Not everyone wants to or has the freedom to pick up and go to a foreign country to start working for little to no pay. I have been lucky enough to find myself in such a situation and would like to share this with as many people as possible.After graduating with a BA in Human Services: Social Action/Social Change, I decided to put some of my ideas into practice. I moved back home, got a full-time job, and started saving almost every penny that I earned.

By the end of the summer, I will have saved enough to support me (very modestly) for three months in Mozambique. I leave September 3rd, 2008.I plan to return to the Community Center in Nhamatsane, where I worked for much of last year. This time, I bring with me new information, new lesson plans, and a new mission. In the nine months that I spent in Mozambique in 2006 and 2007, I tried many different ideas and made many mistakes. I have seen the things that work and the things that absolutely do not.

For these reasons, my goal this time around is to completely rethink the words "charity," "poverty," and "development." I feel that a project's capacity for changing lives is not merely determined by how much money it has (though that certainly is a factor!), but who it touches and how.

To be a part of something incredible, we do not have to write a check without ever knowing where it really goes nor do we have to pack our bags and get on a plane. If we all give what we can, I guarantee that we will see amazing results!

While I leave most of you behind in the United States, what I do is not a one person job. I sincerely hope that this will perpetually be a learning experience for all of us, which is why I ask that we share our knowledge, fresh perspectives, and resources with each other.

Enjoy the blog!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ants in the pants: WAY worse than the metaphor

Well I hope you all get a good little chuckle out of this like my mother did. I was sitting on the stoop of the escolinha and I felt some slight tickles on my lower back. Thinking it was a piece of grass or hair, I swatted at it but mostly ignored it until suddenly my left butt-cheek was ablaze! I jumped up and reached in my pants and pulled out a handful of teeny tiny little ants. I was ambushed!! Attacked without warning!! With no cover! Nowhere to disrobe and purge my pants of this infestation! I danced around for a bit, pulling out handful after handful of my tiny exoskeletal foes until finally I thought I had gotten them all out. When I began to walk, however, the last of the invading army chomped at my pasty flesh just a few more times before being crushed under thick dirty denim. In the end, I suppose I came out the winner. After all, I was not squished. Merely mauled. But my butt is not as appreciative of the victory.

In better news, the escolinha is beautiful and wonderful and every exhausting day gets better and better and I get more and more comfortable. Tomorrow I will finally start my health and English classes. On Monday the painting class began and on Wednesday they'll start actually painting. The kids are going to love it. They are so creative and so imaginative. I can't help but smile whenever I walk past the classroom. My pre-school class continues as usual every morning. 7:30 to 10:30. 84 children. Inacio and I are discussing the concept of turning the old office into a small house for 10 of our children who were orphaned. We have about 52 orphans in total but most live with other relatives. These ten are either living with neighbors who do not have the means to take care of them or with their elderly grandparents who themselves need much taking care of. So far, we have Antoninho (age 5), Fatima (age unknown, she's never had a birthday), and Tabita (age 4). The rest of the candidates we'll choose this week and then put together a budget. I just finished translating the brochure I made for CAN into Portuguese so that should help us get some donors.

Our health center is struggling, but doing well. Since it is now the time for farming, most of the health workers are out in their machambas. So I am at the center for most of the day. 7:00 to 11:00 and 1:30 to 5:00. This week I treated four cases of tinea (ringworm of the scalp), a severe second-degree burn covering Paulinho's (age 8) entire arm, an ear infection, and I am in the process of treating a todler's infected big toe (which is still very small even when swollen). And every time I treat something, I wish you all could see it and see the kids' faces after they're all cleaned up and get their stickers. Because I'm able to do this because of you. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.

Though amazingly gratifying and without a doubt exactly what I want to be doing, I am TIRED. I walk (on average) for 3-5 hours in a day. To and from and to and from the escolinha. To and from the city. To and from the homes of my patients. And then I come home and make dinner for my boys. Boys, meaning my fiance and our housemate. Apparently, their cooking skills are steadily diminishing. Two weeks ago, they wouldn't let me near the kitchen. "Sit down!" "Relax!" they said. Now, they insist they have no idea how to cut a tomato. And they don't know where the dishes go when they're clean. I feel that they're starting to forget where anything else but the couch is. But alas, they're so charming and to be fair, I haven't complained. It's good for me to be busy and honestly, I probably don't want to eat their cooking anyway.

But let's talk about my bathroom for a second. Bathroom is a strong word. I have two bathrooms. Both are outside. One is the shower/bathroom for number 1. It is made of sticks, plastic bags tied together (most of which are translucent) for discretion's sake, and groved roof tiles. It is treacherous. The tiles move and make noise and the splash-factor is always an issue. BUT! because I am a smart little duckling I have found the perfect pee-spot with minimal splash and maximum stability of stance. Showering only happens at night, lest I have an audience (and I do). The other bathroom is a latrine. It has no door. And one of the walls only goes half-way up. So people can see you when you go in, watch you fiddle with your pants, but once you squat down you are in the clear. Except for the door. But when I do my business, I take a capulana and hang it over the opening. I'm not picky but I do like my privacy. And it's a latrine so at first I thought, oh great! I can just pee here instead and there will be no splash whatsoever. So I started to use it at night when I got home from work. I used it the next morning and when I lifted the cap, out popped about 15 cockroaches the size of small kittens. They trampled me on their way to find cover. I don't mind bugs, but sewage-soaked cockroaches the size of my elbow. Not okay. I only use that bathroom for emergencies. Speaking of bugs: I don't have malaria yet!

No malaria, but a very nice suntan. And in addition to my suntan, I have a host of bizarre rashes, crevaces and bugbites the origins of which I honestly couldn't tell you. But not to worry. This is normal. I had forgotten about all of those strange skin conditions, the perpetual semi-dirtiness, the octagonal bugbites, how the bottoms of your feet become browned rocks, and of course my personal favorite the white scabs that appear even when there was no wound to begin with. I'm not worried.

On a personal note (more personal than the bathroom stories), Marcelo's mother came back from her journey to Tete. We had a long talk the other night and I have been welcomed into the family. Lulu, Marcelo's youngest sister (age 7), told me that Marcelo and I can't ever split up because she wants me to be her sister and also she wants to live in our house with us. I told her not to worry.

So I've been carrying around my notebook with me and writing down little pieces of things that come to me. They're kind of abstract and don't make much sense but this is what I wrote:

Thinking about the bars on all the windows. Despite the comfort in security also duly provided by the man who holds my hand at night, seems like a prison. but some sort of prison like camus imagined. in the trunk of a tree, looking up at passing birds and clouds. placidly complacent in one confined space. some people call me a traveler but am i really traveling when i care my home on my back, just moving in and out of range of the people i love? am i a wanderer because my plane stopped in germany before i unplacked my bags and folded my clothes on top of a cardboard box that is my dresser.

when the red dust is settling in the pink setting sun, when i am covered in dirt and have diseases to cure by morning. when all is said and done, what is poverty anyhow.

there's something so poetic about the moment i took my tired old dictionary from my pristine (slightly dusty. i know, mom) bookshelp in the US , its pages covered in the red Earth of mozambique . waiting patiently to be used again and taking a deep breath before sinking into the folds my green backpack from 7th grade, the one which has traveled across the world three times, and which still contains the pieces of a fracutred wooden bracelet I bought last time i was across the ocean. i have kept it for years. it reminds me to treasure what i have.

Well, I suppose that's about it for now. I hope you guys all enjoy these updates. Thanks for all your wonderful encouraging e-mails. :-) I won't lie. It does get lonely at times. But that's half the fun: figuring out what makes you happy when the things that did before are so far away. Every day is a challenge. My legs are tired. My face is sunburned. My butt is ant-bitten. And I have to get home before the sun goes down. Plus, I have to make dinner. No. you know what? Amandio can make dinner tonight. I'm tired. So there. Feminism at its finest.

Anyway, I'm babbling.

Love always,


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