. I was a nervous wreck walking around the city with them and all the valuables- tons of cash, iphones, video camera. To this day they don't realize how dangerous Nampula can be. I'm so grateful they didn't witness it in person while they were here. Our closest call happened at the Sunday market, a place where you can buy anything from baskets and jewelry to furniture and chickens. The Sunday market is always jam packed with locals (few tourists brave the crowd) and some punks took advantage of the environment to try and pick-pocket my dad. One of the kids pretended that my dad had stepped on his foot and while he was distracted another kid went through his fanny pack. Thankfully, there was nothing in it.

We had planned on leaving Nampula for Monapo early on Monday morning. Long story short, our driver was completely incompetent and we left 7 hours later. This would be their first lesson in a very important aspect of Mozambican culture- no one is ever in a hurry. The phrase “Estou a vir” or “I'm coming” can mean the person will be there anywhere between 10 minutes and 3 hours. I knew they were freaking out, so I tried my best to assuage their anxiety. “It's gonna be ok guys- TIA (This Is Africa).”

We arrived at my house in Monapo about 6:30pm. It was pitch black out but that of course didn't stop my neighbors from hearing the car pull up. I knew how excited they were, knew that they'd been waiting all day for our arrival. The kids helped unpack the extremely full car and we set up the mosquito net for the extra mattress. Its difficult having additional people in your house (with no running water and spotty electricity and bugs and dust like you can't imagine and a cat and 3 kittens...) but it's even harder when those 3 additional people are Americans who have never before been to Africa. I was expecting the worst.

The 3 days we spent in Monapo flew by. We would wake up early and before you knew it, it was getting dark outside and we were deciding on what to do for dinner. We spent the majority of the days out in my yard playing with the neighborhood kids and talking with some of the adults (rather they talked and I just translated). When my dad wasn't doing yard work, he was sitting under this shaded structure in my yard writing in his journal or acting out charades with my neighbor. My mom brought tons of toys for the kids and jewelry for the adults. Everyone was pretty wild over their gifts!

Later in the week we left Monapo for Chocas- a touristy little beach town that is very difficult to get to and quite possibly my favorite place in Mozambique. The road isn't paved and gets pretty messed up during the rainy season. My family was completely freaked out but I kept reassuring them, “Don't worry! This road isn't even that bad! I've been on ones MUCH worse!” Needless to say, we have some entertaining video of the trip. Once again, TIA. Carrusca, the resort we stayed at in Chocas, is an additional 3km outside of the town. Other than a few locals and fisherman that pass through, the place is pretty isolated. Except for Saturday and Sunday, we were the only ones on the beach for as far as the eye can see. This part of the trip is what I'd call a typical “vacation”. Sleeping in, enjoying breakfast on the veranda of the bungalow, laying on the beach, taking a nap in a hammock, getting dressed up for dinner and then coming back to star-gaze and drink wine. One morning Janine and I took a dhow boat (wooden sailboat) to an island just off the mainland. It wasn't my first time to the island but it was still beautiful. Little tide pools full of sea creatures and beautiful shells everywhere. I think we saw at least 15 big, bright starfish. But you must not forget, this is Mozambique and of course is not without its challenges, even when you're on vacation. Our first night in Chocas the electricity went off around 6pm and we ate dinner by headlamp-light. There is no bank in the town of Chocas (ie- no ATM) and the credit card machine at the resort's restaurant wasn't working. So we really had to watch our money to make sure we'd have enough to get out and move on to our next destination. Janine and I woke up one night to a mouse crawling directly above our heads on the palm-thatched roof of our bungalow. That was a long night. And finally-the restaurant serves seafood and chicken, so when your body starts to reject the rich and buttery lobster, fish, clams, shrimp and squid, you're left with very limited dinner options.

I knew they'd be excited to move on to the tourist-friendly Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island) as there are more sightseeing activities, shops and restaurants. There's also a bank! Ilha was once the capital of Mozambique so it has a unique history and rich culture. We toured the museum and were shocked by the lack of security for the items on display. By the end we couldn't help but joke- “This carpet we are walking on is definitely from the 1500s.” On Friday the Peace Corps Volunteers were having a beach party for St. Patty's Day so we went and had dinner and drinks with them. It was nice to have my family meet some of my friends here. The next night Janine and I went with the others to the island's discoteca or dance club. It's just an ocean-front area with tables and chairs and a small cement dance floor. But we don't need a fancy space to have a good time. We danced until 2am and ended up being the last out of our group to leave. We walked the whole length of the island to get back to our hotel and less than a minute away from the hotel's front door, my purse was stolen. This kid just ripped the body of the bag off the strap (the purse was made out of braided plastic bags). Luckily, I only lost about $4 and a fancy lipgloss. The hotel, unfortunately, lost a key to their front door and our guest-room. I had absolutely no confidence in the police to patrol the surrounding area and prevent the thief from coming back and coming inside. TIA. And, because we were the hotel's only guests, I moved my mattress out to the hotel's lobby and my dad sat on a couch with a hammer. I guess we can both cross guarding a Mozambican hotel off the list. The rest of our time was less eventful. We would walk around the island during the day taking pictures of the unique architecture and beautiful people, then go back to our rooms to wash up and go out for a fancy dinner. I go to Ilha de Mozambique quite often but I normally only allow myself one fancy meal out (and one fancy drink to go along with it). So it was quite the luxury ordering anything I wanted at the fanciest places on the island and a glass of wine on the side!

We spent a couple of days back in Monapo before their flight out. We brought back fish from the island and helped my neighbors to make a delicious fish dinner. Besides playing with all the neighborhood kids we also visited some people my family didn't get to meet the first time. There is an American missionary family with 4 small kids. They regularly invite my sitemates and me over for incredible home-cooked, American dinners. And colleagues stopped by to meet in person the people that I so often talk about. Overall, I was super impressed by how well my family did during the trip. Living here sure ain't easy but what many people don't know is that “vacationing” in Mozambique is challenging as well. The good together with the bad results in three weeks that will definitely stand out from my approximately 116 week-long service. Saying goodbye to my neighbors was hard for my family but also very difficult for me. A wake-up call to the fact that I will be doing the same in a few months. We parted ways in the Nampula airport but it wasn't too hard to say goodbye. For as hard as it will be to leave Mozambique, I have family and friends waiting for me, and the wait is over in just 4 months.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bem-vindo a 2013!!!

I was only out of Monapo for two weeks but when I got back it felt like so much had changed. There was a huge fire on New Year’s Eve at the market in Monapo. Roughly 20 bodegas selling everything from Indian dresses to Chinese electronics burned down. I’m not sure what kind of financial help the owners received but they are currently in the process of re-building their stores with less combustible materials like cement and sheets of zinc, as opposed to wood and grass. I also came back to a fully pregnant cat who has since had her kittens! There are three of them- two are dark and one is more like Roo, white with dark patches. I sat on my back veranda with the kids while we watched her move them from a secluded corner of my yard into the spare room in my house. They can’t walk yet so I don’t have to worry about them getting into trouble. While I was gone I missed Eddie’s (my little neighbor boy) celebration into manhood. To make up for it I baked oatmeal raisin cookies and took him back-to-school shopping. I spent about $4 and got him a new notebook, colored pencils, pens, ruler and an incredible Transformer set with notepad, pencil sharpener, pencils and pencil case.  As we walked through the market picking things out he was so excited he could barely talk! And the biggest change of all- its 2013 and I’ll be coming back to the states in 6 months! So strange to think that I have so little time left.

I had a lovely Christmas/New Year holiday. A bunch of volunteers who live in Southern Mozambique came up North so I didn’t have to travel very far distances for once, which was a very nice change! Two of my close girl friends got to my house early so I was able to spend time with them and show them around Nampula city and Mozambique Island. Then 7 of us went to one of my favorite places- Chocas. We had a pretty rustic experience because we chose to camp. But it was great being able to buy fish and seafood right on the beach from the fishermen and cooking it for dinner. From Chocas we traveled up farther North to Pemba, a beach town full of tourists and ex-pats. There was a huge group of PCVs that camped out at a really fun lodge complete with great American food and cable tv, all a short walk from the beach. We were even treated to a free Christmas buffet lunch complete with turkey, beef, fish, squid and LOBSTER. What luck! After Christmas I traveled even farther North (super close to the Tanzanian border) to a town called Moçimboa da Praia, which is my friend Nitisha’s site. It was horrible getting there (several hours spent in the hot sun trying to get a ride and eventually ended up standing on an even hotter bus stuffed beyond capacity with humans of all shapes/sizes/ages) but I’m glad we went because it was probably one of the most unique places I’ve ever been in Mozambique. After Nitisha showed us around for a couple of days, we headed back down to Pemba for the New Year. We camped at the Pemba Dive and Bush Camp this time around which was really fun because they provide a lot of free activities- kayaking, archery, nature walks, mud baths, volleyball. You better believe we got our monies worth! I rang in the New Year with my girl friends on the dance floor of the Pemba Beach Hotel, a very swanky place. After enjoying the American tunes and firework display we switched venues and went to a seedier part of town to ring in the New Year with the locals. We ended the night back at the Bush Camp hanging out around the bonfire. All in all, a fantastic way to say goodbye to 2012.
Since being back from vacation, I’ve been reminded of a mothers’ typical wish on Mother’s Day- peace and quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love “my kids” (read: the little neighborhood munchkins) but sometimes enough is enough! The past couple of weekends I’ve spent nearly all of Saturday and Sunday with the little monkeys. From the time I open my door in the morning until it gets dark at night. And even then they’re peeking through my front windows watching me watch tv, doing yoga, or cook. Last Sunday, I spent all morning with them in my backyard. Then Carla had the idea to do a picnic lunch. So everyone ran home to grab a bit of food to share with the rest of the group. Then I put up the hammock and we had fun putting people in and swinging them back-and-forth. At some point, I fell asleep and when I woke up the kids had organized themselves into teams for a cooking competition! I was utterly amazed. They brought pans and charcoal from home and collected mandioca leaves from random plants growing in my yard. I ended up giving each team an onion, oil and salt so the matapa (green, leafy Mozambican dish) wouldn’t be so bland. It was so cute watching them help each other get their fires started (they used bits of charcoal and wood scraps and grass from my yard). Even little Deena and Fatiminha took over tending the fires! Can you imagine 3 and 4 year olds doing that in the states?! The parents would be hauled away by social services! It’s incredible that things still shock me after two years in Moz.
My family will be here in six weeks! I am equally excited and frightened. Who knows what we will encounter. But I can guarantee it’ll be one heck of an adventure!

Friday, December 14, 2012

the dog days of summer

     Since returning from Thanksgiving vacation I can’t get that mantra from Nemo out of my head- just keep swimming, just keep swimming…Yeah, year 2 is no joke. But to my credit this time of year is infamously hard for all PCVs in Mozambique. The kids are on vacation from school, colleagues are wrapping up work for the year and everyone is just counting down the days until 2013. All of this on top of the fact that for the 1st time ever in Monapo, I’m alone. My two education sitemates left after Thanksgiving to travel south to Johannesburg before catching flights back to the states. Even my quasi sitemates in the next town over (12 k away) have flown the coop! One was a Moz 15er and finished her 27 month contract in November and the other is spending the holidays in New York. The majority of the children (neighborhood kids) are also MIA. Most are off visiting family in other parts of Nampula province. Eddie, my favorite little munchkin, is out in the middle of nowhere for his initiation rites. Basically a male-only, month long ceremony where he officially becomes a man. He is seven years old. His father invited me to his “initiation rites party” which will be held when he returns from the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, I will be gone on Christmas vacation. I promised to make cookies when I return to celebrate Eddie’s manhood.
     Work has been incredibly slow for me the past few weeks. Most of my time has been spent researching journal articles for my thesis and revising the curriculum for my secondary project, JUNTOS (the journalism youth group). As far as SCIP goes, I am just trying to collect monitoring and evaluation evidence on the stigma and discrimination program that I, along with the 3 other SCIP PCVs started in November of 2011. The 3 of us worked with the Behavior Change Manager of SCIP to create a 3-day long seminar in stigma, discrimination and gender-based violence. Fifteen community leaders from Monapo district participated in this seminar in February. Since then, I’ve been visiting these leaders in their respective communities to participate in community debates on these topics. It has been very rewarding to see the information being passed on from the leaders to other members of the community.  It is even more rewarding when you realize this information is valued by the community. Once, a community leader expressed his gratitude by explaining that his brother is chronically ill and he now understands the importance of not discriminating him or isolating him from the rest of the family. In another district, a community leader took a man to jail after beating on his wife. The words “stigma” and “discrimination” don’t exist in the local language of Makua, so these topics are really novel for most people. I have found that the community debates are often the first time people even think about these issues.
Unfortunately, unless a specific form is filled out to document participation at these debates, it is like they never occurred. And in order to get additional funding to hold more seminars, we need to provide evidence to Pathfinder International (and eventually USAID) that the community leaders who attended the initial seminar are actually doing something in their communities. So, earlier this week I got to ride around Monapo district visiting the leaders with the Behavior Change Manager from Nampula city. Luckily, I knew where 3 of the leaders lived. We were able to drive straight (or as close as we could get) to their houses. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where the other 3 lived, so we needed to stop and ask people for directions. I don’t think the driver and Nampula manager were as impressed with me as I was with myself. These leaders live in communities out in the middle of nowhere where the only landmarks for reference are a big cashew tree and maybe a 2 –room school. I was quite impressed with my memory and navigation skills. Oh the things you learn how to do as a PCV in Mozambique…
      Don’t let my lack of work and fellow Americans fool you. I’m actually enjoying these slow weeks of December. I’ve had the pleasure of finally beginning Janet Evanovich’s series (which my grandma, Mamie, is obsessed with), reading the first 4 books in a week. I also discovered the Phase 10 app on my phone and average about 25 games a day. I take 1-2 hour naps daily, long walks to the market and watch mini tv marathons of Law & Order, Sex & the City or The Big Bang Theory. It’s fabulous. I mean, when in my life will I ever have another job that allows me to live like this? Its strange because SCIP is my first job outside of a restaurant (if you don’t count the short stint I did as student liaison in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at Temple).  I still don’t even really know how an office job works. Do I have to go into the office if I don’t have any work to do? Most Mozambicans equate sitting in the SCIP office with doing work. For example, the other day I stayed home to wait for my electrician to come over and fix my installation. While he was working I was also working. (I interviewed a community leader who mobilized his community in identifying barriers and facilitators in their surroundings that relate to stigma and gender-based violence. The community identified the lack of classrooms as a barrier for educating young girls. With the financial help of the government of Monapo district, the community constructed 3 additional classrooms at their primary school. I wrote the whole experience up as a success story for SCIP as another piece of evidence for the effectiveness of the stigma and gender-based violence seminars.) A friend stopped by and said “oh, hey, you aren’t working today?” I said “yes, I am actually working right now.” He responded with “how can you be working if you aren’t at the office?” You see, it’s very frustrating. Sometimes I know my colleagues don’t have work to do and are just sitting in the office to surf the internet. What’s the point? I’d rather just go home and play with my cat or wash dishes or bake something. Luckily, my position as a PCV allows me to do so. I probably won’t be able to do the same once I get a real office job in the states. Guess I better take advantage of this while it lasts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I saw my turkey alive & breathing before eating it, did you?

              This year I realized how thankful I am for two very different things. One, that I was blessed to be spending the holiday with great friends in a truly remarkable country; and two,  that I would be at home with family for the next Turkey Day. It probably seems contradictory, but that’s the best way to explain where I’m at right now. I love Mozambique, love my life here and know its going to be painful leaving but I am also missing the people and comforts of “Americaland.” But I digress, and will now get to the tale of my Thanksgiving. I'm including a link to a map so you can follow the trip from Monapo to Chimoio and back! 

                I met a friend in Nampula city and we caught a ride (from the SCIP car!) to Alto Molocue where another PCV lives. We spent the night at his house and the following morning the 3 of us head out together. We got incredibly lucky and caught a ride going the whole way to Chimoio, our destination. So after 9 hours in the bed of a pickup truck we were in Chimoio eating falafel and hummus at a Lebanese-owned restaurant. I had been to Chimoio twice before but had gotten in late and left super early the next morning so I was never able to explore the city. It’s a very unusual Mozambican provincial capital because it lies very close to the Zimbabwean border and has a lot of ex-pat and non-Mozambican residents (hence the delicious food at the Lebanese restaurant). We spent the next day planning out our Thanksgiving Day menu and other meals while at Gorongosa National Park. And then we got to do the shopping- which sounds like it would be stressful but was actually quite fun as Chimoio has South African-chain grocery stores that carry all kinds of exotic items not found in Nampula province where I live! All of the other PCVs got in to Chimoio later that evening and we went out for burgers (bacon and cheddar!!!) and beer.
                We traveled from Chimoio to Gorongosa National Park on Thursday and had a relaxing day cooking, playing games and just hanging out.  We all slept in tents which was the only “roughing it” part of the trip because our campsite had bathrooms complete with running, hot water. Who would have thought camping could be such a luxury! We had our actual Thanksgiving meal Friday afternoon. Fresh turkey (killed that morning), mixed fruit jam (meant to be cranberry sauce), green bean casserole, rosemary and garlic mashed potatoes and cheesy carrots (made by yours truly). It was super delicious! The only thing I really missed was Thanksgiving dessert, but we opted to leave them out to keep costs down since we were a pretty large group. We did, however, roast marshmallows! Early Saturday morning we piled into a van and went out into the park for a game drive. Gorongosa was once a world-renowned wildlife park but the 15 year civil war in Moz severely diminished the animal populations, especially the elephant population. Still, the park is doing a wonderful job working with the locals to reduce poaching and environmental pollution to help sustain the remaining animals and support those that are introduced into the park. On our drive we saw warthogs, elephants, and many different types of deer. It definitely felt like I was in the part of Africa that you always think of when you hear the word “Africa”- wild open Savannah-like plains and lush, uninhabited forest.
                We left Gorongosa National Park after the game drive and headed back to Chimoio for the night. The following morning we began the long journey back up North. After several hours of bad luck and being stranded on the road in the blazing hot sun, a friend and I finally caught a ride to Mocuba in Zambezia province. There is currently no PCV in Mocuba so we got in touch with an American missionary family who was nice enough to have us stay at their home. They surprised us with a delicious meal (we hadn’t eaten anything all day except for a handful of litchi fruit) of pepperoni and Hawaiian pizza, chickpea and vegetable salad, mint iced tea, mango and banana ice cream and fresh pineapple which we picked up as a thank-you gift on the side of the road.  We took hot showers and worried about staining their white bath towels and washcloths with our dirt-encrusted bodies. Again, such luxury! I was able to make it back to Monapo (after a dog threw up in the car I was riding in and the kids screamed bloody murder…long story) the following day and I must say I was so thankful to be home. Roo greeted me at the door with non-stop whining. I think that means she missed me. I was also thankful to come home to a clean house stocked with water. My friend takes care of the place for me when I leave and he was nice enough to cart water for me since I was completely out. Now, I’ve got about 3 weeks to wrap up the work year before Christmas vacation! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and recognized the things and people in your life which you are thankful for :) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

month 16, or something like that

                I’ve been out of commission for the past couple of days. Some sort of stomach bug- that’s my best guess. Being sick in Moz absolutely, 100% sucks. Even when it’s some minor ailment, the conditions here just amplify things, making the condition more debilitating than it needs to be.  I woke up in the middle of the night early Sunday feeling nauseous. I’ll spare you the details, lets just say I spent much of the night near my xi-xi bucket (normally used for after-hour peeing).  Normally, one would dump (or flush) the contents of their puke bucket immediately but since I, like most PCVs, keep my door locked from 8pm-6am for safety reasons, this simple task was impossible. Instead, I got to deal with it first thing after crawling out of bed at 6. Afterward, I immediately retreated to my locally-made bed (a wooden frame tied with rope made of dried palms) in an attempt to read.
A really special (read: annoying) thing about Monapo and most of the districts in Nampula province is losing electricity on Sundays. It usually disappears around 6 am and returns around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. I should be grateful that I even have electricity as there are some PCVs here in Moz that don’t. But it’s especially hard to deal with going without when you are so accustomed to having it. It’s a pain in the ass. Everything in my mini-fridge gets all funky and I usually have no phone battery, unless I remember to charge it the night before. But this day was particularly annoying because I didn’t have my fan. Even though summer is not officially here yet, it sure feels like it. It is HOT. On a normal Sunday without electricity, I would have prepared food the day before or I’d run to the market for ready-to-eat items like bread, tuna, or hard-boiled eggs. But since I wasn’t going to be going anywhere that day (except for the latrine) I called my sitemates and asked that they pick me up some Sprite and bread. Thank goodness for sitemates! I was going to make toast but then remembered, oh yeah the energy is out…The electricity finally came back on around 8:30. I had gotten into bed around 6 and was reading with my head lamp since all of my candles had burned down to the quick and I didn’t have any replacements. I was so ecstatic to have my fan back!  
Monday morning I called my coordinator to let him know I wasn’t coming into work. His response didn’t surprise me, “My daughter, you have malaria.” When us American folk get sick, even if its for a day, we are accused of having malaria then lectured on how serious the situation is. I love that my co-workers care so much about me but no matter how many times I tell them “it’s NOT malaria,” they just don’t listen. So I did what I’ve done so many times since my arrival in Monapo. I took a malaria rapid test to prove them wrong. And even when I tell them that the result was negative, they still don’t believe me. “You should go to the health center; you can’t trust those rapid tests that Peace Corps gives you.” I try to placate them by adding that I’ll go to the health center if my condition gets any worse because in my mind I know it is not malaria. It’s so unfortunate that the symptoms are something PCVs have to deal with on a regular basis- vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, fatigue. I would be worried more often if I didn’t take my prophylaxis medication weekly. Yet, to my colleagues, I am “playing badly with my health.”
This reminded me of a situation that happened earlier in the week. Where, after explaining my situation, I was told I was wrong and given a different list of instructions to follow. I went to EDM (the electric company of Mozambique) earlier in the week to request the help of a technician. My ‘warning’ light on my energy box was flashing red and every hour on the hour it would beep incredibly loudly for 1 minute. I think even a third grader would recognize this as a problem. Yet, when I explained all of this to an EDM employee he assured me that this is just how the box works. At first I thought he was joking. Loud beeping every hour in the middle of the night?! I don’t think so. After 5 minutes, he still wasn’t budging. But I was determined not to leave EDM without getting a technician to come over and check out the problem. Luckily, a technician who had been to my house 2 previous times arrived and agreed to come check things out. Upon inspection of the box he was clueless. He shrugged his shoulders, a sign telling me there was nothing he could do. I was about to rip my hair out in frustration when an idea hit me: maybe the credit is low. And sure enough, after I registered my newly-bought electricity credit, the beeping and red light stopped. If I wasn’t prohibited from augmenting my Peace Corps stipend, I’d apply for a job.