It has now been five days since I’ve signed a paper beginning the journey of a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) (“remember that the V (for Peace Corps Volunteer) is earned, not given” is a quote we head a lot during staging.) And three days (if the 22 hour New York to Maputo journey counts) since I’ve been in Mozambique. The first two days we were put up in a beautiful hotel in Maputo right on the water, with two pools, a rooftop and a live band playing during happy hour. It felt like a surreal setting as we were contemplating what our host family life would be like. Between eating buffet meals with view of the Indian Ocean and listening to stories about the host mom who got into the bucket bath with her PCT because she didn’t think the PCT would figure it out we also had sessions on safety, security and the opportunity to get a grand total of six more shots (including the rumored rabies one that is shot in your stomach…. it’s not, in case anyone is wondering).
This morning, we ate “the last breakfast of champions” also known as two plates topped with fruits, croissants, omlettes, sausages, espresso and juice, and headed on a two hour ride to our training site to meet our Mozambican families!
“Onde e a minha mae?” Where is my mom was the running joke as we were facing a crowd of 65 of our future host moms while trying to find our own in limited Portuguese. (It helped that they held up both our and their names on pieces of paper while we walked by.) I wasn’t sure if the most nerve wrecking part was going to be:
a. the fact that calling someone fat it a compliment and so they were bound to do,
b. the fact that for the past 48 hours we’ve been learning that diarrhea and vomitting from food/water born diseases is not a matter of if but when
c. the fact that I have no idea how I’m going to communicate with an entire family in a language I’m sure I don’t know.
Well it turns out, a happened, but I laughed it off and tried to explain how in the U.S. people try to stay skinny as she was laughing and explaining that for them being gorda means you are healthy and free from sickness, so being curvy is a marker of social status and health. B hasn’t happened yet, and it turns out that my Pai is a butcher at the local market, so my dreams of becoming vegetarian are crushed but the meat he brings back is very fresh (and my family owns a freezer, very reassuring). Though, as I am sitting on my bed now, I’m paying close attention to every sound my stomach has been making. And for some reason, for c, the Portuguese language gods must have made a miracle happen, because awkward silences were a lot less common than I was expecting. As I said goodnight to minha mãe tonight, she told me about how happy she was to have a first day with someone who spoke the language- “think of all your friends who are speaking in sign language” she said. Good thing all of my cohort spent the past two days memorizing “Mãe, eu sei tomar banho” Mom, I know how to bath myself key word: myself.
Thinking of you tonight meus amigos.
*823 is a complete guesstimate, I’m not actually sure when service ends but this is about 27 months after I get here.
Ps. Come back for more for a post about my family sometime later!