Yesterday afternoon, I sat on my back porch with a handful of crianças and chalk. One of the little ways I show them that I care and secretly work on their reading skills is to write their names and ask them if they know what it says. It’s also fun for me because I get to practice my fancy cursive with an audience, but I always print the words as well. After I wrote the names of the 3 kids that were there, the crianças were delighted and shouted out names of their family and neighbors for me to write. After the name calling calmed, I slowly wrote the name of our home in the chalk…ANCUABE. Many kids here learn to read slower and at different ages than in the States, due to education access and quality. I slowly watched as my 10-year-old neighbor sounded out the letters, frowned, and looked at me for help. “It’s okay, you can do it,” I encouraged her in Portuguese. Slowly, she worked through the letters. “Ah…kwub. Anh kwaibe. Anh quwa bay…Ancuabe!” The look of triumph on her face affirmed for me that right here is exactly where I need to be. Ancuabe.
P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney; Or, My House
Home is such a complicated concept. Moving here, for the first time in my life, I have my own house that is all mine to make into a home. Home is where the heart is, so it’s important to me to make this house a worthy resting place for my heart. I’m the second volunteer to live in this house, so while I didn’t have all of the expenses of opening a house, it still didn’t have the comfort and cozy of home. I inherited a decent amount of basics: bed, mattress, two tables, 4 bamboo tools, 3 plastic chairs, a stoven, and a freezer, along with basic necessities like spoons, bowls, and sheets.
I had everything I needed for it to be a functioning house, but I still lacked the things I wanted for it to be a home.
One of my first orders of business was getting a couch. How the previous volunteer lived 2 years couch-less is beyond me; I love couches and cozy places. PC provides all volunteers with a new mattress, so I decided to turn my extra mattress into the cushion for a couch. A local friend helped me find a carpenter to make a bed frame for my mattress that I could put into my living room against the wall as a couch. I decided to use some of the extra pillows I inherited to put against the wall as the “back” of the couch. It took a few weeks for it to finally arrive, but now I couldn’t be happier. Something seemingly as simple as a couch has made me feel so much more at home.
Currently, my house is still the messy disaster you see above, as I’m still living out of suitcases. Another improvement I’m working on is shelving. Around my second week here, I had around 50 cement blocks made and am currently waiting on my wood planks to arrive. In typical broke-college-kid fashion, I’m planning on making shelves by laying wood planks on concrete blocks. I also have two bamboo rods that I plan to hang from my ceiling in order to make closet rods from which to hang my clothes. My goal is to have my house clean and organized by the time school starts at the beginning of February. Once it’s it full “house” working order, I’m going to give it more Erica-personality and put up my photos, mementos, maps, and such.
Friends are the family you choose for yourself
Along with inheriting a house from the previous volunteer, I also “inherited” many of his friends, as well. It’s so comforting, and so much easier, to move to a new place where people already know your name and enjoy spending time with you. Right now, I’d say my 3 closest friends at site are Claudino, Sifa, and Kitu. Claudino is a 17 yo 10th grader who has been my guide to the town. He’s the one who’s helped me get my furniture made and has helped me navigate the market and the local language. Sifa is a 14 yo with a kind heart and a willingness to help. She’s quiet, but with a spunky streak that always surprises and delights me. Kitu is a 9 yo with a calming presence and wise-beyond-his-years face. He’s often my translator to the younger kids who only speak the local language. Additionally, there’s frequently some of Claudino’s friends/Joel(the previous volunteer)’s old students that come around to practice English and talk. I feel welcomed here and my heart is become more at peace in these new relationships.
Along with inheriting a house and friends, I also inherited my favorite part about site: Allie, my cat. Keeping in Nordstrom Family tradition, Allie’s name is astronomical. Her full name is Alnair, Arabic for “the bright one”, the brightest star in Grus, the crane constellation in the Southern Sky.
Allie is, of course, Mozambican, and therefore loves eating bichos (bugs) such as flying termites and small lizards. I wasn’t feeding her much, as she usually doesn’t eat a ton of the food I give her as she preferred to hunt her own. However, now that she’s pregnant(!!!!), I’ve been feeding her a little more and she likes it when I cook xima and fish for her. For Christmas, I was in Pemba, the beach town 2 hours away, and when I got back after 6 days, she was the most affectionate I’ve ever seen her, demanding attention and snuggles. It was then that I also realized that her growing belly wasn’t from being well-fed and taken care of, but that my little girl is pregnant and I’m going to be a (cat)grandma!
How I spend my time
Most days, I get up early around 5:00-5:30am, let Allie in, and sit on the couch to do my Miracle Morning. I usually make myself a cup of coffee to sip on and go through the steps of silence, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, and scribing. In fact, writing this blog post is the my final step of “scribing”. Breakfast is frequently fried potatoes and eggs, or occasionally pancakes with a mango syrup. After I’ve finished my morning routine, I open the gate to my quintal (yard) and crianças usually grab the fallen mangoes and we exchange morning greetings of Bom dia and Salaama. Since school hasn’t started yet, my days lack consistent structure. However, I usually spend much of my time on my back porch with whoever is visiting and then once my quintal is shaded, I lay in my hammock as Allie plays and hunts around the quintal. Some days are spent just sitting at home and talking, while other days are full of trips to the market, visits with neighbors, leisurely walks, and passing time with Dannia, my sitemate. I’ve also planted some herbs (chamomile, basil, mint, and cilantro) and spend a lot of time cooking and trying out new recipes. The only fresh produce I can reliably buy at site are eggs, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. While this might seem really limiting (and frequently, it is), it’s forced me to be creative with my cooking. Another blessing has been the Moz Cookbook that we received during PST that has all kinds of yummy recipes that I can make with things I can get at site. So far I’ve made lassi, fried xima, Greek lemon soup, potato soup, tomato salad, bean salad, mango syrup, creamy pasta, yogurt, latkas, curried rice, pancakes, Shambaugh surprise (simple coconut bites), brownies, and edible cookie dough. I’ve joked that the Moz Cookbook is my new bible because of how frequently I use it.
My first month at site has been good to me. I’m exciting to have a more homey house, start teaching, and explore my community more. Até logo e estamos juntos!