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Letter #4

12 Aug

Ola all,

If you didn’t hear from me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I am sure that everyone had a great time. I am happy to say that I spent my Holiday season in Mozambique. And no worries it was spent with some great people and I had a wonderful time. Since the year has come to a close I thought this letter would be not just about the great things that are happening here but also some of the difficulities that I am facing. I would love to paint an only rosy picture but that of course would not be 100% true.   So this letter is the Good, the Bad and the Fabulous. Lol

Let’s start with the Good. I LOVE Manhica. And I want to make sure that everyone knows why. It is the people. The people here are the best people you will ever meet. Friendly, caring and truly want the best for you. For example, during the Holiday season my phone decided to stop working. It stopped working on a Saturday. I went to town on a Sunday trying to buy a new phone, but everywhere was closed. I started talking to a shop owner that I have befriended. At first he said that he would give me his phone if he had one. Then he went out on the street and found a boy who had a phone that he was willing to sell. The boy was trying to sell it for a price I would not take 250MTs equivalent to about $10.00, not a lot but it wasn’t worth it since I still had to buy a new phone.. So the shop owner, Micheal is his name told me to give him 100MTs. Micheal then gave the other 100MTs and told the boy to take a ring from his store for the balance. Those are the kinds of people I meet here.

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Also at this shop is a Mozambican girl named Innocencia. I sit with her almost every other day. She is sweet girl, 20 years old. And has big dreams of doing something with her life, traveling the world and finishing her education.

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Those are just some people in town who I have grown to love. Then there is my school. Here in Manhica.

I have meet some amazing people that really are taking care of me. I will start with Tinga. If you have skyped with me then you have most likely seen him. He has been here with me during the holiday times when no one else is at the school. He is the art teacher here and was an orphan. He has worked himself into his position and he loves what he does. He is the person I primarily speak Portuguese with since everyone else speaks English!!

Then there is Micas. The Music Teacher. He invited me to his wedding the weekend before Chirstmas. He is an awesome guy who calls just to check on me and make sure that I am still alive.

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Daniel is the 3rd English Teacher here at school. He has also worked with volunteers for many years. I have kind off adopted his family. I spent Chirstmas at his house, cooked with his wife and had a great time. Although Daniel is on a quest to find me and every other volunteer Mozambican husbands. I think it’s just because he doesn’t like to see us go. Lol

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Then we have Professor Lima, he is a music teacher at the school I hope to work with as my secondary project. He is extremely passionate about music and dance. His school was constructed with the help of volunteers a few years ago and he has been working to keep it up every since. Difficult because the students can’t pay regularly and it is hard for him to commit all of his time to the school since he doesn’t get paid. He is also an English teacher and would love to quit his job and work with at the Music School all the time but money would be an issue.

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So that is the good.

The bad.. I hate insects.. bugs, everyone who knows me knows that. And here ofcourse they are in abundance. To start many of you may have heard about my cockroach problem. My house was literally overrun with cockroaches.. I spent two weeks cleaning out every nook and cranny in the house. I went through 10.. yes 10 cans of bug spray! And I couldn’t cook. Thank goodness for Tinga who feed me for the week that I was on a no food in the house strike. Glad to say now though there are virtually none left. One every once in a while I can deal with, but..ugghh..… Also, mosquitos looove me.. My legs are scared from Mosquito bites right now. I don’t know what I need to do but I am looking at something that I can get to keep the mosquitoes away and now reduce the scars I have.

Next bad is the pressure. As much as I love Manhica, this is a place where the volunteer before me made a wonderful lasting impression. I hate to compare myself to other people but I can’t help it and all that I think about is well dam.. what is everyone gonna think if I don’t do the same things she did or act the same way she did. But one PC rule is never to compare yourself to other volunteers. I am trying to keep that in mind and assess what the community needs and try to help out in a way that I can rather than only continuing what the previous volunteers may have done.

Final as much as I love passaering (walking around) in the community and making new friends and hanging out with people. There is A LOT of down time right now. You have to really work to not occupy your thoughts with things that can make you nuts. Especially on the Malaria meds! LoL J/k But it is quite a challenge to find things to do and occupy your time. You can only hang out with people so much and getting into town isn’t the most fun journey either. So I am relying on Portuguese movies, the library and Game of Thrones, and The Wire. LOL. Which brings me to something very important. IF ANYONE CAN GET ME THE NEW SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES, SCANDAL etc.. on a USB drive or something I would LOOOVVVEE You!

Now the Fabulous!

 

Again I love it here. My holiday was spent cooking with wonderful people and trying to speak Portuguese. Lol Yeah TRYING! It is still a challenge, but I love it. I love sending texts in Portuguese and having people understand what I am saying and understanding what people are saying. I am excited to start teaching at Chibututuine. I was able to sit in on the graduation of the previous class and it was beautiful. This week we start the entrance exams and interviews for the new class coming in. I can’t wait to meet my students and get back into a classroom.

 

My favorite place on a hot day is Casa Fresca, an awesome café (restaurant..lol)that serves anything from pig head and xima to hamburgers! My view is awesome, we are on a cliff  and the view of  mountains in the background that is the beach that we walked to that I mentioned a few letters ago.

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Thank you for the emails, messages, videos and skype convos. As much as I love it here I miss you all! I am still working on my school library here so if anyone has Essence or Ebony Magazines, and even Times, Newsweek, People anything please send what you can. Also, if you can send me your mailing address that would be great. I would like to keep it in a file so if I ever need to send anything I can just sent it.

Fica Bem!

Dione

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Letter #3

7 Aug

December 8, 2013

Ola All,

A lot has happened in the last few weeks, this past month especially has been a world wind of emotions.   A lot of feeling like life back over there in the states is moving forward and feeling a little helpless in that I can’t take part in it.

November is kind of the start of the Holiday season, and here it doesn’t really feel like it. But I know that everyone else in the states is starting to prepare themselves for the holidays. Here we decided to try to celebrate the best way we could by having a Thanksgiving dinner. We separated into groups and selected a “traditional” American Thanksgiving dish to prepare. I got corn bread! Each group prepared cooked a dish with the resources that we had, and we ate! Mashed Potatoes, Turkey, Green Bean Casserole, Cornbread, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing, Pecan Pie, Apple Pie. I was highly impressed with the ability of our group to whip up some amazing food! And I was as stuffed as I would have been if I was as at Thanksgiving dinner at my house.

the spread

Next this was the last month for our time with our Homestay Families in Namaacha, our original town. Beginning the month of November we knew that very soon our group would be separated from each other and sent to work in different areas of the country.   We were all nervous on the day of the big reveal. We received envelopes with a letter inside, and we were to open them at the same time, read the letter and then move to our new site on a giant map they had drawn. Some people had already started crying at the thought of moving so far away from the people that they had gotten so close to during our training. I was nervous but excited. The idea of moving away from the others wasn’t as much on my mind as the idea of moving into the unknown. As I opened up my letter and I read I was excited to find out that I was moving to Manhica, the same town that I site visited! Not my first choice of where I wanted to go for site, but I was excited either way. I’ll get into more about Manhica later in this letter. That day I did find out that I was literarily on the opposite end of the country from all of the closest friends I had made, standing at my end of the map and looking up at the others so far away was jarring.

This month was also a month to prepare to say goodbye to our Homestay families. The people who had taken such good care of us for the last 3 months. Feed us, cared of us when we were sick, showed us how to wash clothes, iron, clean etc. My mae Cecile, I think was very proud to have, “the chiquey African American Volunteer Diana, from Northern United States aka NY” LOL as the whole town of Namaacha knew me as. The pronunciation of Dione is a little complicated here, so I have adjusted to being called Diana or Manna D. Walking through the streets of Namaacha, it felt like I would hear everyone say my name, other volunteers would ask whether I knew people I was saying hi too, and I would have no clue. But it was because my mae was talking about me. And we had to leave this place that literally was like a little bubble of protection. To end our time here we had celebration with our families. The maes cooked an amazing dinner. I and a few other Volunteers had been practicing a traditional dance of the province of Nampula, and we performed for the families. Then our maes received certificates. It was a beautiful day ironically that night a storm came in that turned Namaacha upside down, destroyed homes and messed up power and internet service in our town for a few days. Guess that was our goodbye present. :/

me and my mae

Our mark on Namaacha is no doubt the mural that we painted on the wall of the Peace Corp office there. Together we worked for three days to make this beauty happen. I am pretty impressed by how it turned out.  Big shout out to the mastermind Tania!

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This month was also our final LPI test. This is the test that determines our language level as we start our service. This was a stressful day, as I have said before language is not my strong suit, and I came into Mozambique with 0 Portuguese language training, and 10 years without any formal language training period. Some of the Volunteers coming in had a Spanish background, which has helped them translate words. So after 3 months of practicing and language classes, my language proficiency is at an Intermediate Low. Ehhh.. I was a little disappointing. Granted I started at a Novice Low, but I was aiming for an Intermediate Mid. Actually I think I could have hit the Intermediate Mid, but I was so nervous and had so much on my mind that weekend, missing stuff back home and the holidays. Literally when I was asked questions during the language test, I couldn’t even think of the answers in English much less in Portuguese or the answers I began thinking of in English were so complicated that I didn’t have the Portuguese vocabulary to say them. Anyway, one of my main goals here is definitely becoming someone fluent in the language, and I am (ehh somewhat) happy in the progress that I have made. But a lot of what I do here is study.

Those were our last few days in Namaacaha, filled with ups and downs of emotion. A few days after all of that we departed to our sites, first to Maputo the capital city to have conferences and our swearing in ceremony. We went to the US ambassadors house, sang the Hino National of both Mozambique and the US, and swore an oath that all US Government official swear…Pretty official stuff!

*my girls

And then off to our sites. As I write this letter I am currently in my permanent site. The town of Manhica, in an Instituto de Formacao de Professores or IFP, called Chibututuine. This is a teacher training school. A gorgeous campus, in a friendly town, about an hour away from the capital city of Maputo. I will be teaching English and Methodology to students between the ages of 17 and 25.

My home is on the campus, sort of a row apartment next to other teachers and the director pedagogical of the school. My roommate is Shay, she is a volunteer who has extended another year to stay at this school.  We got along during my site visit and I am pretty sure we will get along ok during my time here. . The volunteer I am replacing has been here for 3 years, she also extended for another year. She was extremely well integrated.   And I believe the community thrived with her here. My concern of course is language. Because I am an English Teacher, I will have to talk to the students in English, and of course all of the professors want to learn English too. But I am going to make an agreement with a professor here, they tutor me in Portuguese and I will give English lessons. If anyone has ESL stuff, please feel free to send!! I will also have free internet pretty regularly so please send Skype info so I can Skype into some people.

I can’t wait to see how much further we can grow this community. My first goal is getting the school a working, clean library. There is one in place but, I especially want to bring in some different views of American Culture….Essence or Ebony Magazines please…. If you have them please send them.

Oh cultural discussions……there is a lot to say about Mozambicans view on American Culture and even Americans view on American culture. I don’t think I have ever talked about race as much as I am talking about it here. Surprisingly not as much to the Mozambicans as I am to the Americans. Mainly in conversations about when Mozambicans see groups of Americans, and my American counterparts will comment about the Mozambican reaction to seeing “white people.” Last time I checked I wasn’t white, and I am still American. It is almost as if being Black American is ignored…I have vocalized that I would prefer if we refer to our group as American and not white. So I’ve had quite a few conversations with some of my colleagues here. ON the Mozambican end, it is more of a conversation about whether I am Mozambican, and disbelief that I don’t speak Portuguese. ..lol. “Yes, I am American. Yes, I was born in America. Yes, I speak English. Yes, my skin is the same color as yours. Yes, there are black people in America as well. No, we do not consider ourselves white.” I actually got my skin rubbed, to see if the color would come off. LOL. One of the goals of Peace Corps is cultural exchange. I am very happy that I am able to bring a different perspective of American culture to Mozambique and in many cases to Americans. I am appreciating the diversity that I grew up with realizing that not only are people in Mozambique not accustom to such diversity but some people in US haven’t been exposed to that diversity either. Oh the learning experiences!!!!

I am still loving it here! I am still so happy, so excited, and feeling so blessed. I got my hair done, twisted again. I was pretty happy with it, I don’t know how I am going to do the natural hair here. It is quite difficult to do anything involving my hair while taking a bucket bath!

Thank you for the support, love and packages sent. If you are interested in sending anything.. stickers for students are something I can’t seem to find that easily here.

Hopes and Fears for my Birthday

19 Sep

Finally, one week from today, September 26th, I will land in Maputo, Mozambique.   Talk about the best Birthday present ever.  Talk about a true rebirth.  Yeah, September 26th happens to be my birthday!  When I first began blogging I was building up to this moment. Living Life With A Little Spice encompasses so many things, at first it was with the food of my culture, now it is with this new experience.  It’s about adding something to your life to leave a lasting memory.   The preparation for my departure has been memorable itself. The last few weeks have been spent trying to pack, practicing Portuguese, and trying to enjoy the people I love as much as possible.

As excited as I am for this journey, of course there are my things weighing on my mind.  I joined Peace Corps to really find myself, to help me define more clearly who I am meant to be. It’s so important to me to be a part of our world community, not just by existing but by truly impacting someone, somewhere.

Now I have a week left and I am freaking out! It starting with my packing, what do I bring, what do I leave behind.  What If I need this, or that? Am I bringing too much? Isn’t that the whole issue, in myself, what do I bring, what do I leave behind?  My hopes and fears are flooding my brain.  So as I tap my fingers and anxiously await the day of my birth. Here are my hopes and fears for the next two years.

Hopes:

Meeting wonderful people

Meeting people I can learn from

Gaining network of people with a like mindset

Immersing myself in a new culture

Learning a new language, not just words and phrases but becoming fluent

Feeling passionate about a specific project and being successful

Leaving a lasting impact and making a difference somehow

Feeling a part of a new community by making true connections and lasting friendships

Fears:

People looking at me like I am crazy when I can’t communicate in the native language

My introvert tendencies taking over

Not connecting with other volunteers

Not being able to “handle it”… Bugs, What am I doing with my natural hair?

Getting lazy and not living up to the expectations of my community, especially if I am following a previous volunteer

Not actually finding myself, and coming back from Mozambique with no direction

With all of that written, I think I just answered the question of hopes and fears.  What Do I bring? My hope.  What do I leave behind? My fear.  HHmm… writing this out is great. Questions answered. I’m packed and ready to go! Let’s see how this works out!

packing

 

Getting Life in Order! *Working List*

10 Aug

In preparing for my departure, it has become clear that I have a million things to do! I thought that I would work for the month of July, just to earn some extra money before my departure. But now I am exhausted and I feel so unprepared and behind. I have loans to pay off, and things to buy and packing to do. I will start with my packing list, because I need somewhere to put it anyway.  Right now it is on my phone, but with my luck with phones I will lose it and have to start all over again. So hear we go. ..

Clothes:

  • Tanks for undershirts
  • Cotton shirts
  • Cotton long sleeve shirts/ button downs
  • Professional Skirts
  • Scarves (to spice up my outfits)
  • Cardigans
  • Comfortable/ professional heals
  • Professional Flats
  • Running Sneakers
  • Chacos
  • Comfortable Dresses
  • Underwear
  • Sports Bras
  • Leggings
  • Running shorts
  • Jeans/shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Flip-flops
  • Poncho
  • Ankle Socks

Accessories

  • Nail polish?
  • Earrings

Electronics

  • Computer
  • Extra Battery
  • Phone?.
  • Adapter
  • Converter
  • Hard drive
  • USB’s
  • Headlamp
  • Batteries for head lamp
  • I pod and speakers
  • Cameras
  • Rechargeable Batteries

Toiletries

  • Powder
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Bug spray?
  • Lotion
  • Castor oil
  • Spray bottle
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Sanitary Napkins
  • Razors
  • Moisturizer
  • Brush/comb

Medication

  • A lot of Aleve
  • Vitamins
  • Bug spray
  • Allergy Meds

Other

  • Sleeping bag
  • Essence Magazines
  • Stamps
  • Pens/ sharpies
  • Present for families
  • Towel
  • Backpack
  • Seeds
  • Cooking knives
  • Zip lock bags
  • Water bottle

Documentation

  • ID
  • Yellow Fever Card
  • Loan Paperwork
  • House Paperwork

Now I would love any comments, suggestions or thoughts on my packing list.  Especially if there is a question mark next to something, it is because I have no idea whether I should bring it, or what types of the item to bring.  I am crazy worried about how everything is supposed to fit in my two suitcases.  But my friend told me to make sure I roll!! lol.

 

End of the Journey?!

22 May

My journey is over!! Not only did I cook some wonderful food but have cooked my way through almost the entire COOKBOOK. Thank you for those who followed the journey and cooked some wonderful food! I will admit, I still have to post the tripe recipe. LOL.. I cooked it.. buuutt..uugghh…I am also missing just a few baking recipes. No worries,  I will get them up soon.

Anyway, I received my official invitation on 4/18/2013.. In my car, while driving home from work, I got the email that changed everything. After having to pull over to the side of the road to call my BFF and mentor, I was able to read and discover that I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO SERVE IN PEACE CORPS MOZAMBIQUE!! My staging date will be September 24, 2013. I have been in a sort of denial for the last few days. Not sure if I should spread the word, out of fear of jinxing it!  Jamaican culture is to be somewhat humble about successes. I wasn’t even sure about how to move forward in these posts. So I have stayed quiet. But now it is time to share.  My happiness is overwhelming, my joy is overflowing, and yes I feel blessed!

You know when something just feels so good, so right and so perfect.  That is how it feels.  I stated in the beginning that the journey was over… HA! It has just begun!

RECIPE #11: jAMAICAN CURRIED SHRIMP

25 Feb

Today when I got up my father offered to make breakfast.  He also told me he put a new battery in my computer.  These random acts of kindness are not all that random..I think he is just really just trying to butter me up.  He may be more exciting about my journey than I am.  LOL..  Grocery story shopping has become so interesting, now I am trying not to get the same meats over and over again. Then I realized we haven’t eaten shrimp in a while. Decided to see what the COOKBOOK had for shrimp.  Curried Shrimp yum! Curry is so good, and similar to jerk seasonings, you can curry almost anything. So curried Shrimp it is! Although, warning from now, ladies, If you just got your nails done you may want to wait before making this dish. You will find out why at the end.

Here is the recipe from the book:

  • 2lbs fresh shirmp
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1fl oz oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3-4 slices hot pepper
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped (optional)
  • salt
  • blackpepper
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Shell the shrimps, then fry them gently in the butter and oil with the onions and garlic.  Add the curry powder, stirring it for a few seconds, then add the tomato, hot pepper, sweet pepper, salt and black pepper,  Pour in the water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium.  The dish should be ready in 10 minutes or when the sac has reduces and thickened.

OK Here is what I did:

I followed the recipe almost exactly, I bought a pack of frozen shrimp already shelled and cleaned. I just rinsed them off.

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I also added a some salt to the shrimp before I began frying.  I fried the shrimp with the onions and garlic in the butter and oil mix. The smell was divine!

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I fried the shrimp slowly, and soon they  turned that gorgeous pink color. Image

Then, I added my curry. I have curry that I bought from a Jamaican bakery. They sell nice big bags that are made in Jamaica.  But they sell curry in almost every grocery story now.

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Smelling good!! I added water, and then covered the pot to let it simmer.

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Wallah! Image

I served mine up with white rice! It was so good dad went back for seconds, so did I. LOL

The only thing I would change about this recipe is adding less water.  I wanted my sauce to be a little thicker.  Besides that the shrimps were spicy and delicious. The only thing about curry is that it stains.  Curry will stain everything, your clothes, your hand, your skin, your nails. Look at my palm a day later from where I placed a drop to taste the sauce!

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No worries, it will fade away.  Besides, it was all worth it!

Recipe #10: Jamaican Oxtails

19 Feb

If you are planning on a quick meal, this is not the one! Oxtails are delicious, but definitely take some planning. I’ve never had oxtails outside of a Jamaican bakery or restaurant, so homemade oxtails are an adventure. Lately, I hear more and more people in the states asking for oxtails, good to see people broadening their horizons!!

Here is the recipe from the book:

  • 2lb oxtail
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 spring thyme
  • 3 slices hot pepper
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb cooked broad beans

Wash and dry the pieces of oxtail and brown them in oil.  Add 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, then lower and simmer until the oxtail is tender, adding more water if necessary.  Reduce the sauce to a thick gravy by increasing the heat, then add the tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, hot pepper, salt and black pepper.  stir for a few minutes, then add the remaining water and broad beans.  Mix them in, lower the hear, cover again, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the water evaporates leaving a thick gravy.  Serve with rice.

OK here is what I did:

First of all, I decided to marinate my oxtails first. So I added the oxtails, onions, thyme, garlic, hot pepper, salt and pepper in a bowl and refrigerated it over night. I also added some browning to make sure that I got some color on my oxtails. Image

Next day, I went ahead and fried the oxtails. Got them nice and brown, I fried a few pieces at a time and  removed them from the pot. Image

Once my batch was browned, I added everything back and covered the meat with water.

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Now this part takes a while, Oxtails are a pretty tough cut of meat. So I let them simmer for about 2 hours, to get the meat really tender. To the point that it was falling of the bone. Then I added all of the other ingredients. Broad beans are just another word for butter beans.  I got nervous about the flavor and also added a little more salt and pepper.

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I let all of that go for about another hour and served it up with a fresh batch of rice and peas.

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The oxtails were delicious.  If they cook for as long as I said then they come out nice and tender. Meat was falling off the bone! YUM!  Mom said she wanted it spicier tho! LOL.. always can be spicier!