We are entering the rainy season at Gorongosa. In fact, my neighbors have been praying and dancing for rain over the past few weeks. I truly believe that if it is at all possible to affect the forces of Nature, rain will begin to fall sometime very soon.
Technically, it should have already begun at the end of October, but here we are on the last day of November and still no real rains have fallen … In preparation for planting mostly corn and beans, the local people have chopped down acres and acres of forests and burned the land. Rain will provide that critical missing ingredient in the production of a bountiful March harvest. Though I greatly lament the loss of trees, I still don’t know yet what it is that I could say that would begin to change this destructive behavior. It is a lot more complex than educating people to do “the right thing.” My belief is that it starts with education and it ends with economics. If we don’t focus on that connection, forests will continue to die across the world.
This evening, there is thunder and lightening in the distance, but I have to say that I am personally ambivalent of whether I would like it to actually fall or not. Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love a good rainstorm. In fact, in Missouri, where I grew up, we used to have really awesome rainstorms with bright lightening and heavy rain. Downpours! I sleep the best when there is the pitter-patter of raindrops on the rooftop. It is especially enjoyable in Moz, where we have tin roofs (metal), so the pitter-patter sounds emulate a musical instrument.
Here is the problem that I have with rain in Vila Gorongosa: when it rains, it tends to get really windy. This wind, combined with the newly fallen water, softens up the earth (ground). Because many of the electrical poles (which carry the electrical lines) are not buried deeply – or they may be rotting at the base from termite damage, this can cause them to fall right over. It is like a tree being chopped down by the Tin Man! In fact, last week during a brief rainstorm, 3 poles fell down causing a blackout for almost 24 hours. Now, generally, I can deal without electricity at night, no problem – just light a candle, but at this time of year, it is HOT! Nothing quite parallels the disappointment of lying comfortably in bed, under a breezy fan, when the room goes suddenly silent. Fan dead. It takes only a few minutes before the sweat beads begin to form and the mosquitoes begin buzzing in your ears. The worst part is that you don’t know if the electricity will be off for 30 seconds or 30 hours. Ah, life in Gorongosa. “My country,” as Muagura would say, shaking his head.
The timeline for me to be in Mozambique is finally coming to a close. It is hard to believe that nearly 5 and ½ months have passed since I arrived. It has not been easy. The most challenging element has been being away from my children, the lights of my life. The life of my life. Sure, the professional opportunity has met my expectations – and I am fairly confident that having had the experience will open a door or two that would have otherwise been closed to me. But. Yep, the big BUT. I would never have been able to do this without the continuing support from my kids and husband. From my five year old son (Wesley) running by the phone yelling, “I miss you mommy” to my daughter (Tandiwe) carefully explaining all of the details of her day at school, the activities of the weekend, updates on the dog, etc – to my husband (Chris) visiting me twice (every 6 weeks) bringing me hundreds of pounds of clothes and goodies (mostly sports-related) to give away, calling me every single day, and giving me reports on the our friends and family. I would dare say that not very many people would have been able to gain true family support like this to fulfill a dream assignment (believe it or not) like this. I will tell you that if just one of those kids would have cried on the phone - or if Chris would have told me that he just couldn’t juggle it all, I would have left. But, they didn’t.
Next week (Dec. 10), I have organized my own going away party at Complexo Janet (my home). The menu consists of the traditional dish, “Matapa,” pumpkin or cassavea (manioc) leaves cooked in peanut oil and coconut milk and grilled chicken (Janet’s specialty). A slowly cooked pork dish called “leitao” will be served as well, which tastes a great deal like Mexican “carnitas.”
The day after the “despedida” (going away party), I will travel (with Muagura) to Chimoio to stay the night at a hotel called the “White Castle” (complete with air-con). My flight to Maputo is scheduled for 9am the next day (Dec. 12). Unfortunately or fortunately (I haven’t decided yet), I am scheduled to spend 5 days in the capital in order to “out process” with the Peace Corps. Janet has told me that her daughter will take me out to karaoke and to get my hair done while I am there. Well, I suppose if I get too bad of a hairstyle, I’ll just shave it off when I get back to the U.S.
Friday afternoon, Dec. 17, I will begin my long journey, of about 2 days, homeward. The flight from Jo’Berg (South Africa) to Atlanta alone is 17 hours! Chris and the kids are going to pick me up from the airport in Fresno at around noon (assuming no delays) on Saturday, Dec. 18. Only at that point will we have finished what we started. Well, almost. I still owe my advisor a giant paper on the experience. Ugh. Clearly shifting back into routine will not take long …