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!


Friday, September 19, 2008

frist update!

Well, three days in airports, one week on a white sandy beach, 2 days on a 300 mile bus trip that normally takes six hours, and five days of incessant smiling and reuniting with old friends, here I am in the internet cafe writing home.

Sara, you were right. Leaving did sneak up on me. In the two weeks preceding my departure, I kept feeling that I should have been more concerned than I was. The gravity of the situation didn't hit me until I got to Germany . Well, no. It hit me after 10 hours of sitting in the airport in Germany when my flight to South Africa was boarding. "What am I doing?" I thought. And suddenly I was scared and confused alone in a country so angular and efficient where the only words I can say in German are those for Please, Thank-you, bib, and mitten. I got on the plane bawling like a little girl.

That night, I slept terribly on the plane. The people next to me apparently had no control over their bladders and also thought I spoke Spanish (they were Swedish and British and were speaking English to each other but spoke only Spanish to me). If you're wondering, no I did not feel the need to tell them I spoke English.

I got to South Africa and waited in the airport for several hours before my flight to Maputo . When I arrived in Maputo , it felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. When I first saw Marcelo, I did not cry or even kiss him. My heart could not believe that it was really him. We were silent for some time, only delicately holding hands and speaking to each other like strangers. But when we got to the hostel where we were to stay, everything started to come back. Little by little, I started to believe that I was really here. And little by little, he once again became my best friend and the keeper of my heart.

Marcelo and I now live in a house with his friend Amandio, who studied in Zimbabwe some years ago and speaks a little English but insists on speaking it in a very high-pitched voice. I don't know why. We have a little kitchen with a stove (INSIDE!!!) and a living room with a teeny tiny TV that gets three stations. Our bathroom is outside and is not really a bathroom per se... Our shower is guarded by translucent plastic bags and has grooved roofing terracotta tiles on its floor. Our bathroom is right next to it and does not have a door and, like the shower, has no roof. It has not been as hard as you would think to adjust. I just take my showers at night after dinner. I boil a pot of water and mix it in a bucket with cold water. I bring my soap and my towel out to the shower and pour the hot water over myself with an old coffee can. Sometimes I just let my head fall backwards and watch the stars as the hot water becomes cold on its journey down to my toes.

Every morning I wake up, brush my teeth outside by the cement clothes-washing apparatus. I boil some water for coffee for the boys and me. I sit outside in the sun with Marcelo and wonder how in the world I got so lucky. How could it be possible that a person can be this happy? My days are filled with children and challenges and portuguese and bananas. My nights are quiet, lying in bed and working on lesson plans. There hasn't been one moment since I got here that I felt there was even a chance that I made the wrong decision to come here.

I started to work at the escolinha on Monday. Inacio and I sat down and made our plans. We start an art project next week with two of Marcelo's friends that want to teach painting lessons at the center. Also next week, I start my health classes again. It turns out that someone had taken my ciriculum and trained 10 more health workers in the village. This made me very happy. And the most intriguing part of next week will be the fact that Inacio is leaving. He's going to another village to teach a course about cholera. "So the center will be closed then?" I asked. "No. Here's the key, Senhora Director."

We'll see how this goes... I'm going to try my hardest. I am trying my hardest! The biggest things that need to happen before next week is that we need to buy supplies for the art project, rice for the kids' breakfast, and grass to cover the roof of the escolinha which as recently blown off almost completely. Then next week, we should be good to go.

In other news, I am getting quite the sun tan. I burned a little last week but it's already healing. My body isn't going as crazy as it did last time I arrived in Mozambique . And to my surprise, there are sooo many people who remember me! In the market, on the way to the escolinha, at the escolinha, in my old neighborhood, in the city, I am constantly greeted with "OLA ALICE! Ja voltou!!!" (Ola Elyse! You came back!!) This morning, one of my pre-school students gave me a kiss on the lips. He said he was waiting for me so that we could get married. And also to my surprise, I remember everything. I remember the paths to and from work and ADPP and the city and my house. I know where everything is in the city, down to the best place to buy tomatoes and onions. And I don't feel strange or out of place. I feel comfortable. I feel like I am living and not waiting to live. I feel absolutely positively wonderful and amazing in every sense of the word.

I am sending pictures of Marcelo, our house, and the escolinha. I love all of you and I miss you bunches!!

Love always,


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