Torn – My two year reflection

August 28, 2018

In my hands, I hold an envelope with the instructions, “Open when you’re on the plane.” While I assume this letter is intended to be opened when aboard my flight to Mozambique, I, admittedly, open it in the air between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Contained inside is a letter written in green ink with the following quote:

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick for the places we have never known.”

– Carson McCullers

This quote marks the beginning of my Peace Corps journey, and torn is the perfect word to describe my current situation. I feel pulled in two directions, split somewhere in the middle, but not yet fully separated – clinging to the lingering connection to both sides. Knowing that any resistance will deepen the chasm and that this resistance is inevitable. Understanding that torn will eventually give way to separate pieces altogether.

So, here I stand, 2 years after the first time I read that letter, and there is, indeed, a new piece of me – a lot is different.

My familiar looks different. Familiar is Portuglish, dinners with my host family, “servido”, coloring with preschoolers, “ja passou”, singing in languages I barely understand, traversing treacherous dirt roads, Thursday nights at Mae Zina’s, the best mangoes… EVER, overcrowded classrooms, “passear”-ing, Sunday afternoon sunsets at the beach, and a never ending stream of “com licenca”. I am thankful to have been a part of this culture for the time I was given.

The America I will return to is different. In addition to all of the political things that happened (are happening), my home changed. I’ve lived vicariously through a cellphone screen as my loved ones carried on without me. Some of my friends and family have new spouses I’ve never met, new kids I’ve never seen, and new homes I’ve never visited. Truly, I’m homesick for a place I don’t know anymore.

I am different. I am grateful for the beautiful moments of growth Pebane has given me. However, I owe much credit to the difficult times, which catalyzed my bigger changes. After December last year, I remember questioning whether finishing my service was worth it. I was struggling with admitting to myself that I had lost my joy. Emerging from the other side, I’m thankful I found the strength to be brave, and that I (alongside the other people supporting me) pushed through that challenging time. To quote my friend Paige’s blog, “I like to think of these transformative phases as metamorphoses but “metamorphosis” is too pretty a word. Molting seems more fitting.” I had to work things out with myself and with Pebane. I needed the closure. I found I could be happy here again. I found I could be happy again.

Ready or not, my time in Pebane is drawing to a close. As I re-read things from my first days here, reflect on where I was then, and evaluate where I am now, my conclusion is that my heart feels torn again. This time, however, torn doesn’t feel as scary. I embrace it as a blessing. I am fortunate to love many wonderful people, to have knit parts of our stories together, and to have ties across our Earth.

As I alluded to earlier, my heart eventually did break into separate pieces. A piece of it holds Pebane and this Peace Corps experience, a piece contains Birmingham, and a piece has my family and hometown. But, I’ve realized torn doesn’t mean irreparable; my heart’s pieces can be patched together with their lessons woven into the fabric of my being. This “heart”y stitchwork is evidence to my adventures, my mistakes, my recovery, and stretching beyond my limits. Though its already bursting at the seams, my heart has resolved to keep growing. To keep opening itself up to people. To keep tearing.




And here is the 2 year Q&A followed by some pictures throughout the year. Enjoy!

  1. Can you taste the milkshakes yet?
    • I wish.
  1. What has been your favorite memory these past two years? (I’ll let you do your top 3)
    • Watching Ari play in a national music festival at Dia de Zalala!
    • Going to eSwatini for Bushfire!
    • I was thankful to have people come visit me in Pebane!
    • Climbing Mount Namuli!
    • The second round of political exile was also a good time!
  1. What do you think will be the hardest to adjust to when you get back? What are you most scared about? Do you think it will be easy to adjust to life in the U.S.?
    • All great questions. No. I don’t think it will be super easy to readjust. But, I’m willing to work on it if you guys are willing to help me out.
    • Truthfully, I think it is going to be hard adjusting to a rigid, jam packed, American-style schedule. Friends back at home tell me that they have to plan their social activities with their best friends months in advance AND they only live 15 minutes apart. Here, my best PCV friends and I live at least 6 HOURS apart and we still see each other once a month.
    • Americans are crazy. I know that I’ll be crazy too after a little while there. But, that transition period is going to be a bit strange.
  1. If you had no barriers and unlimited resources to do 5 things before you left, what would you do?
    • I would make it to every province. Mozambique has very different biospheres, and I’m sad I won’t be able to see a bit of each part of the country.
    • Take my host family on a family vacation. I don’t think it matters where we go, but I think it would be fun to travel with them.
    • Build a road connecting Pebane to the paved road. The lack of that road has been the bane of my existence. If that road existed, there would be such better access to resources for Pebane.
    • Climb the Pebane lighthouse. It’s been on my bucket list for a while, and I just haven’t met the right person to unlock it for me.
    • Become fluent in Moniga. I really wish this was possible. I’m sad everyday that I can’t speak exclusively in this language.
  1. What are you most looking forward to (most excited about) upon your arrival to the states?
    • Milkshakes. 2. Paved roads…. Okay maybe my mom’s mashed potatoes. That could be a 2 way tie. 3. Friends and family.
    • I know, I know… Priorities. 😉
  1. What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from this?
    • I think it’s a life lesson I am continuing learning with each human interaction, but that each person is a whole individual. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Their beauties and flaws. And how to try to bring out the best in each person.
  1. Do you still know all of D Se Dance? Can you still do a backflip?
    • I’m offended you asked either of these questions, Kelly.
    • And Maybe. (haven’t actually tried either in a while.)
  1. Would you do it again? (If you could re-do this experience, would you?) Would you advise others to do it?
    • I would definitely do it again. I would advise others to consider it. It’s a commitment. It’s hard. Those two things should not be taken lightly when deciding whether to join or not.
  1. What is the first meal you want back in the US? (What will be the first thing you eat when you come back?)
    • It really is just gonna depend on which I see first: my mother with the Tupperware full of mashed potatoes (that I have previously instructed her to bring) or the Chic-fil-a in the Atlanta airport.
    • I know what you’re thinking… “the trepidation is enticing.
  1. What are your plans now? What are you planning to do from November til Med school?
    • First and foremost, I’m going to try to visit a ton of people. In these visits, I plan to be extra trifling to make up for my 2 year absence.
    • After that, I have a couple potential plans, but we will see what actually happens.
    • I really want to go to the big American music festivals. Coachella, Bonaroo, Hangout, etc.
    • I want to make a road trip up the west coast.
    • I want to visit New Zealand and Portugal with a friend
    • I’m thinking about being the cool high school substitute teacher that everyone looks forward to having.
    • I might be a temp in Birmingham.
  1. What was the absolute best part about the experience?
    • I think living outside of America and getting a better understanding of another way of life as well as my own culture. It’s a big, big world out there, and I’m glad to have some life experience outside of Alabama.
  1. Reflecting to when you were little and you asked if you could change your going to sleep time (a.k.a a bedtime, mother) and we compromised and made a deal that said as long as you got up with a smile on your face and got yourself ready every morning for school you could go to bed whenever you wanted (meaning what hour), how did this bargaining help or hinder your Peace Corps decision/service?
    • As this unashamedly leading question is alluding to, all that I ever do should be ultimately credited to my mothers’ hard work, dedication, and, most importantly, her parental insight.
      • So, yes, mother. I am thankful for everything you have done for me. And, I would never amount to anything without you.
        • This statement really is true, but I’m saying it with just a smidge of sarcasm to highlight the outrageousness of this question on this platform.
      • That being said, let’s all take a quick moment to call our caretakers and show them a little love!
        • P.S. I love you mom! Please don’t poison the mashed potatoes.
  1. What place do you plan on visiting first when you get back?
    • I haven’t decided but either the west coast, New Zealand, or Portugal.
  1. Do you think there will ever be an opportunity that you will utilize any event that occurred in your last 30 months? If yes, please elaborate.
    • I do think I will be able to utilize some things I learned here. For starters, anytime there is a Portuguese speaker, I could chat with them.
    • I have gotten pretty good at being stranded on the side of the road. So, if that ever happens, hit me up for some fun roadside activities such as “boleia” ball, weaving grass crowns, and pioneering the hitchhike version of the Keke challenge.
  1. What is one thing you did in Pebane that you will continue doing in the states?
    • I started cooking here. I definitely want to continue that when I get back to the States, so I can get better.
  1. What will you miss most about Mozambique when you return? What won’t you miss?
    • What will I miss most: Definitely my host family.
    • Other things I will miss:
      • my preschoolers
      • having lunch with Ari in our backyard before afternoon classes
      • meeting so many cool international travelers
      • the lack of toxic masculinity
      • all the fresh fruits and vegetables
      • my JUNTOS and English Theater kids
      • jeans being classified as business professional
    • What won’t I miss: Never blending in. That hasn’t changed.
      • Hitchhiking / being stranded on the road
      • The Pebane Chapa (the bus that takes me on the Pebane dirt road)
      • Hot tin roofs
  1. Will you ever return for a visit to Mozambique?
    • I hope so.
  1. Will you try to stay in touch with your host family, any friends you made, or any students? How will you do this?
    • I definitely will. Nicolsee a.k.a Nick’s da Nicks a.k.a ProNicolseeWild is a facebook guru, so I can stay in touch with him. Also, whatsapp is a great tool for this.
  1. What will you always remember about your service? What do you think you’ll forget?
    • Truthfully, I don’t know. I think that is a year after Peace Corps reflection question. But, that seems like a cop out answer, so I’ll try to answer those.
    • I think, overall, my memory will be full of moments reminding me how easygoing life is here. How you always have time to stop and talk with your friends or eat a snack with them.
    • I imagine the visceral reaction to travelling will fade. I will always have the stories but the memories of hopelessness while trying to wave down your next ride will probably be gone.
  1. What type of people do you think should NOT apply to the Peace Corps?
    • First, I believe that there could be a place for each type of person in the Peace Corps. Since all of the people in Mozambique are complex with their own unique personalities. I know that each type of person could connect with different types of people.
    • But, it should be know that there will be many frustrations, that you aren’t here to save anyone, and that there could be some pretty low moments coupled with isolation.
    • In other words, I believe that anyone can do the Peace Corps if they are up for the challenge. But, it’s also okay to not be up for the challenge. It’s not for everyone.
  1. What do you think your time of service has changed your perspective on the most?
    • My privilege. I used to really pride myself on getting to where I am today despite coming from some humble beginnings. But, being born as a white male in America has given me so much opportunity that I never realized.
  1. Do you think being White made it harder or easier to be accepted into the Peace Corps and into your specific village?
    • This is a tricky answer. I think it is challenging for all foreigners trying to come to Pebane, even Mozambicans not from Pebane. However, was it “harder” because I’m white? I don’t think so. I would bet that it was easier. While I’m trying not to deny anyone else’s experiences, I’m confident that, out of the possible foreigners coming into Pebane, a white foreigner would have the easiest time being accepted.
    • That being said, I know that I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color like I was here. I had a lot of stereotypes assigned to me because of how I looked, which made some situations difficult to navigate. For example, many people assumed that since I was white, I was a fountain of money. That I had connections to all kinds of businessman. Sometimes, they thought I was here only to try to take advantage of them and their resources, as previous people who looked like me have done in the past. None of these things were easy. I didn’t feel good being reduced to only my race, but I don’t think my experience was more difficult because of it.
    • I believe that this is a really worthwhile topic of discussion that has many viewpoints that should be considered. So, I am including a link to blog posts by my friend Ashia, a fellow Moz (R)PCV, that I believe can provide another really good perspective on the matter.
    • Real Talk About How It Feels To Be A Black Peace Corps Volunteer Serving In An African Country
    • Real Talk About How It Feels To Be A Black Peace Corps Volunteer in an African Country, Pt.2
  1. Do you feel safer in your village because you are a man?
    • I do think I feel safer in my village because I am a man. Please review either of the above blog posts or my previous post here.
  1. Did being in the Peace Corps make you more or less excited for medical school?
    • More excited. If you see my previous blog post. I knew that medical school was always right for me, I just wanted some more life experience first.
  1. Will you hang out with me when you come back?
    • And I quote from my last reflection, “Yes, Sid. ;)”
  1. Would you rather fight 50 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?
    • Hmmmmmmm… My instinct is to say 1 horse sized duck. But ducks are hella mean….
    • Is there ready available bread or hay? …No? …That’s cheating?
    • Okay, well then yea I’m gonna stick with the 1 horse- sized duck. Honestly, just hoping I can outrun it.
  1. Have you discovered anything new about yourself from this experience?
    • I can be much more introverted than I thought possible.
    • I have a not so nice side that comes out when provoked.
    • While I have loved traveling, I know that I’ll want to have roots someday.
    • I know that I still get scared especially in a foreign language.
    • I know that I can make it two years in the Peace Corps. And that is saying something.
  1. Have you had any experience with dating during this experience? Any romantic plans following your return?
    • None whatsoever. Truthfully, I ended a serious relationship right before joining the Peace Corps because I wanted to take this time to focus on myself and who I was. So, I didn’t really want to be involved with anyone while serving.
    • Following the return? Also, not rushing into anything. I’m starting medical school in August, which means I might only be in Alabama for a couple months. So, maybe? If it happens, it happens. But, I don’t know that I’ll be looking for anything too quickly after coming back.
  1. How has your fashion sense evolved from this experience?
    • Great question. On one side, I think I have opened up to so many new styles and ways of looking at things. On the other hand, I still very much like to wear gym shorts.
    • Gym shorts usually win.
  1. When you take your first few steps back on US soil, what is the first thing you are going to do?
    • I’m going to Disney World!
    • But really though, hug whoever is picking me up from the airport. Then, beeline to Chic-fil-a!
  1. Did your ENO survive the whole trip?
    • It sure did! Thank you for your hammock concern!

Reference Back to Question 8:

Can confirm. Still know De Se Dance.

Also, after further review, to scared to try a backflip so far away from medical attention. I will get back to you with the answer.

Bushfire was amazing!


Visiting the eMoniga river.

Hiking the tea fields of Gurue with some of my cohort

Tried to explore Gile National Reserve about 8 hours from my site.

Brothers from another mother 2

Nicolsee helped Ari and I paint a World Map at our school.

Namp Sunsets

Loving the Nampula Sunsets

Before and after our haircuts in South Africa.

A day hanging out with our preschool kids and World Education!

Classic John and Kaari travel pic

What has become a classic John and Kaari Travel picture. Featuring the union of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

Pebane has participated in the REDES and JUNTOS provincial workshops. We have also had 2 Grassroots soccer interventions.

Just host brothers showing off our Birthday Shirts


My sweet mommas!

KAJDAJ Midservice Selfie

KAJDAJ taking on year 2!

Political Exile Bowling

Political Exile Round 2: Bowling edition.


When you make your friends match you

Pebane Power PCVs

The Pebane Power PCVs


Showing off my beach

Mom and I on Table Mountain

Mom and I looking out over Cape Town. Not moments afterwards, she gave me a wedgie…


Making Smores

Christmas Silly

Not going to lie, I posted this mostly because of Kaari’s face, but also because ya’know… CHRIMMUS!!!

UAB PA - MOZ copy

My host family proudly boasting their new UAB Parents’ Association shirts. They have 2 Blazer children!


Celebrating June 1, Children’s day with our preschoolers.


Essence and I occasionally go to the beach and we occasionally take good pictures.


Sometimes you breakdown on the side of the road and have to start playing cards on the drain..


Passover Round 2 with Phil, Elin, Elias and Callie.

John and Ari with Casa de cultura de Pebane

It’s been real Pebane.


My experience applying to medical school while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique


Before you begin reading this post, understand that it is targeted at currently serving PCV’s who might be considering what it will look like to apply to medical school while serving in the Peace Corps. I know that I felt a bit isolated at times. As if, there were not a other PCV’s going through the same struggles. Hopefully, this will help to fill in the gap a little. However, I invite all of my readers (i.e. my momma) to continue reading anyways, because it does provide some perspective into my experience applying to medical school while abroad.

My backstory:

On February 9, 2016, the first email in my inbox read, “Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admission to the incoming medical class.” This was my first medical school acceptance. It was a relief to know my work in college had paid off. But, this wasn’t the email I was waiting for. Though I couldn’t admit this to anyone, the thought of going to medical school was intimidating. As I read the email, I felt my whole life fall into place in front of me; a vision of myself entrapped, too early, by a white picket fence and a family was becoming clear. I was embarrassed to tell people that medical school was my second choice. Having devoted so much of my life to reaching this goal, I felt guilty wanting to do something else mere inches from the finish line. But, deep in my being, I knew medical school wasn’t right for me at this point in my life.

Exactly one week later on February 16, 2016, I read “Thank you for wanting to make a difference by serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I am pleased to extend an invitation for you to serve.” I can’t explain it any other way than a gut feeling, but, while reading this email, I was certain that this was my next step. It was my chance to get out there, to explore, to grow and to impact my own fate. I was confident that my career in medicine would be here when I got back. A couple months later, I landed in Mozambique to begin my service.


Tackling the MCAT: (… AGAIN!)

It’s March 2017. I’m at my 6-month mark in Mozambique, and I’m on the phone with my mom. “So…. Mom. Funny story. You remember how I told you that MCAT scores are good for 3 years?” “I do.” “Well, I wasn’t technically wrong, but for most schools its 3 years prior to your entry date not your application date… I’ll be entering in 2019… So, my MCAT from 2015 is going to expire. I’m gonna have to retake the MCAT.” …Silence… “What are you going to do John?” were the only words my momma eventually mustered up. “I’m gonna find a way to make it work.”

Logistically, I have no idea what “make it work” is going to entail, but I am unwavering in my desire to practice medicine. First step – look up MCAT testing dates. There are a multitude of test dates and test locations available, stateside. Unfortunately, I cannot afford a plane ticket back home. The only international testing center in Africa is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Lucky for me, that is only a bus ticket away from Mozambique’s country capital. There are limited dates available, so I am forced to choose between taking the exam in June 2017 (only 3 months away) or January 2018 (right before my midservice conference) since all other test dates would delay my application. I decide on January since I haven’t completely settled into my site yet.

In the next few months, I must find a way to put together a study schedule and get study materials. I’m blessed to have an abundance of pre-med friends from undergrad who offer plenty of study advice, and one of my best friends even sends some MCAT books to my roommate, Ari’s, house. Another stroke of luck, Ari is visiting the U.S. for his brother’s bar mitzvah, so he can bring these books back in his suitcase. I decide to begin studying in September to leave myself plenty of time to prepare for this monster of an exam a second time.

While following my study plan from September 2017 to January 2018, I learn about the American study privilege. The majority of Americans have easily accessible, climate controlled, wifi friendly, and quiet learning spaces. Pebane is neither quiet nor easily accessible nor wifi friendly and it is definitely NOT climate controlled. September to January is summer in Mozambique with temperatures surpassing 100 degrees Fahrenheit some days. To accommodate this environment, I wake up to begin studying at 4 am by LuciLight before the heat sets in. Mozambicans love to stop by at whatever time to chat with friends, so, in addition to studying very early in the morning, I pull my curtains and pretend I’m not home while reading through my Kaplan books. There are many days without Internet connection at all, which forces me to be flexible with my practice test schedule.

In general, life doesn’t stop happening while you are studying for the MCAT, and life while serving in the Peace Corps is no exception. I have a couple blog posts from this time describing some of the other things going on while I was studying. Overall, I can almost guarantee that there is going to be a lot of adjustment to your study plan and to your personal study style to accommodate your current circumstances. But, you, like me, can do it! I’m confident you will find your own ways to make it work. Peace Corps is all about flexibility and perseverance, right? But, here is my two cents. Decide on your study plan. Then, whatever you decide, give yourself an extra month. I think this will help with the stress and give you a bit more time to feel out how to study without getting off schedule.

These 4 months culminate to a single 7.5-hour exam, as it does wherever you are in the world. On January 20, I take my MCAT for a second time. Truthfully, it was much harder to prepare the second time, but I am prouder of the dedication and commitment I proved to myself while persevering through the process of taking this exam.


The AMCAS and Secondary Applications:

While I fill out the AMCAS in April and May of 2018, the lack of consistent Internet connection makes for some frustrating moments, but besides that my experiences filling out the AMCAS in the U.S. and in Mozambique are pretty similar. My previous recommendation letter writers are happy to write an updated letter on my behalf. I update my personal statement to reflect my current thoughts toward a career in medicine. I had saved my Work and Activities writing, so I only have to edit it to sound like my current voice. My school (UAB) allows me to request transcripts electronically, so I have no problems there. (However, I can imagine if you are deciding to apply to medical school for the first time during your service, then it might be a bit difficult to gather recommendation letters and send in all of your transcripts from your various colleges. But, I know that this will be possible. You’ve got this!)

Writing, editing, and sending in secondary applications is a lengthy process. There is no secret way to make the process easier. Both times, I have spent many hours writing, sending essays off to be proofread, and re-writing. During my second set of applications, I am fortunate to have experiences from my Peace Corps service to talk about, which I believe have widened my perspective and given me a pragmatically optimistic worldview. The only real difficulty is navigating the time difference between my friends proofreading my essays in the states and myself.


The Interim before interviews:

It’s currently the end of July 2018. I finish my service in November of 2018. I am glad to have submitted all of my secondaries. With that task checked off, I am playing the “waiting to hear back” game. While I hope all the schools I applied to offer me an interview, I realistically know that I will probably only get to interview at some of them. Due to my schedule restraints from my COS date, I am a little worried about interviewing later in the season, since it will be more difficult to use rolling admission to my advantage. But, I choose to believe that this won’t be the case for the school that’s the right fit for me.

Overall, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; it was a necessary thing for me to do before medical school. Applying to medical school while serving has been difficult. But, I am certain this is what I want to do. I know that this experience has only proven my ability and dedication to become a future physician.

And so it goes.

May 16, 2018

As the navy-to-baby blue ombré ushers away the warm pink of the setting sun, I find myself sitting on the back porch stoop with my host father. I can see the winter breeze knocking the palm fronds against one another. The wind appears to be tantalized by this game; it musters up some extra force, just to see how much it can make the leaves bend to its will. The branches, negligent in their resilience, strike a coconut with their elasticity. This coconut capitalizes on the potential energy stored in the extensions of its home and begins its descent to the ground. Upon impact with the earth, the thud is just loud enough to compete with the other sounds around.

My vision is clear, but my mind is cluttered: I can see all of these things happening, but favoring my sight only provides a brief respite from my other senses. I am carrying much ambivalent weight from the entire day. I am trying to choose one sense over the other to prevent adding to the amount to process, but it isn’t possible. Let me start at the beginning.

Today is Ramadan’s eve. As I enter the market, the positive vibes are tangible. I am sure to talk to all of my market friends about their excitement to participate in this year’s fast. I receive very genuine smiles when complimenting some young girls’ new hijabs while they are buying tomatoes at Rachmond’s stall. Next on my market visit, I enter the shop of one of my friends, Jonito. “Ramadan Mubarak,” I say. He tells me thank you. I ask if he will be eating a big dinner to prepare for his fast tomorrow. He says no to dinner, but informs me that his wife had actually prepared a huge lunch. Jonito invites me to his house for this feast of a lunch and even offers to pick me up and take me there. Of course, I accept, but first I have to visit Zakaryah.

I finish my market rounds and hastily walk to the mosque to return some books and speak with my friend. When I arrive, Zakaryah looks preoccupied. Today, his normally attentive countenance feels weighed down and distant. Eventually, it comes out, “I am going back to South Africa, John.” I am upset to hear the news, but even more heart broken to hear him tell me why. “Someone here is very jealous of my job, and has been trying since I arrived to take it from me. It’s hard for my family and I to live here.” Truthfully, as a fellow outsider to the community, I empathize with the struggle of fitting in with a hesitant to change, well-knit community. It makes me sad to see someone, who has poured a portion of his life into helping this community, feel unwelcom here. I have seen before and after photos of the mosques he has rehabilitated throughout the district; mosques where kids have learned to read, high school students have come to get help applying to university (both in Mozambique and South Africa under his guidance), and community members have pumped water from their wells for years.

The conversation ends with Zakaryah in tears. He asks me to open the Quran to a random page and read some of it to him. Though we don’t see eye to eye on this topic, his whole-hearted devotion to his religion is inspiring. Though I really wish I could, I can’t remember exactly what I read, but it seemed to me to have the sentiment of letting life flow in the way that Allah (as he calls Him) and God (as I call Him) had destined it. I don’t know much about the Quran, so I can’t comment on the frequency a passage like that appears, but I do think someone, somewhere knew that there was meaning in those words that might help Zakaryah along.

After leaving the mosque, Jonito was calling me to tell me he was in front of my house. I quickly hurried home and changed out of my walk-around clothes so I could go with him to his house. This was my first time to eat with his family, and I did not want to be underdressed, so I put on something a bit nicer. Thank goodness I did, because Jonito didn’t say anything, I repeat HE DID NOT SAY ANYTHING, about this being his WEDDING! The ceremony was small, only about 25 people in attendance. It was completely in local language, so I didn’t understand a whole lot. But, Jonito looked happy and the people surrounding him were all smiling. I did hear the officiator say “orera” – beautiful, good – consistently, and I hope that married life is indeed “beautiful” for Jonito and his wife.

In the beginning of my service, many days felt as tumultuous as today. As the end of service begins to peak over the horizon, I have become desensitized to having this emotionally charged of a day. As I alluded to earlier, my only real conclusion is that, today, I feel ambivalent: joyful and troubled; hopeful and disappointed; good and bad. Though taxing and often confusing, I am grateful for the access to the range of emotions I am experiencing. I’m learning to appreciate the beauty of both the ups and the downs and living in the moment you are in.

As my focus shifts from the view of the palm tree to the crash of its seed on the ground, my ears release their blockade and allow the discord of wailing women into my head. Two houses down, a young girl, a 10th grader, had just passed away. My host dad said the neighborhood had seen it coming; I didn’t even know she was sick…

Piercing. That is the only word I believe even begins to describe the sound from that momma. The utterance must have been formed from a place much deeper than the vocal cords. It must have begun as a grumbling whimper down in her gut as she felt her daughter’s spirit begin to fade. At the moment of her daughter’s passing, this vocalization must have taken a chilling, 2-count rest in the mother’s heart to let go of the hope held there. After her heart acknowledged the loss, this stirring must have crescendoed in her soul where its key changed to sorrow. On its way out of her body, her mind must have painted the timbre of anguish onto the full, dissonant screech of pain as it was finally released for the world to hear.

Recognizing the melody in that mother’s voice, my own host mother, instinctively, stands up. She readjusts the capulana tied around her waist. She walks to the gate, exits and turns left. I can see other community members are drawn to this music as well. Walking in unison to its rhythm, they must have realized it is their responsibility now. Not to intervene or to try to make it better, but to be there, to support, to show this mother that she isn’t alone. They are there to listen to the symphony, however sad, that this grieving mother is composing.



P.S. Bonus points if you got the Kurt Vonnegut reference in the title.

EGRA/ Pilecas Highlight

March 4, 2018

If you ask anyone from the surrounding areas, Pebane has a reputation of being lazy and unmotivated. People from all over Zambezia province believe the beach drains the volition out of the eMoniga (the people of Pebane) rendering them unwilling to work hard. If you ask me, I think these people have never met Lasmim Pilecas; if they had, I’m sure their story would change to accommodate their new data point.


Lasmim Pilecas is a little over 6 feet tall. He always dresses in pleated, dress pants, a long sleeved, collar shirt, and a skinny tie that matches his thin bone structure. His voice is deep, a resounding bass. At the front of his 12th grade philosophy classroom, Pilecas is articulate. Thoughtful. Elegant. My host brother was a student of his last year. He told me that, while Pilecas is known to demand respect and refuse students who did not meet dress code entrance into his class, he also has an array of interactive songs to help the kids grasp philosophy better. In other words, Senhor Professor Pilecas seemed to be a perfect blend of the traits required to be an effective teacher.


While he excels at his job at the secondary school, my favorite part of Pilecas is his explosion of energy when he sees a small child trying to learn. He sheds his pensive, philosopher persona for a gregarious, goofy, and easygoing pre-school teacher. He laughs, sings, dances (in a cacophony of flailing arm movements, might I add), jokes, and overflows with positive energy that is sure to trigger a smile on anyone’s face. It is evident that Pilecas has a passion for working with kids and a love for early childhood education.


When I arrived in December 2016, Pilecas had already identified a lack of early childhood opportunities and began the process of providing a way to meet that need here in Pebane. Earlier that year, he submitted an application to the Mozambican Ministry of Education and was approved to open Pebane’s first Escolinha (Pre-school). He single-handedly selected and organized a team of volunteers to begin work with an inaugural class of about 20 children while all the paperwork was still being processed. (i.e. he and all of the other volunteers were doing all of this work pro bono. Also, this is where I come in.) For the first few months, the Escolinha ran smoothly. There were alphabet lessons, coloring times, basic math instruction, play time, and so much more. As the director, Pilecas continually improved upon the functionality of the escolinha by finding local resources such as a teacher’s desk, a chalkboard, a book bag rack, students’ desks, and some shelving.


Around April 2017, all of Moz27 Peace Corps Volunteers received an email with the application for O Programa Biblioteca Comunitária – Community Library Program. Seeing the opportunity to bring more children’s books into the community and further develop early child education, Pilecas, Ari, and I applied and were accepted to this program thinking we would use the Escolinha as our base. (Side note: this program is sponsored by both Peace Corps and World Education.)


Pilecas and I went to a weeklong intensive training in June 2017 on how to run a community library. We learned logistics: keeping inventory, applying for additional grants, monitoring and evaluating the program, planning and executing facilitator trainings. We learned curriculum: best practices for early childhood education, literacy activities without resources, songs, dances. We received a lot of useful information and creative ideas on how to capitalize on what resources Mozambique has to offer.


At the end of the week, we had to develop a strategy of implementation for the program in our town. Let me give you the relevant details for forming this plan. First off, Pebane is fortunate to already have a Community Library building (constructed by ActionAid in the 90s) with a librarian paid by the district board of education. Pebane is more or less a single dirt road spanning about 3 miles from east to west. Off of the main road are much smaller paths leading into the neighborhoods. The majority of these neighborhoods, more specifically the kids of these neighborhoods, range from at least a 20-minute walk up to about an hour walk from the library. While we did not have to tackle the problem of creating a space to store our resources, we did have to figure out how to deliver this program to kids that would not be able to benefit from the program due to proximity  and accessibility issues. To address this issue, we decided to have a central meeting location in each neighborhood to serve the children of that neighborhood. What we needed now was man(and woman)power.


Over the next 3 months after returning to Pebane, we set up meetings with the Director of District Education in Pebane, in order to have her recommend some primary school educators from the different neighborhoods that would be a good fit for our program, as well as meetings with the chefes do bairro – neighborhood presidents – in each neighborhood to talk to them about our program’s goals and ask for their help in procuring a space for the program. All of the neighborhood presidents and the director of education were happy to oblige and were extremely helpful.


After receiving this list of instructors and getting community by in, Pilecas and I began planning our first training for the facilitators to be held at the end of October 2017. It was a one-day, condensed version of our weeklong training. We had 16 facilitators attend. (Which was AHHHHMAZING!) (Also, this was the training mentioned in “It’s not ideal”)


The week after, we began the program in 5 neighborhoods. Over the month of November 2017, we consistently had over 100 kids and 10 facilitators show up across the 5 neighborhoods. The student to teacher ratio was on average 13:1 which is significantly smaller than the current average in primary schools which frequently exceeds 100:1. Given a few minor hiccups and setbacks, the facilitators had nothing but positive feedback about their experiences.


December 2017 marks a 3-month summer break for Mozambican schools which was reflected in our program’s attendance. But, have no fear. Last week on March 3, 2018, we had another small training to invite 4 new members to join our team, all of which had been recruited by last-year’s facilitators that had loved the program. With the exception of one session, this entire training was self run by our facilitators who led literacy demonstrations, shared advice, taught their favorite songs and dances, and offered their experiences to one another on how to better facilitate each meeting. In other words, this team of facilitators is self-motivated and passionate about this program, and, because of their hard work, they are improving life in Pebane.


To say that I am proud of Pilecas and his grit is an understatement. To say that I am proud of this team and their passion doesn’t even begin to give them the proper recognition that they deserve. To say that I was the spark that started the project would unjustly credit too much of the responsibility to my record. Honestly, I think I was just the connection that brought together this team with the resources that Peace Corps and World Education so generously offer. What I can say is that I am so excited that this program is becoming self-sustaining and that I get the blessing of being here another year to watch it grow and mature.


I think the rest of Zambezia province, Mozambique, and even the world could learn a thing or two from Pilecas and my Community Library team: motivated, humble Pebane residents.



P.S. The program will start back in full force this Saturday, March 10, 2018.

P.P.S. Thank you for bearing with all of the details of getting this project off of the ground. I really just wanted to show you how amazing this team is and how happy I am of all of their hard work!

P.P.P.S. They have more cool ideas for the library program in the works and I will keep y’all updated as these ideas progress!

Group shot 2

This is the entire new team minus 3 facilitators who didn’t have to present at the March training.

Group shotPilecas in ActionThe best EGRA Counterpart

The man himself, Lasmim Pilecas.

December 15, 2017

December 18, 2017 (This is the date I originally wrote this post. But, in full disclosure, I edited some of the sentiments later in January to more accurately reflect my experience. But, I digress.)

Let’s start with a theoretical situation.

Theoretical Situation – A woman was on her deathbed. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. There was a pharmacy in the town that had this life-saving drug but was selling it at 10 times the production cost. The woman’s husband had tried to raise the money to pay for this drug, but only was able to come up with half of the cost. He asked the pharmacy if there was any way that he could buy the drug for cheaper or even set up a payment plan to pay for it overtime. The pharmacy refused, saying the price should not change for any one person, and that the payment plan was not a viable option. Later that evening, the husband broke into the pharmacy and stole the drug anyway for his wife.*


Personal reflection. What do you think about this? Why? Now hold on to that. What if I told you that I was the pharmacy in this specific case? Does that change your mind? I’m going to try my best to express my thoughts on this topic as I continue to explore it myself.


Real Situation – On December 15, 2017, (a) robber(s) overcame a number of security measures, broke into my house, and stole quite a bit from my roommate and I.


Fact – There are people everywhere in Mozambique who live below the poverty level. Some World Health Organization projections place more than 70% of Mozambicans living below the poverty line.** Pebane, in specific, is one of the poorest districts in the country. As such, I’m left to assume many people here can be faced with the tough question of “How do I feed my family?” Though I know many people here are not “starving” per se,  (most people have access to rice or the Mozambican version of grits) the people of Pebane struggle with malnutrition, which surely affects other aspects of their lives such as work, school, personal interactions with people, etc. Now, the better fitting question might be, “How do I afford the food that will really help my family grow and succeed?”


Fact – The total amount of goods stolen from Ari and I combined was roughly $4,500 USD. For reference, my entire living allowance – which should cover food, transportation, electricity, clothing, etc. – for 1 full year at the same socioeconomic level as a Mozambican teacher (who is often more well off in the community) is roughly $2,000 USD. If these statements are true, how can I blame my community for thinking I am simply being greedy? The truth is that I live at a level much higher than many people here. I can’t deny that.


Analogy – Robin Hood is seen as the hero of his story. And, truthfully, it’s hard sometimes to not accuse myself of being Robin Hood’s unjust king who is refusing to help out the community. How can I expect every member of my community to see me as a volunteer who left behind the opportunity to begin working for my own posterity to come help in a Mozambican school if they only see me for my material possessions? And, even if they were to understand that I’m giving up a lot to be here, why should they care about my opportunity cost when they have immediate needs to fill?


Taking all of this into account, being robbed sucks. Plain and simple.


Feeling – Heartbroken. That is the one single word I can use to describe how I am feeling right now. In more words, I feel betrayed. I feel anxious. I feel violated. I feel angry. I feel upset. I feel sad. I feel worried. I feel unsafe. I feel frustrated. And, at any moment, I could feel any different combination of all of these.


Opinion – Despite all of this, you might have also been thinking to yourself something along the lines of, “But John, you’re cutting these robbers a lot of slack, dontcha think?”


Response – You’re right. I am. A good PCV friend recently told me, “when faced with situations like this, you can take the path of grace or the path of frustration and anger.” I am trying to choose to give these people the benefit of the doubt. I am trying to choose to convince myself that these robbers had an urgent need and that their own country’s system is failing at providing alternative methods to meet that need. I am trying to choose to believe that these robbers weren’t stealing just to buy a new T.V. or other luxury item. Each day, I am trying to choose to believe that losing some of my mental stability is bringing some good (even if only temporarily). I am trying to choose these beliefs because I have to in order to restore my sense of security and continue serving my community well this next year. I keep saying trying, because I don’t choose the path of grace in every interaction. Often, I still choose the path of frustration. I can’t help it. Sometimes, everything becomes too much.  All the positive intent that I’m assuming goes out the window. I get angry with or mistrusting of an innocent member of my community. They don’t deserve that. But, I’ll get better each day at this balancing act. I hope that I will learn to choose to use these vulnerabilities to open up even more to my community rather than shutting them out.


Silver Lining – Honestly, I think I have taken a couple hard hits in a row, and I’m left to find ways to put the pieces of myself back together. I take solace in finding out that my breaking point is much further away than I imagined (and who knows it might be even further). I’m still not completely recovered. But, I know that I can recover. And the knowledge of this resiliency… it’s liberating.


Summary – It’s all very complicated and I am still processing it. I’m trying to continuously give the benefit of the doubt, and I am thankful for the support I have received from Peace Corps and my friends and family both American and Mozambican. I feel many fluctuating emotions, at any given time. These feelings culminate to a single statement,  “Right now, I’m not okay”. And that’s okay. I know this isn’t forever.




* This theoretical situation comes from Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. It is known as the Heinz Dilemma.


** World Health Organizations summary of Mozambique

I thought I would leave these links here not only to reference my sources, but for you all to look into these ideas more if you wanted too!


Somewhere in the Middle

December 2, 2017


“John, when someone asks you to teach them English, ask them “why do you love English?” Zakarya, a friend that has continuously challenged my way of thinking, didn’t realize he was inspiring me (yet again) when he said this. He continued by saying that there are a lot of people that want your help, but you should focus more time on the ones that are dedicated and committed to receiving the help.


This question really struck me. Right now, December 2, 2017, I am somewhere in the middle of my service. I’m over the hill, but coming home is still too distant to really be on the horizon. While I have the experience of living in Mozambique for more than a year, I still have essentially half, if not more, of the work that I came here to do left. In this moment, I turn to the question – “Why do you love it, John?” Why is this something so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice for it?


The truth. 1 year of Peace Corps down. 1 to go. I’m no longer hopeful to be completely integrated into my community. I don’t think that me teaching here is “changing the world”. I’m scared of what coming back to America is going to look like. Frankly, I’m drained; this fatigue presents itself as volatile irritability in menial conversations. Some days, I think I should wear a “Caution: Flammable” sign around my neck just to give everyone a fair warning.


But, today, despite this slump, Zakarya forced me to reflect. “Why do I love what I am doing now?” I needed this question at this moment in my time here. I needed to realign myself mentally with what I want to do with the time that I have left; I needed to prioritize how to most effectively use all the effort that I will put into this year. So, as candidly as I can be, here is my response of “Why do you love it, John?”


From the overall “Peace Corps Experience”, I am proud of the independence I have gained. I am proud of the patience, flexibility, and adaptability that I have practiced. I am proud of the resilience I have cultivated. In other words, I love that I am developing as a person.


I am invested in the community library program (a.k.a. EGRA) I am helping develop. I know that it is reaching kids that don’t have as much academic support and I can’t wait to see how much more my team and I can build it in the next year. Furthermore, I enjoy being a pre-school teacher. I love the high pitched “Tio John” scream emitted by one of my kids before they all scramble to get to me first followed by the huge group hug that happens every single time that I walk into the pre-school classroom.  I love the work with children that I get to do here.


I am diligently trying to learn Moniga, the local language of my community, so I can partake more in the deep conversations in my own family’s mother tongue. I am excited to find more ways to open up to my host family as I continue to learn their stories. I love my host family.


Much to my own disappointment, I haven’t really taken advantage of the full extent of the dance community in Mozambique. I won’t leave here without at least attempting to take advantage of that otherwise it will be a GINORMOUS wasted opportunity. I also, am considering joining the community soccer league, time permitting. I love being a part of a team and being physically active.


Some of my favorite moments so far have been helping mentor my youth groups. These strong young men and women blow me away with their abilities. I really intend to invest more time pouring my heart into them. Sometimes, I see how much an older, more respected (is that even possible for me to describe myself as such?) person giving them a space to express themselves and develop ideas really impacts them. I love being a part of different youth’s narratives and getting to joke around with them.


I do love many things here. Thanks to Zakarya, I intend to re-focus the time I have left to invest into these passions more wholeheartedly.


P.S. Ari and I celebrated Hannukah for a second time this year!


Ari Hannukah

I was so happy to be able to celebrate my Host Dad’s Birthday with him!



It’s not ideal.

October 25, 2017

I daresay no one comes to the Peace Corps expecting to live glamorously for 2 years. Many, including myself, are drawn to the idea of living in a different, oftentimes less than ideal, environment. Most typical Americans are confident that volunteers are experiencing “tough circumstances,” at least to some degree. Some… No, no,no. Scratch that. A lot of PCV’s are proud of their “street cred” for “roughin it” for a couple of years. Lately, I have been reflecting on some of these situations that I would consider NOT IDEAL, and I’ve been thinking what it means for me to confront these challenges. I’m going to highlight 3 examples most pertinent to my life right now.


The ant colonies in Mozambique have seemingly skyrocketed in the last month, and these ants have rudely invited themselves into many PCV homes and pantries. Much like the unwanted house guests they are, they have helped themselves to many different things in our homes including: banana bread, chocolate, American candy, a completely sealed off, unopened bag of flour, various fruits and vegetables (some of which were in the fridge), and even the water inside a stainless steel water filter. Ants = Not ideal.


In quite the tale of a Mozambican transportation travesty, I recently broke my phone. Not ideal. Then, I used my roommate’s phone to download a bunch of internet packages at midnight (because that is when the internet credit goes on special here) to try to restore my iPhone (for reference why it needed restoring see September 20, 2016); but, Pebane internet, unfortunately wasn’t up to the task. I was shorted a small chunk of my living allowance and nearly 2 full nights of sleep. Also, not ideal. I now have diminished access to my U.S. and Peace Corps support systems. No American support system = not ideal.


Two weekends ago, I (luckily with a rockstar counterpart) co-facilitated a 6-hour early grade literacy training at our community library. Several times, either my Portuguese grammar or accent was less than subpar, provoking a room full of confused looks fixated on yours truly, accompanied by yours truly’s brain scrambling to re-explain my point in whatever words I could string together on the spot. When my on the spot Portuguese, also, amounted to helping a grand total of 0, my counterpart kindly and graciously reiterated the sentiments I was trying to express. Language barrier = Not ideal.


Clogged dump-flush toilets. Not ideal. Come and go electricity. Not ideal. Greater than 100 degree weather without A/C. Definitely, NOT IDEAL. The list of potential complaints could go much further. (If you would like this more detailed list, just ask Ari. That cheap shot was for the Moz27 Peace Corps People in the back.)


But, in a world of less than ideal situations, there’s a whole’nother (cue the southern draw) level of humility accessible when you learn to be happy with what you’ve got.


My PCV friends and I ate protein-enriched, double-baked banana bread. (That’s some gourmet banana bread right there. I tell you what.) (Also, take that, you stupid, trifling ants.)


While access to my support system is diminished, it still exists. And, with the help of Facebook, it exists at much quicker speeds than was possible even 20 years ago. My support system, despite this reduced access, rallied together to send me a new (well, new to me at least) phone. (which is en route as I write this post) This proves to me that, though there are some crummy situations and it is unfortunate that I don’t have a phone right now, I am often more blessed that I realize. Not to mention, I’ve been enjoying a relaxing little break off “the grid”.


There are some added frustrations to overcome with my less than ideal Portuguese. (Disclaimer: I’m about to use some of the neuroscience degree that my momma paid good money to UAB for.) Maslow’s hierarchy is a psychological explanation used to describe the successive needs to be met for one to achieve self-realization. In the middle of Maslow’s pyramid lies the need for self-confidence and the desire to be a respected peer in your community, suggesting that, without these things, it isn’t easy (perhaps not even possible) to live up to your full potential. Knowing this, it makes much more sense that being less than ideal in a work aspect is quite possibly one of the hardest things for a PCV, for me in particular, to come to terms with.


In these moments, I echo the advice from a good PCV friend. In a world where my personal failures result in maintaining the status quo, doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. So, I’ll continue to go head to head nearly daily with my perceived incompetence. Doing this reminds me that, even though I’m not always the ideal fit for this job, I’m here for a reason. I’m good enough. Furthermore, I’m willing to test my grit, to work hard. Even though despite my best efforts, sometimes it doesn’t work out. I’m reminded with each failure, each less than ideal situation that I go through, that I am becoming stronger, resilient.


Life, here…. (Who am I kidding?) Life anywhere is not always ideal. Living it, even with these shortcomings, is worth it.


P.S. Mount Namuli.

Some of my PCV friends and I climbed up the second tallest mountain in Mozambique, Mount Namuli. One of the local tribes considers it the birth place of the world. If you want to see a cool video describing this mountain and some of the work an NGO “Legado” is doing there, the link is here: (Legado Namuli Video)



We started before the sun rose.



22833388_10214642789766702_383412144_oJohn and Ari after Namuli


With the queen of the mountain.22812888_10214642789246689_485118953_oAt the bottom of the mountain when we were all clean again.22812785_10214642787166637_2067670239_o22879115_10214642788166662_246028394_o

View from the top.



525,000 Moments in Moz

September 1, 2017

“525,600 minutes, 525,000 Moments in Moz.

525,600 minutes; how do you measure, measure a PC year?

In xima? In Chapas? In fishbowl? In bucket showers? … …. … …



…But I digress….


I opened with this particularly cliché Rent song because it hits home right now. I am desperately trying to find a way to quantify, to conceptualize my time here. I figured a prose stream of thought would hopefully help with this task. Here goes nothing.


Here’s to one year. Here’s to a year of learning to live with new people. Of watching way too many TV series. A year of breaking down in chapas in the Mozambican matu. Of rolling the windows down and watching the countryside speed past you. A year of profusely sweating at the front of the classroom. Of trying to teach some “life” lessons too. A year of releasing all hope of control to something greater. Of trusting, somehow, it will all work out. A year of traded smiles and awkward handshakes. Of newfound friendships. A year of forging patience, understanding, and appreciation. Of allowing myself to fail. (and sometimes fail terribly…) A year of vicarious phone calls to the U.S. Of original adventures in fresh places. A year of embracing strengths. Of acknowledging weaknesses. A year where 2 words in the local language constitutes fluency, but a single grammatical error renders an entire soliloquy in Portuguese incomprehensible. A year of taking the long way there. Of ushering in the unexpected. A year of accepting help. Of practicing humility. Here’s to a year, one year.


In case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s been a year now since I have arrived in Mozambique. Even while looking at a calendar with the days crossed out, it’s still hard to believe. The weight of the milestone hits me sometimes when someone new to me asks, “How long have you been here?” Ultimately, I’m coming to terms with the fact that nothing I write here will entirely capture or articulate all of the experiences thus far. Which, honestly, is so frustrating. It sometimes makes me feel as if I’ll have another barrier to overcome when it comes time to reconnect with U.S. life.


I feel like in my first six months, I was growing exponentially; that pace was impossible for me to keep up for the 2 full years. That being said, I feel like I have less to report in terms of changes I’ve noticed within myself than I did in my 6-month reflection. Honestly, that scared me pretty bad. I worried that I was becoming stagnant, complacent.* But, after some further review, I choose for this to mean that I’ve adjusted/ am adjusting well to my environment. Just reaching this 1-year milestone is what makes me feel good right now. I’ve survived, grown, and done my job to the best of my ability for a year now. That, alone, makes me proud of my time here. I’m at a happy place in life. I’m excited to continue working with my community, and I eagerly await the future of my service here.


Thus concludes the overall summary of my 1 year reflection. If you’re in John’s personal fan club (i.e. mother of the blogger), continue reading for a 1 year question and answer.


*I mentioned being anxious about becoming stagnant. My apprehensions of what to include in this blog post is what prompted me to ask several close friends for help. I asked for them to send me one year reflection questions to answer in this blog post. You amazing people definitely exceeded my expectations by sending in a whopping 43 questions, which I will answer now! (By no means, do I expect everyone to read all of these questions. Feel free to read at your leisure.)


Questions to answer:


  1. When you return to America… Are you going to turn the shower head on and off while you lather and rinse?
    • So, admittedly, this was probably a bit ambitious of a statement. Do I still strongly endorse the statement, “You will never understand the value of a drop of water until you have to carry it yourself.”? Yes. Yes, I do. However, when given the opportunity to shower in a hotel, I have, shamefully, just stood under the shower stream. I like to tell myself that when I get home and become accustomed to showers again that I will turn off the water when I’m not using it, but I guess only time will tell.


  1. Hardest moment so far?
    • I definitely think the lowest I felt was after Rangeela came in 2nd at their Oak City Revolution dance competition. It was during the first 3 months at site when I didn’t feel productive (mostly due to the spotty Portuguese aspect) and seeing something that I love so much flourishing at home was a very tough moment for me. In that moment, I felt the nostalgia for the confident dancer that slayed the stage with Rangeela while I was experiencing the complete lack of confidence in my everyday interactions.


  1. Dumbest you’ve felt while there?
    • Ohhhhh goodness…. So what had happened was… The school guard has a son whose name is Audacio. Up until literally, I kid you not, 5 days ago, I thought his name was Horacio. I’ve been calling him Horacio for 6 months now. The kicker is, Audacio corrected me in February because I was calling him Agosto, first. So for those of you at home keeping track, I’ve been calling this 10 year old boy, whom I see EVERYDAY, the wrong name for 9 months now. AFTER, unfortunately to no avail, he corrected me after the first 3 months of incorrect greetings. I am so ashamed. I literally can never be mad at anyone for calling me the wrong name again. EVER.
    • The only other really dumb moment that I have had was when I tried to ride a bike and fell flat on my face in front of a ton of small children. But, I’m sure I was getting a big head sometime around then. (That sounds like a John thing to do, right?) So, I’m gonna chalk that one up to god humbling me for pridefulness.


  1. How many people have you met?
    • Way too many to count. How many Mozambicans do I know on a deeper level is a question I think I could more realistically answer. People I would call real Mozambican friends by American close friend standards, I think that I have about 5.


  1. What’s been your favorite day?
    • My favorite day amongst PCV’s was the day that we were leaving Beer Olympics! So beer Olympics itself, was a pretty fun experience to relax with other PCV’s but the journey home was a day I’m certain I wont forget. The location of beer Olympics was buried deep within an expat’s macadamia nut farm about an hour off the main road and down a steep incline. On the day we were leaving it had been raining, so our ride was slow to show up and hesitant to pick us up since they believed the car would get stuck at the bottom of the hill due to the mud, which was only so bad because we had ran out of food for the day. Everyone was a little bit hangry. Finally, the truck showed up. Once everyone (about 15 other PCVs) had jumped in the back of the open back truck and we were on the way home, we started lifting our spirits by playing fishbowl and recounting the tales of the previous day’s events. Suddenly, it started raining…HARD. We all quickly hid underneath a tarp and held on for dear life. Doesn’t this sound like it should be a worst day kinda scenario? But, it wasn’t. We were all laughing the entire time. This moment of lighthearted camaraderie will be something I carry with me for a long time.
    • As far as actually being a volunteer, my favorite moment so far was when Ari and I were walking from the market to the pre-school to teach on one random Wednesday morning. The kids saw us from across a soccer field and immediately started sprinting toward us screaming “Ti-Tio, Ti-Tio” (Uncle- but in the familiar, term of respect, kind of way). It was a mental snapshot moment for sure.


  1. Are you scared of anything?
    • I’m scared of a lot of things. Most notably, I’m still working on my fear of being judged as incompetent, which is probably my biggest hindrance from living life to the fullest here.


  1. How does it feel? You’ve been gone for a year.
    • In the sense of accomplishment of living in a new environment, (in the words of Clay Freeman) absolutely fantastic! The only part of my heart that is aching is the distance that I feel between my close friends back at home. I don’t feel like I know the day to day parts that I was used to. I’m learning to re-define my qualifications of how I can be a supportive friend.


  1. How has your experience affected your dream to go into medicine? What are some specific anecdotes?
    • Tl;dr response: I plan on combining the love I’ve found for work like the Peace Corps with a career in medicine, potentially with an added focus on public health.
    • This is a pretty interesting question. My family would tell you that medical school has always been my goal. And, they’re not wrong. But, I’ve also toyed with the idea of pursuing other passions. Realistically, higher education and community development like what I’m doing in the Peace Corps. (Which ultimately led me to choose the Peace Corps over a spot in medical school last year.) That being said. My heart keeps bringing me back to medicine. I honestly feel like such a millennial because I want to do so many things. But, while medicine is something that is amazing on its own, it is something that can be further enriched when paired with something you’re just as passionate about. I foresee myself combining medicine with my love for college kids for a little while and then combining medicine with work similar to the Peace Corps. (Probably something more or less like Doctors without Borders)
    • Specific anecdotes: When I arrived in Pebane, I saw the first person I’ve ever seen with Polio. The gravity of my privilege hit me pretty hard. I had falsely equated U.S. eradication of the disease as global eradication of the disease. I realized, then, that international medicine holds a piece of my heart; that I will return to a developing country in hopes of spreading this same service to those who don’t have as much governmental money working on their behalves. I come into contact with disease that I never have to worry about in the U.S. on a daily basis in my community here. (Did you know that malaria and a couple other diseases have been eradicated by public health efforts in the U.S. too? A Public Health focused doctor would be able to make a difference here. I think I want to be that for a community someday.
    • I have several other stories that support this main idea, but, for brevity sake, I’ll save them for another time.


  1. How has your experience enriched your acceptance and love for other cultures, and people different from yourself?
    • I think that I prided myself on my acceptance of diversity. That has only continued to flourish here.


  1. What is your favorite aspect of the culture?
    • Ja Passou – “It’s over, It’s passed” – Forgiveness. I’ve never met a Mozambican that truly holds a grudge. They might be upset for a day or two tops but then it’s a clean slate.


  1. What have you been the most surprised about from this experience?
    • Honestly, despite the fact there are some crazy adventures in the PC experience, I think the most surprising aspect is just how easy it was for me to adapt to a regular, routine schedule. I was expecting everyday to be quite unlike the previous day, and that is just not the case.


  1. What events in your life prior to the Peace Corps prepared you the most for this experience? How have they helped?
    • Honestly, I have relied a lot on the small games that I used to break the ice as an Orientation Leader in a lot of my interactions with my youth groups. (Likewise, ive definitely recycled a few different dances from my time in Theta Crew or in Rangeela to teach to those kids.) I also owe a lot to OL for giving me a space to really develop my flexibility and discernment to assess and cater to each individual moment’s needs; these have probably been my two most invaluable assets.
    • I think growing up in a small town definitely helped me adjust to life here. In Enterprise, if you didn’t say hi to someone you knew in Walmart, you should be prepared for world war 3. Same thing here in Pebane.


  1. What concerns do you have for your next year?
    • Realistically, deciding how to spend my time. I have a lot of things that I want to do in year two (join the community soccer league, join the traditional dance team, visit several new places), and the list only gets longer as the days go by. I think prioritizing how to spend my time is gonna be a tough decision.


  1. What have you learned from this experience so far that you’d like the most to bring home with you?
    • Recently, I’ve been allowing myself to do things that I know are not going to work out 100%. Now, while I would ideally like everything to be as successful as it can be, there are plenty of times where a program or an event is going to fall short to some degree of those expectations. And, sometimes, that’s just how life goes. For example, I was recently a judge for a primary school competition that ultimately didn’t have all of the resources it needed to be successful. But, what was most important is that the kids had a good time. The event was far from perfect and had many preventable hiccups, but I would still consider it a success. Coming from a background where I constantly pushed myself to always make things as close to perfect as possible, I find this to be a real challenge. But, I think it is something that will help me out a lot in the future.


  1. How do the government and politics affect your life? How is it different from the US?
    • I read a really great article about this which I will include the link too. I think this person adequately expresses most of my views.
    • That being said, how do I make these views specific to my service? Well dear reader, I will tell you. Almost everyone that learns I’m American is going to eventually bring up Trump at some point. Following this, I get asked a whole slew of questions like why trump doesn’t like black people or Muslims. (which, I feel is pretty heavily alluded to even in international news) To which I respond, I don’t really share the views of my president on this topic. They respond, “ But, if you’re American too, how can you not hold his views?” To which I respond, “Have you liked all of the Mozambican presidents? (Thank you Alexis for that question!) Even Guebuza? (It is almost universally acknowledged that this was a bad president in Mozambique’s history because he was caught stealing a lot of money) Then, we usually can move forward with a bit of a better understanding that the President, often, doesn’t reflect the views of each individual person, and that’s okay.
    • A more direct consequence of the US government is how the new presidential administration is cutting funding for several grants and projects such as Let Girls Learn. This ultimately means that there is less support for a lot of the projects that fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in my country run.


  1. What’s been your favorite food in Mozambique?
    • In Mozambique, I really love a dish called “matapa siri siri”. It’s a rice based dish served with a “sauce” made from the leaves of sweet potato, peanuts, coconut milk, and squid.
    • It is delicious!


  1. What memory have you made that you think you’ll share the most about in the future?
    • It’s hard to say… Mostly in the sense that I don’t normally talk about myself to begin with. Better yet, I think it’ll depend on the environment that I’m in… but a more direct answer would probably be getting charged by an elephant or seeing a wild lion (both on a safari).


  1. How do you cope with not having your family for two years?
    • Honestly, this is one of the most difficult parts. This is the most emotionally distant that I have ever felt from my core loved ones, which is pretty tough. In perspective, I think that I’m lucky to be able to call my family on a consistent basis. I also write letters which I think helps me maintain that personal connection.


  1. How does it feel knowing you only have a year left to tame a lion?
    1. Step 1: See wild lion. Check! (Previously mentioned in Question 17)
    2. Step 2: Tame said wild lion. (In progress)
  • As you can see from my to do list, I’m already half way there, with half of my service remaining. So, you could say I’m fairly confident!


  1. What’s been the hardest lifestyle change/part of everyday living in Mozambique?
    • Not being able to blend in. EVER. Straight up, even amongst my friends at school or in the market. I will always be the outsider. I might be a welcomed outsider, but an outsider none the less.


  1. What’s been the most interesting thing about Mozambique? What do you wish the US had that Mozambique has?
    • Love for dance. The dance friendly environment. I feel like in many American subcultures, there is not a universal love to dance. In Mozambique, nearly everyone will dance to a good beat, and, of the few that don’t dance immediately, many will dance if minorly prompted. I also love just how much they encourage and play off each other in dance.


  1. How have your values changed?
    • I think some of my core values (human connectedness, honesty, loyalty and genuineness) haven’t really changed at all. I definitely think that I don’t value material possessions as much. In fact, I think I never realized how much value I put into material things and appearance until I got here.


  1. What aspect of your personality is the most different from before? (ex: are you more of a troll?)
    • So, unfortunately for all of you people, I’m still as trifling as ever; I wouldn’t say more trifling, just the same. I feel like I am much more independent than I was. I think in the states I was constantly surrounding myself with people to do anything. But, now there are a lot of times I actively choose to go to the beach solo.


  1. Have you gotten used to living without western technology/aid? (Used to living without easy access to water, all kinds of food, and stuff we take for granted?)
    • Sure have. I still think I am a lot more privileged than I was expecting to be, but I definitely have learned how to live pretty comfortably in a less developed part of the world.


  1. Can you talk about the growth you’ve seen in one/some of your students?
    • There is one girl in my English Theater group who Ari and I cast as the lead role because we thought she was perfect for it. The group, much like Mozambican culture, is highly male dominated, so she definitely felt the initial pressure of having this role. She even asked to step down from the role after the second practice. We consoled her that she was capable of playing the role and not only that we thought she was perfect for it. She went home and learned all of her lines and came back to deliver them fantastically. But, she also expounded upon them herself. And, now, even the guys in the group that originally thought they should have been the lead are giving her props on her acting ability and confidence!


  1. Can you send me the link to your blog?
    • Yes, Sid. 😉


  1. How much did/do you miss home? Or what is the thing that you miss the most?
    • There is a three-way tie for the thing I miss the most… Peanut butter & bacon milkshake from Sonic, the entire Chick-Fil-A menu (with special attention to the cookies and cream milkshake), and my mother’s mashed potatoes.
    • I think I really miss the people and the familiarity. But, I am really enjoying being in a new place. I think my momma always knew that I was gonna be a traveler.


  1. How have you learned to make Moz home?
    • I feel like my interactions with other people are what really define a “home” for me. Therefore, I owe much credit on this “home” to my host family and my PCV family. They give me a safe space to relax and feel like I’m not a representative of the entire U.S. for a moment. I feel as if I am always overflowing with laughter and positive energy when I am around them.


  1. Are you ever coming back?
    • December 2018. The better question, is how long until your next adventure? And that my dear friend, I do not know.


  1. What advice would you give to yourself a year ago when you were struggling with the decision of going?
    • Life is ever changing. Change can be a good thing. You’re only young and wild and free (even when you have wiz khalifa and snoop dog singing to you) for a little bit of your life; embrace it.


  1. Who is your favorite person yet?
    • My host brother. Nicolsee is such a gentle, innocent, and fun-loving soul. He has always helped me, put up with my constant Portuguese struggle and included me in all of his plans (except sometimes when his cool friends are around. Then, I become the lame older brother that can’t hang out with his own friends.)


  1. What is your favorite place so far?
    • As far as place in Pebane, I really love the cliff out by the beach. One side of the cliff is a gorgeous rocky beach and the other side is a picturesque white sand beach. I love walking there on days that I feel overwhelmed or frustrated. It helps me put things back in perspective. It makes me feel small again.


  1. Can you really cook? Or is the food just edible?
    • First off, ouch. Lack of faith. Secondly, you’re probably right. It’s mostly just edible to above average. Definitely not going to be the next Rachel ray.


  1. Did you make the right choice?
    • Who can honestly ever answer this type of question with 100% certainty? Do I believe, right now, that I made the right choice? Yes. Yes I do. I think that I had this adventure locked up inside of me, and I’m not sure that I was ready (am ready) to start settling down on a career path or any real concrete life decisions.


  1. Biggest regret of something you should have done before you left? And promise me you’ll have no regrets when you leave Moz.
    • Before I left, I honestly should have told more people how much they meant to me. Better yet, I should have done more individualized acts of kindness to show those people how much they meant to me.
    • I can promise I’ll try.


  1. What is your favorite part of teaching? And what is your biggest challenge teaching?
    • My favorite part of teaching is making jokes the students laugh at. (Not much has changed since my OL days.)
    • My biggest challenge in teaching is knowing each of my students/ keeping control of each of my students in my 100 student classrooms. It can honestly go from well-maintained to complete chaos in seconds. It also is impossible to know if everyone understands, especially since kids ridicule each other (despite my best efforts) for asking questions


  1. What is the thing that shocked you most this past year? How has it changed you
    • I think another unexpected (shocking) thing for me was how much I relied (rely) on fellow PCV’s. I think coming into Peace Corps I was very much expecting to be stationed on my own far away from all other American contact. But, I think my core group of Peace Corps friends have definitely made a place for themselves in my heart and are an essential part of this experience for me.


  1. How easy was it to adapt to your surroundings?
    • I would say it was a pretty normal experience. I can’t directly point out one particular thing that was particularly hard. The heat sucks still. It’s not my favorite thing in the world to go without electricity for a month at at time or carry water from the well. But, I don’t find it incredibly taxing anymore either.


  1. Is there anything that you would do differently from this past year?
    • Yea, I think that I would actually get Portuguese lessons from someone in my community. I think feeling more confident in Portuguese earlier would have definitely let me start initiating conversations with people sooner.


  1. Are you excited about the time that you have left?
    • Definitely! I think this will be a year where I can get some cool things accomplished, and I know a lot more people, so just walking around town is much more enjoyable.


  1. What did you think your biggest challenge/adjustment was going to be? What was your biggest challenge/ adjustment?
    • So I thought my biggest challenge was going to be leaving people behind. And while that was difficult, my biggest challenge is definitely conducting all of my everyday things in a second language that I’ve only been speaking for a little over a year now.


  1. What are a few things you learned about yourself throughout the past year?
    • I definitely know that I want to settle down eventually. Well, at least a good chunk of my life.
    • I was having a conversation with a close PCV friend and we were discussing how much we were proud of the self confidence we had gained throughout this year. It’s an amazing thing to overcome self-confidence issues in your first language. It’s equally as hard/ rewarding to begin to overcome self-confidence issues starting from ground zero in your second language. So, to answer the question, I think I’ve learned more about my resilience.


  1. How do you think it would have been if you did Peace Corps like 20 years ago when you didn’t have access to technology and internet?
    • Dude, that would have been so much harder. I think they deserve a lot of bragging rights, and I’m sure that they got so close to their community after two years…. But, it would have been so much harder.

International Model

My International Modeling career. (featuring Victoria Falls)

Falls with Karizzle

The best travel partner, Karizzle and I.

I saw real life lions friends!!!!!!!!


Beira Shipwreck


Birthday Bashes

In honor of one year, here are photos from the KAJDAJ Photoshoot.

Cool Group Shot

If not us, then who?

June 20, 2017

“But Ari,” I asked with hesitation evident in my voice, “how can we lead an all girls group?” I was incredibly scared of how to handle the tougher questions associated with life as a woman in Mozambique. I doubted my competence to give advice or empathize with the concerns my female students would have. These fears were dissuading me from even considering this as a potential project.


Fast-forward a couple of weeks to a conversation on gender equality between some young men from around town and me. “Tio John, we always have to keep our work and home lives separate. If our boss stresses us out, we can’t bring that home with us. But, after a long day, if our wives frustrate us, we can’t control ourselves,” they said.

“So, when your boss frustrates you, you don’t hit him. But, when your wife frustrates you, you can hit her. Why?” was my response. (Also, credit for this question goes to my buddy Chris.)

“Tio John, you’re not understanding well. We don’t mix our work lives and our home lives.”

“Right. But, why are you allowed to hit your wife but not your boss?”

“Because our boss is in our work life and our wife is in our home life. Those lives are different.”

“But, why can you treat these two stressors differently? Why are these two different interactions?”

“Tio John, you aren’t understanding. We don’t mix our work and home lives.”


I was at a loss for words when my questioning couldn’t bring about any perspective shift in those students. I couldn’t believe that I had to directly explain that I thought the reason they wouldn’t hit their boss was because he was a superior; he was seated in a place of power. Contrarily, they viewed their wives, Mozambican women, as inferior making them think their actions were justifiable. This circular conversation demonstrates how deeply rooted in Mozambican society gender inequality can potentially be.

I’m not writing this post to shame Mozambican men. Not all of them share these views. Undoubtedly, there is a wide range of beliefs and opinions on this topic from both men and women, both Mozambican and American. From my experiences thus far, I wanted to write this post to raise awareness to some of the gender inequality Mozambican women face. Women here are up against a society that has traditionally valued and continues to value males over females. Women have to work much harder to have a voice in this male-dominated environment. Peace Corps volunteers of yore recognized this too and started a girls’ empowerment project known as REDES. Raparigas Em Desenvolvimento, Educação, e Saúde- Girls in Development, Education, and Health. Luckily, Ari went to a training on how to create a REDES group and started one in Pebane despite my reluctance to devote time to this cause.

During our first REDES meeting in Pebane, one girl confided in the group that she was living alone. Her parents tried to force her to get married at a young age, but she wanted to continue her studies. Her parents wouldn’t have that, so she had to leave home to do what she thought best for her future. Now, as a 16 year old, she completely supports herself while continuing her education as a high school 9th grader. If this doesn’t scream that the Mozambican woman is strong, then I don’t know what will.

The grit and perseverance of the Mozambican woman pervades into the everyday lives of my students. I have so many female students who take care of their families, carry water from the well, work on the farm, clean the house, cook all the meals, along with a whole bunch of other responsibilities, and, then, they come to school. (The kicker is that they do all of these things with a baby cradled in capulana strapped on their backs.)

Coincidentally, the Portuguese word “redes” also means net. An interwoven connection of thread whose strength relies on the ties to its neighbors, A net’s power is derived from the unity of the whole. It’s important for these girls to hear these stories of strong Mozambican women. They need a safe place to share their struggles and successes, a place to strengthen their ties to one another. REDES can give a platform for these stories to be heard, bring these students together and build them up.

I recently participated as an HIV facilitator at the Zambézia provincial REDES workshop where more than 60 girls ranging in age from 10-20 years old gathered to share experiences. Though, admittedly, I have never attended an all girls slumber party, I imagine this conference acted as breeding grounds for the largest one Zambezia has ever seen. There was dancing, making friendship bracelets, staying up late, playing games, singing songs, and confiding in friends both old and new. Beyond having fun, these girls were educated on topics such as HIV/AIDS, puberty, women’s rights, healthy relationships, self esteem, women’s health, communication strategies, educational opportunities, and professional opportunities. I saw brilliant, creative, and strong young women from all over Zambézia speak up at this conference. I saw young women ready to take on the world, ready to fight for their futures. I saw young women equipped to pursue their dreams of being Mozambique’s (and the world’s) next physicians, teachers, and businesswomen. I experienced yet again that the Mozambican woman is powerful. And when that power is harnessed, she can bring so much positive change to her community. She deserves a fair chance, an equal chance.

“If not us, then who?” Looking back, that is the question I should have asked myself in my initial conversation with Ari. “Who is going to give a platform for these women to tell their stories? For these women to be heard? Who is going to speak up for their rights? Who is going to work to create opportunities for these girls to advance themselves? Who is going to tell them they can be more than their current circumstances? I believe this responsibility to empower our fellow human being lies within each of us. So I ask again, ‘If not us, John, then who?’”


P.S. This conference included 3 nutritious meals a day, cost of transportation to and from the conference, lodging for 3 nights, a conference T-shirt, and all the materials that the girls needed for the conference. All of this together cost a measly $13 per girl. Crazy right?

P.P.S. I recognize that a single 3-day conference probably won’t solve all of the problems these girls are facing, nor am I naïve enough to say that this change will happen rapidly or efficiently. But, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to do something. This personal call to arms was my main motivator for this post.

Pebane Girls Day 1.jpg

Pebane representing on Day 1 of the conference. We were the first to arrive!

Day 2 w:o John

Pebane Girls take on Day 2!Pebane Girls day 3

Taking on Day 3.Pebane Girls with Certificates

After we got our certificates!After Conference Ice Cream

We don’t get to go to the city often, but when we do, ice cream is a must!Group Pic 2

Group picture of all of the girls there!PC Volunteers Squading

Only the coolest REDES PCV’s that Zambezia has ever seen! (Well part of them at least)


Some of my thoughts on Peace Corps Time

May 23, 2017

“Aquecer, Aquecer, Aquecer” – “to warm up” – was my host brother’s attempt at finding motivation to convince his body that he wanted to swim that day, as he jogged in place on the Pebane shore. Weather, which is chilly to most Mozambicans, greeted me with the memory of the Alabama change of seasons. Somehow, the first Alabama autumn winds have found me and have begun to usher out summer here in Pebane. This season change accompanied by the overcast afternoon made entering the water an extended process for my host brother, which I just so happened to capitalize on with my A+ teasing game.

Eventually, after observing my brother’s calisthenics became too boring, I waded out in to the ocean on my own, assured that my host brother wouldn’t be far behind. After I had made it out a ways in the ebb and flow of the tide, I looked back to witness my host brother running sprints to gain the courage necessary to join me. I chuckled to myself as I thought, “It’s gonna be hard to leave him in 18 months.” 18 months.

In the big picture, Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment. At every step of the way, pre-departure, pre-service training, PCV meet-ups, calls to friends and family in the states, so on and so forth, I am reminded of both how much time I’ve spent here and how much time I have left. This concept of time in the context of the Peace Corps experience in Mozambique elicits such mixed emotions in me.

Thinking about my time spent here reminds me of “the goal” of 27 months, and how much I have accomplished so far. Thinking about the time I have remaining heightens my awareness that my time here is finite. My days left to accomplish things are numbered. 18 months is my deadline.

When I view the main goal of my time as reaching the end of a 27-month service, I find myself trying to derive too much meaning from the everyday moments. I feel the pressure to quicken the pace on my path to self-discovery. While I can hope that I will feel proud of my highs and lows of service either way after my time here has passed, my original goal was never merely “to last” 27 months, as if enduring the time would be my main source of personal growth and my primary contribution to the community. On the contrary, I want to experience life to the fullest with the time that I have here; I want to make contributions as a community member. I know that at the finish line I will be eager to see my friends and family again, but I don’t want simply completing my service or my thoughts of life after Peace Corps to detract from my experience in the here and now.

This “deadline” to accomplish as much as possible with my time here also sparks some internal debate. At times, 18 months feels like nowhere near enough time to make projects sustainable. Plus, the constant reminder of my 18-month deadline inflates my emotional currency. How should I best spend my time and effort? With the time that I have, how do I adequately nurture the relationships with my host family and other people I’ve grown close to in Pebane, give myself enough personal time to process this experience, AND carve out time to teach class and make secondary projects sustainable? Depending on the point in the day, I’m constantly transitioning from viewing time as a goal to viewing it as a deadline.

On the day to day scale, a PCV once told me that the days go by slow but the weeks go by fast. This has been the most accurate description of me experience of the speed of time. In the middle of a slow day, I find myself daydreaming about the next conference, the next weekend with other PCV’s, or the next big activity. At the end of the week, I’m left wondering where all the time during that week escaped. At this moment, I find my American anxiety creeping up on me. I feel that I should forever be busy, always working with optimum efficiency toward a deadline. I catch myself, take a deep breath, relax, and remember that things move much more slowly here in Mozambique. Time here is much more relative.

18 months. That’s the time that I have left in Mozambique. I still haven’t quite figured out how I will view this time or how I want to view this time in the grand scheme of things. But, I’m willing to accept the dissonance that these unanswered questions bring in the time being.

I rejoined my brother on the beach. He never did get warmed up enough to meet me in the Indian Ocean. We walked in the sea foam for a bit longer before we began our journey home still teasing each other, still laughing. When the overcast clouds decided that they could take no more, it began to rain. Then, it dawned on me. Maybe, this whole time my host brother wasn’t warming up to get in the ocean at all. Perhaps, he was always warming up for the walk home.

Nicolsee Beach Day