The views expressed here are mine alone, and do not represent the views, policies or intentions of the U.S. Peace Corps, the United States government, or the University of Florida.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

6 Month Update - Please Help Support Me and Amanda!

12/24/2011, Gainesville FL, USA

Like an already powerful river with seemingly endless numbers of converging tributaries, life has been pushing my modest raft forward at an ever increasing rate. I am already finding fewer and fewer opportunities to paddle towards the widening banks to gain prolonged relief from life’s strong currents. I can only imagine that this is a trend for the future! Today, however, marks the first day of one of those rare calms: two precious weeks of vacation following an end-of-the semester preceptorship at a local family practitioner’s office.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s not that these rushing currents are undesired.

In fact, God has blessed me greatly with many wonderful things that have kept me continually learning and growing. In the 6+ months since I left Nauela and Mozambique, I’ve knowingly paddled back out into the river’s center and its push has really picked up. So much has changed and yet almost all of it has been amazing!

Since I last posted on this blog, my first semester in medical school has already come and gone. In that time, I was voted by my classmates to be our Class President and between those responsibilities, school, family, friends, Amanda, and church, I’ve been pressed at times to simply stay afloat. That said, I performed extremely well in all my classes, made new friendships and strengthen old ones, delved into a new church family and made a lasting commitment to the love of my life – that’s right! Amanda and I finally got engaged on December 16th. We don’t know the date of our wedding yet, but we’ll keep you all updated :-)

One of our biggest considerations when choosing our wedding date was a mission trip to Angola that both Amanda and I know God has been calling us to go on. Some of you avid blog followers may remember the birth of this trip back during our time in Mozambique when we became good friends with the Fosters, a missionary couple that has been in Mozambique for over 25 years, whose brother has been a surgeon running a mission hospital in rural Angola for the past 11 years (http://www.ceml.net/). Even before our arrival back in the States we started an internet correspondence with him about the possibility of our visit and it has bloomed into a conversation about simply working out the monetary payments and travel logistics. While my role at the hospital will mainly be surrounding the medical treatment, Amanda is planning on being an auxiliary component for the hospital’s evangelical mission. We know that this will be an incredibly shaping experience for us, centering our marriage on God and towards the service of others.

If you are reading this blog now and feel compelled, we are currently asking all our friends and family for both monetary and prayerful support. The current expected cost of the month long trip for the two of us is $8000 including airfare, visas, and our daily costs of living. Checks can be made out to Michael Tudeen and mailed to 1210 NW 36th Rd. Gainesville, FL 32609 or if you want to receive a tax receipt, please let me know in advance and I can work with an associated mission to get you the tax deduction. If neither of those options work for you, please contact me and I’ll get back to you ASAP to talk with you.

If you have any questions for me or would ever like to catch up, please contact me at 352-278-5194 or drop me a line at mtudeen@gmail.com.

One Love,
Michael Tudeen

P.S. - Below are some pictures post-Mozambique

Amanda with Tricia (my brother's fiance), my mom, and my sister, Mariah.

Amanda and I at Mariah's wedding before the reception.

Amanda and I at her first Gator game! Go Gators!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wiado Ibrahim, 39 - Baker

Whether the daily schedule is full or not, my watch’s alarm goes off at 7am on the dot. While that may sound early, or at least normal, for some of you back at home, that’s incredibly late for many of Nauela’s residents who are up before the sun at 4am sweeping their dirt patios and pumping water. And even though my drooping eyelids are always pleading for a few more minutes of shuteye, I usually feel too guilty to stay in bed any later than that. Although I have never gotten completely used to this daily program, there’s always a carrot dangling in front of me that keeps me from snoozing for too long. You see, at almost precisely that same morning hour, most days Wiado leaves his house for the market carrying in tow a basket full of precious goodies worth their weight in gold: freshly made bread.

And it’s never a good feeling to start the day by just missing the baker as he rides away (cute rhyme, right?!)

After over a year of conditioning, my body seems to have adapted, programming itself to jerk awake just before the alarm goes off in order to ensure that I don’t miss out on my window of opportunity. Rushing through the house and swinging my front door wide open, I often peer out across the street to see if there are any signs hinting that my neighbor has been busy this morning making bread: smoke rising through the kitchen’s thatch roof, a large bread basket outside waiting to be filled, his kids anxiously darting back and forth across the yard awaiting their share of the morning’s haul – one glorious pãozinho not five minutes removed from the clay oven.

If there are any of these signs or not though, on most days I’ll likely make the two second journey across the road to see if Wiado is baking his locally-famous bread (arguably the best in town due to its generous portion size and slight tinge of sweetness, as well as it not being too dense or under/over-baked). Unfortunately for me, there have been a lot of things that have kept him from making bread these days (i.e., tending to his machamba and repairing the area water pumps) and I’ve either had to simply go without or make the three kilometer trek to the market in order to buy some subpar substitutes from another vender.

It just isn’t the same though.

When you buy the bread in the market it is at least several hours, if not a full day, old. And anyone who has grown used to eating fresh bread knows there’s just no comparison - the weight and substance of bread combined with extreme fluffiness and warmth… if you crack it open and slather the inside with peanut butter and honey, the combination tastes better than any pretender ever could.

Today I’m lucky and triumphantly return home with 10 fresh fist-sized pãozinhos, most of which I devour instantly.


Born just outside of Quelimane in the administrative post of Maquivale in 1972, Wiado enjoyed a relatively peaceful childhood alongside his five younger brothers. He attended school until finishing 7th grade and was a familiar face at the local mosque’s Qur’an studies (he can both read and speak basic Arabic). All that changed, however, when Wiado was forcefully enlisted into the army to help supplement FRELIMO’s depleted ground forces in their war against RENAMO. Having just turned 16, it was determined that Wiado was old enough, i.e. strong enough to hold a gun steady, to enter the heat of battle. His younger brothers meanwhile, still too small, were spared and left behind with their parents.

Almost immediately, Wiado was sent up to the Nauela region where he would be stationed for four long years. Although there was regular crossfire, the FRELIMO military strategy in the area was largely defensive. Wiado’s division made camp on top of Mount Nauela (a glorified hill really) and created a protected village at its base for as many local residents as possible.

Food, clothing, and water were precious commodities in the makeshift village, but it was far better than living outside its imaginary walls. “They [the people in the bush] lived like dogs, always running away from something with no clothes on and nothing to eat” reflects Wiado’s wife. Indeed, with the help of the FRELIMO army, the protected villagers ate regularly and had at least some ragged clothes to wear. Even when supporting forces were slow to provide the garrison with their food rations (coming from Gurue or Molócuè), the area soldiers would band together and go out into the night to steal food from the fields of nearby RENAMO farmers - a practice that has deepened hatred between the sides to this day.

It was in this war-stricken scenario that Wiado, a young lonely soldier, fell in love with and married his current wife. Kept in close proximity throughout the war, the couple never spent more than a few hours apart after having first met in base camp. That said, they lived completely different lives during those first few years. While Wiado thrived off adrenaline, busily marauding around shooting off various weapons (e.g., bazookas, AK 47s, etc. ), his wife and the other civilians simply had to endure the long, drawn out waiting game that the war had become. Periodically, the FRELIMO stronghold would receive national updates about the war from radio broadcasts that would provide some hope. Ultimately, however, all anyone was trying to do was survive the present day and all its hurdles.

Upon the fall of the Soviet Union (one of the main financial backers of FRELIMO), FRELIMO was quickly forced to the negotiation table, putting an end to the war with RENAMO (heavily financed by South Africa and the U.S.) in exchange for the promise of democratic elections. Even after the war officially ended though, people were hesitant to be at ease. After all, roaming bands of gunsmen were still prevalent throughout the countryside. Soon, however, various peace keeping entities partnered with the UN began appearing in the area to help with the process of disarmament. The foreigners offered good money to buy up various weapons and the small militias, short on ammo and desperate for cash, quickly handed them over.

In the months that followed, Wiado traveled back home to Quelimane to let his parents know he was still alive and well. This visit was brief though because he needed to quickly return to Nauela to start building a post-war life around his new family. For several years, Wiado’s budding family lived just down the road in Eiope where they tended to their machamba. During this same time period, Wiado sought out extra income by frequenting Nampula City in order to buy capulanas and sell them at Nauela’s marketplace. When the family eventually decided to move closer to town though, Wiado looked into another profession: bread making.

Approaching an elderly woman who had made bread during the civil war for the soldiers, Wiado asked if she would be willing to teach him the business’s ins and outs. At once the lady obliged because she had long since grown tired of the all the hard labor the bread making process required and was looking for someone to pass the baton to. Truth be told, in order to make bread in a rural setting without electricity, the actual preparation of the dough is the least of one’s worries.

First you must spend several days or weeks constructing a brick oven. No easy task… it’s like building a mud house, but smaller. Once that is finally completed, the day before making a batch of bread, you need to go buy and lug a sack of flour (~45 lbs) back to your house (Wiado routinely bikes 20 miles (!) to find flour at a reasonable rate). Then, right before evening time, you can’t forget to go out into the bush to collect a huge stack of firewood to heat up the oven the next morning.

Having not prepared any bread yet, you can finally rest easy… but not for long!

The next “morning,” around 2am, you wake up to start a fire in order to heat up your newly built clay oven. While the wood burns inside the oven, you can busy yourself preparing the dough. Next, as the wood’s embers begin to cool, you remove and set them aside, all the while cleaning the oven’s bottom surface where the dough will soon be placed. Although the embers have been taken out, the clay oven retains so much heat that it is easily able to cook 200+ pieces of bread.

With careful management of one’s time, and a little bit of luck, you can make it to the market and start selling around 7am, the time when demand for bread is the greatest. You wake up at the obscene hour mentioned above because if you don’t get your bread out early enough, you will likely spend all day trying to sell it in a slow market. If you are able to sell it all early however, that will enable you to relax a little before going out and searching for more firewood for the next day’s haul (a sack of flour will last you two or three days of bread making).

Even after all this work, the profit margin in the stingy market is very thin and seemingly hardly worth the effort. Depending on market variables, a sack’s worth of flour will produce a profit of about 300 mets (only $10!), but requires several days of work. Yet somehow bread making is one of the most reliable sources of income in all of Nauela. This is mostly due to the fact that people in Mozambique have practically become addicted to bread, or pãozinho, a tradition brought in by the Portuguese.

When Wiado first started as a baker in the years immediately after the civil war he was the only one for a long time in the area who made bread. Now after having five kids (two girls and three boys), he has to support a large family and the market is flooded with new start-up entrepreneurs. Along the way, due to his hard work ethic and reliability (as a Muslim he doesn’t drink alcohol), Wiado was appointed to be local water pump mechanic (a semi-skilled job that can earn him upwards of 200 mets a day). Now, between bread, his fields, and water pumps, he never gets a break… but that’s just how he likes it. Not only is he making some good money, but he’s also supporting the community around him.


Today, Wiado’s parents are still alive and well living in Quelimane. His younger brothers, however, are now spread throughout central Mozambique (Tete, Chimoio, and Zambezia provinces). Luckily, he was the only one in his immediate family who was ever enlisted into the army and had to fight.

That said, it’s still hard for me to imagine that this fun-loving man was once a soldier shooting and killing his “enemies.” I put quotation marks back there because most people didn’t choose sides but were forcefully coerced into fighting for one side or the other. Nowadays, however, these feelings have been validated by numerous transgressions by both sides during the war. Even today, when people go to their respective political rallies here in Mozambique (which are numerous and well attended), they are simply reverting back to their sides of the battlefield. Most people can’t tell you much about FRELIMO and RENAMO’s political philosophy except that they are communists (RENAMO’s outdated response even today) or that they are terrorists (FRELIMO referring to RENAMO’s destructive war tactics).

Sadly, both opinions are simply antiquated propaganda of the war time era. Although they might be off base and not well expressed, ultimately the comments reflect a sharp societal divide, a huge scar that has not yet fully healed. Although it’s hard to think that sometime in the near future Mozambicans will be able to put this war behind them and move forward, I have hope seeing people like Wiado making incredibly positive strides in the community.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I know that I said that I was done... well I am! But I also wanted to update the blog's other elements and draw your attention to them. Over the next several weeks I'll be working on a few stories to finish up the "Working Hard in Mozambique" page, so if you like this story and want to read more, check out the link on the right.

Velosa Vasco Freitas, 53 – Teacher

While observing village life in Mozambique, one easily notices that most women are socialized from a very young age to be relatively timid and reserved, especially so around their male counterparts. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising to discover that there are not many leaders in the whole administrative post of Nauela who are females. In fact, the large majority that are present here are not of local talent, but rather young, bright-eyed teachers that have been recently imported from urban centers across the province. Velosa is an exception. To say that she stands out only because of her accomplishments in regards to her gender and origins, however, would be false.

All the while remaining culturally respectful to the opposite sex, Velosa holds quite a presence wherever and with whoever she may be. Although she is not an official community leader (a position normally reserved for elders who are no longer working), her accolades are no less remarkable. Now going on 35 years of teaching at the primary school level, Velosa has been at her profession as long as Mozambique has been an independent state (how many people in the world can say that?!). That relatively uninterrupted work schedule includes years spanning the civil war where she continued to teach even in the thick of battle. Thriving in the years since the peace agreements, having been skillfully molded by her life experiences, Velosa now stands as a beacon of hope and an example for all of Nauela and Mozambique.


Like so many Mozambicans during colonial times, Velosa came from a poor, yet plentiful lineage. Born in 1958, just a stone’s throw from her current residence in Nauela, Velosa was her mother’s third child of eight (two brothers and six sisters). Both of her brothers passed away at a relatively young age and none of her sisters had interest in doing anything other than what their ancestors had already been doing for as long as anyone could remember – living off the land as a subsistence farmer.

While her sisters and other peers hop-scotched back and forth, in and out of school, Velosa was academically determined from a young age. Unlike so many of her female counterparts growing up, Velosa had almost no interest in getting married young. Indeed she had much bigger plans: a dream of one day becoming a teacher (back during colonial times, only a select few educated Mozambicans were allowed to become teachers).

Working to attain that goal, Velosa attended school at the catholic mission just outside of Nauela until 1973. At 15 years old, an age by which most local women had long since been married, Velosa had the privilege of being able to say that she had completed 4th grade - the maximum level of education available in Nauela at the time. Had she had the money, she would have liked to continue studying in Molócuè, Quelimane, or Nampula until 10th grade or beyond, but that just wasn’t financially feasible for her money-strapped family. At this point, with no jobs open, a looming war in sight, and no more educational opportunities to be had, things stalled for the anxious Velosa.

In the years that followed, many of the affluent assimilated Mozambicans who were Velosa’s classmates at the Catholic mission were sent off to fight for the Portuguese army to combat the growing disruptive force FRELIMO. Some of these men returned home after the war (known as the War for Independence after FRELIMO dethroned the Portuguese colonial government), but several notables weren’t immediately heard from again, leaving doubt as to their fate.

After Mozambique’s independence in 1975, an opportunity arose when a cousin of Velosa’s became the newly appointed local government secretary. Knowing that they’d be looking for many more teachers to accommodate for the sudden influx of Mozambican students, the secretary asked Velosa if she would be able to start teaching adult literacy classes just down the road in Eiope. She quickly accepted. After giving several literacy courses over a year’s time, the young Velosa was eventually invited to join others in taking an official teaching exam that would be held the following week at her old stomping grounds, the Catholic mission. Studying intently for the entire week, Velosa passed the exam with ease. Velosa could now be integrated into the budding public education system, fulfilling her childhood dream at only 18 years old. In total, fifty-plus individuals took and passed the teaching exam that day, only 8 of them were females though.

Things were looking up for Velosa. Mozambique was now an independent state which allowed her many new freedoms and consequently she was finally realizing her dream of becoming a teacher. Almost at this exact same time, her family received an unsolicited letter from Francisco Janeiro asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Unheard of since he had been sent away to fight for the Portuguese against FRELIMO, Janeiro was the son of a wealthy farmer (he had several field laborers who actually did the work) in Nauela and also one of Velosa’s classmates back at the Catholic mission.

Turns out, Janeiro had moved to Beira after fighting in Tete province for the Portuguese, but was now interested in marrying a woman from back home. As Janeiro wrote the card that would ultimately guide his life’s destiny, he tried hard to remember any specific names of girls he had found alluring back in his younger days at school.

As fate would have it, the name that jumped out above the rest happened to be: Velosa Vasco Frietas.

Surprised, yet interested in the marriage proposal now after having finished school, Velosa wrote cards back and forth with Janeiro for some time before he came and officially visited her in Nauela. After a few more years of getting to know one another via correspondence and sporadic visits, Janeiro and Velosa were officially married in Nauela on October 2nd, 1978.

Velosa, Janeiro, and some neighbors posing with me for a photo

Throughout the courtship, starting in February 1976, Velosa began teaching kids, 1st through 3rd grade, on a yearly rotation between the area’s various primary schools. She started in Eiope (where she had been teaching the literacy classes), next moved to the catholic mission, then on to Maloa, and finally back to Eiope. Even though she had a job, her life at this time was not glamorous or posh. In fact, she never even had a permanent residence at these schools. Instead, she would live in makeshift housing or with relatives while she moved from place to place. It’s important to note that Velosa didn’t teach at the big school in Nauela during this time though because the wife of one of the white Portuguese merchants was still teaching there even after the Portuguese government had long since been disposed of (many Portuguese didn’t leave the area until the communist government nationalized everything in 1977-78).

After their wedding, Velosa temporarily left Nauela and travelled to Sofala province where Janeiro still lived and worked as an agronomic chief for a large farm called Mafambici (spelling?). Only 6 months later, however, a very pregnant Velosa was forced to make the trek back home alone - after all, it’s against local tradition for a woman to give birth to her first child away from her home. In 1979, their first of four children, Augustinho (now working as a primary school teacher in Morrumbala) was born. After giving birth, Velosa stayed put in Nauela for 6 months, allowing herself and the child to grow strong and healthy before making the trip back to Sofala (a full two day trip because one night had to be spent awaiting transport following the boat crossing on the Zambezia river - this was before civil war wreaked havoc on the country’s roads and transportation) in order to show the healthy baby boy to the father.

Practically no sooner had Velosa and the infant made it safely to Sofala, than they turned around and came back to Nauela. Despite their marriage, Velosa and Janeiro knew that they were lucky to both have reliable jobs and neither could afford give that up… even with the terrible inconvenience of constantly having to travel back and forth between provinces. Thus it was decided: the couple would spend the next several years leading up to the civil war separated, visiting one another only sporadically for two weeks or so at a time but still managing to have three kids nonetheless.

Around 1986, as the civil war really started getting serious in northern Zambezia, Janeiro cautiously made his way back to Nauela. Not long after having made it home however, RENAMO entered and sent cards out to the various leaders in the area requesting their presence the following afternoon. Janeiro was one of many who received the dreaded invitation, but fearing the worst, he left his wife and three kids with her parents that same evening and fled, walking from Nauela to Molócuè - a distance stretching over some 30 miles.

Arriving in Molócuè the next morning, Janeiro had to think fast. He sought out the help of an affluent Portuguese family who were good friends of his father and, upon hearing Janeiro’s predicament, the wealthy merchant gave Janeiro eight sacks of corn to transport and sell in Nampula City. With the money he raised from this rapid commodity transaction, Janeiro was able to buy a plane ticket back to Beira, but unable to inform his family directly about his plan.

Janeiro spent most of the next seven years within the confines of the relatively secure city of Beira. His wife and family, on the other hand, weren’t as lucky. Like so many others in Nauela, they were stuck. Upon RENAMO’s arrival into the community, the troops forcefully recruited Velosa and others to join their ranks – giving them a rather unappealing alternative: join the other side and we’ll kill you. Velosa was an asset as a teacher and thus was instructed to continue to give lessons. Even as the war raged around them, Velosa continued to teach classes inside makeshift grass and mud huts. To help sustain Velosa and her family, students brought whatever they could scrounge up: corn, beans, and field mice. Deprived of even the most basic learning tools, the students and teachers used twigs to write notes on available banana leaves. At some points, RENAMO soldiers brought writing pads that were no doubt stolen from who knows where. Sometimes Velosa and others would come across teachers and students who had been massacred and left to rot in the bush because they supposedly hadn’t been teaching things the soldiers liked. It was all incredibly unnerving, but especially so for Velosa.

When the war finally came to an end in 1992, Janeiro cautiously began his journey back to Nauela. Though he repeated received assurances from war-torn refugees that his family was still alive, there was always doubt because the news was typically several months old. From Beira, Janeiro first stopped in Quelimane and spent nearly a month asking around to see if anyone had any up-to-date information regarding his family. Although the news was inconclusive, he got bits and pieces hinting that most of the fighting in the Molócuè area had stopped, albeit there were still some roaming bands of fighters.

He decided to risk it.

After several days more of travel, his caravan pulled into Alto Molócuè where he spent an entire week before making the final leg of his journey. Eventually he was able to find a friend who believed Janeiro’s family was still alive and was willing to accompany him out into the bush to look for them. Arriving in Nauela, they had no trouble locating all of his family minus his middle child who had grown sick and died during the war.

Even after undergoing this tragedy, Janeiro was reluctant to permanently move back to Nauela and Velosa was unwilling to move away. In the years that followed, Velosa gave birth to one more child, Dulce, as things began to return to normal. The country had their first democratic elections in 1994 and the new government called for the former public service employees to enter back into the work force the following year. Soon after this, Janeiro finally agreed to move back to Nauela permanently as a community judge to help settle civil disputes. When Janeiro relocated to Nauela, Velosa and the children packed up and joined him at their current housing plot closer to the village’s administrative post.

Velosa presenting her daughter Dulce with a gift at the girl's Mwale ceremony.

Both employed and successful, Velosa and Janiero didn’t rest on their laurels. Velosa completed a year-long continuing education course in Mugema held weekly on Saturdays to refresh her mind and increase her pay level. Janeiro, meanwhile, went back to school in 2005 starting at 6th grade and is currently on track to finish 10th grade this year. As of 2011, Nauela’s secondary school only offered up to 10th grade, but if they were ever start an 11th or 12th grade Janeiro says he would continue on studying. Likewise, Velosa says that if Nauela were to ever get electricity, she would teach during the day and do night school… but for now that will all have to wait on the back burner.

Even though she is successful and highly esteemed doesn't mean she's exempted from the daily chores.


To give some more perspective on the education situation in Nauela, one must understand the educators’ mindset: disgruntled. Currently, Mozambique’s public education system practically demands that new teachers be sent to fill spots in the least desirable locations. Mozambique’s talent is highly magnetized toward the cities and thus rural placements, such as Nauela, are considered by many to be at the bottom of the barrel. Newcomers are oftentimes counting the days, weeks, months, or years till they escape. To complicate matters though, unless you successfully bribe a high ranking government official, a new teacher will be stuck at their first teaching post for at least five years before being able to even request a transfer. In spite of all this though, Velosa is one of the few home grown talents who is still around.

Largely because of the recent stretch of the destructive civil war, Mozambique’s rural teaching force is not a normally distributed curve of experienced and inexperienced teachers. There are the few who started teaching before the civil war and those who started some time after (i.e. – a decade or so later). Most are the latter. Thus, compounded with the transfer rules, even some of the most long standing teachers in Nauela have been here for only 5-10 years – this severely cripples within-staff mentoring. That said, of those who started before the civil war and who still remain active in the work force, none are as willing to help or support other teachers as Velosa.

Sisa, one of the new and upcoming female teachers in Nauela, is intimately mentored by Velosa since she lives next door in a small house owned by Velosa and Janeiro

Saturday, June 25, 2011

And this is the end :-)

Saturday May 7th, 2011
Now that it’s winter here and the sun doesn’t start coming up until the long-overdue hour of 5am, I’m stuck in the dark, feeling my way around the nightstand for my headlamp. I normally avoid these predawn awakenings, but today there’s no choice: it’s market day at the famous Carmano.

Grabbing a backpack and stuffing it with an assortment of supplies for the day – a wad of cash (~$20), digital camera, snacks, water, PC meds - I’m unsure exactly what the daytrip will entail and thus what will be required. When am I coming home? Will there be some food or a good water source there? Will there be any unique crafts or food items to buy?

All these questions and no answers, only anticipation.

Still rubbing my sleepy eyes as I step out of the house and onto the clay patio, a puttering, beat-up pickup truck already packed tight with other passengers comes to a rolling stop on the dirt road just feet away. Even to my well-trained eyes, it doesn’t seem there is space to get a body in edgewise in the back, but luckily my friend Zecas has saved me one of the two coveted seats up front in his prized vehicle (I’d been planning this trip for weeks and so I told Zecas the day before to reserve me a good spot).

Despite the early bird departure, the packed vehicle is no surprise. Indeed, most locals have long since started their daily routines. Since one goes to bed early and, because (whatever they call a) “bed” likely isn’t that comfy or warm to begin with, most healthy individuals are eager to get up early too. Looking around, I notice that this chapa entourage isn’t like most. Of all 20+ individuals, I am obviously the only one who is going to Carmano for pleasure. The rest of the truck’s occupants are all simply trying to make a buck by selling goods at the bush market, a market assembled in the middle of nowhere, its location set simply because it’s a center point between three decent size towns (Gurue, Molócuè, and Malema).

Arriving after an hour and a half safari through the beautiful country, I can confirm this: there’s NOTHING else there!

In the complex labyrinth of branching narrow paths leading up to the open-air market, there are no road signs indicating the presence of any noteworthy structure or event nearby. You turn right here at the tree, left there at the shrub, left again after the rock, cross a collapsing bridge made from tree trunks and then all of a sudden you’re there (more or less… you get the point)! In fact, the only hint of the market’s existence as you approach it is the ever increasing foot traffic lining the road’s edge. You can rest assured that you’re going the right way by simply following these individuals’ bearings because everyone, carrying whatever good they hope to sell on their heads from miles out, is surely headed to the same destination.

From what was once a vast abyss void of any human life, arises an anomaly, a huge burst of vitality occupying a half-mile stretch carved out in the shape of a large “T”. The road is now lined on both sides with cramped, makeshift thatch stalls where vendors are busy setting up for the day’s haul. The narrow corridor in between is completely packed with buyers, most arriving on foot from as far away as 4 hours to save on transportation costs, yet our slow moving truck magically passes through as the crowd parts and rejoins fluidly around us.

A long panoramic at the market’s ‘T’ intersection point

We’ve arrived late today.

When Zecas pulls up to his welding stall on the opposite end of the market, passengers immediately jump down from the truck bed and are off to set up and tend to their stalls to meet the morning rush. Left alone in the truck’s cab, I’m a bit overwhelmed and out of my element in this new, hectic environment. Gawking at the spectacle as I walk the market’s length, I’m amazed not by the diversity of the items that are being sold (there is none), but by the quantity. Generally speaking, what’s for sale here is the same Chinese junk that can be found at any other day market in the cities of Molócuè or Gurue, but the rural context is what makes it remarkable.

Zecas welding a bike frame back together

In a terrain where fancy footwear is highly coveted, we’ve hit a gold mine: shoes upon shoes upon shoes

The market’s main corridor crowded with people

A rural Mozambican parking lot - bikes parked, waiting for their owners to finish shopping and come claim them

Cabbage, one of the few things I found at the market tempting to take home

Motorcycle mechanics offering up their services at the day market

Traversing Carmano’s main alleyway trying to get a feel for what is being sold and for what price, I notice that many of those same women who we passed a few miles out which were carrying goods on their heads have already arrived and set up shop (i.e. – laying a small blanket on the ground and sitting alongside it).

In a way, the sight is quite comical. Many of the women have only brought a few items and will spend all day sitting in the hot sun “trying” to sell (for example) one pile of four(!) tomatoes. The clustered women are all talking amongst themselves and seem rather annoyed by any potential costumer who dares to come interrupt their fun. The whole scheme is quite a ruse. Most of the women aren’t even trying to make money… for example, several times during the day, as soon as I buy something from them, they send their child off to buy a snack to bring back and share with the family. Really, the obligatory selling is just subsidizing their socializing.


The name “Carmano” actually comes from an old regulo, a Mozambican community leader, that, until his death just a few years ago, was in charge of the local surrounding population. Carmano was first appointed to the position by the Portuguese (a divide and conquer class system, pitting Mozambicans against Mozambicans), but continued to function under the new Mozambican government (when FRELIMO came in to power they adopted many of the colonial governments practices to maintain hierarchical order and keep them in power). During his reign, Carmano kept a registry of the people living in his area, resolved conflicts, determined land rights, etc and for his trouble he was grant a high social status and a relatively large house.

It was around this house that the first “Carmano” market was held back in 1998. Although it had never been a large site for markets before, it proved to be a good central meeting point between Alto Molócuè, Gurue, and Malema (Nampula province) for merchants to buy produce and sell their goods to the rural population. Zecas and many others have been frequenting the site ever since the first Saturday market.

Despite its present day size, the Carmano market hasn’t actually been here (centered around a ruined Portuguese farmer’s house) for more than a few months. Even though the stalls and merchandise are numerous, the construction is all very provisional and can be dissembled/reassembled somewhere else overnight. The move to its present location (about 10 kilometers south of the old market) happened during the end of last year because the new owner of Carmano’s land started charging the venders an extra tax (10 mets ~30 cents) in addition to ones imposed by the government’s tax collectors – rendering several of the smaller vendors unable to break even. In response, one Saturday the venders collectively decided to move to the present day location where the current land owners are absent.

As I hinted earlier, the Carmano area is quite far from the nearest “main” street where cars normally pass. Currently, there are no big businesses or farms here, ensuring regular supplies and cash flow, as there once was during colonial times. Due to this lack of transportation in and out of the zone, the only way local residents can make actual money (as opposed to simple bartering) is by transporting things on their head/strapped to their bike four kilometers out to a slightly bigger road or sell them at the market on Saturdays. During my market wanderings, a lot of area residents approached me thanking me for coming here to start rehabilitating the Portuguese farm... I repeatedly had to inform them that I sadly had no such intention… They need someone with capital, good business sense, and some morals out here who can bring money and goods into the area while turning a modest profit. Let’s hope it won’t be too much longer of a wait for them!

That said, it probably won’t be. I mean, the real reason that this market thrives is because there is a high demand in the area for imported goods and there are plenty of food resources to offer up in exchange. Merchants from the cities easily fatten their wallets by buying agricultural products from these rural farmers who are all too eager to sell their crops. Pinto beans from local farmers go for 18 mets/kilo (~27 cents/lb), corn 2.5 mets/kilo (~4 cents/lb), which is good money for the farmer and cheap enough for the businessmen.


Tax collectors
Growing up in Sunday school bible studies, I never really understood what was so bad about being a tax collector… yet the Bible routinely rails against them. At the Nauela market, however, I daily witness the extreme sleaziness of tax collectors that the Bible’s writers must have grown to despise. First off, they freely take food and other goods that venders are selling at their whim… keep in mind that these are people who are making next to nothing and yet there’s no mercy shown. Many are selling things like a cup of boiled peanuts for 3 cents a pop or a pile of tomatoes for 15 cents – think about all the work that went in to producing this miniscule profit and then someone demanding a large percentage off the top. It disgusts me. Secondly, although I don’t have any direct proof of this, I’m confident that the tax collectors either pocket a good portion of their earnings or are paid a handsome sum for their services judging by the size of their houses... gah!


Growing a little thirsty and having run out of my liter of water, I hunker down at Baptista Biriati’s tea stall located at the end of one of Carmano’s exit points. The stall is far removed from the chaos of the market’s center which allows me to have a long chat about the area’s history with the stall’s owner over a cup of his hot tea and fresh bread.

As the story unfolds, I discover that Biriati used to be one of the guards for Miguel Agosto Morgado, the old Portuguese man who used to be the owner of this property. Back in the heyday, thanks to the indentured servitude of the Mozambican locals and the fertile soil, Morgado was quite a successful farmer. He amassed wealth in the form of an enormous house, a general store, several vehicles including a large truck and tractor, a tobacco curing barn, a granary, herds of cattle, and water tank with a pump pulling water from the nearby river.

Morgado lived with his wife and son, but the wife died after undergoing a surgical operation in South Africa one year. He and his son, Mario, continued to live in Mozambique after her death with the son eventually also becoming quite successful on his own farm just up the road. Some time later, the older Morgado died and the younger fled the country as the new Mozambican government sought to nationalize all privately owned enterprises.

The subsequent years, without any new capital investments and a civil war raging on in the surrounding countryside, were hard times for the farm and the area residents that had grown to depend on it. The buildings, supplies, and machinery were all looted and locals were subjected to harsh conditions and cruelty by roaming bands of soldiers. Indeed, Baptista claims that he spend nearly 17 years deprived of even the most basic of luxuries, going the whole time without so much as eating even a grain of salt (RENAMO forces during the civil war maintained control of the bush and prohibited people from eating salt saying it was a sign of having sided with FRELIMO – FRELIMO forces were known to hand out supplies to their allies).

These war years hardened the middle-aged Biriati, now 75. After the peace accords, Biriati sought out any way possible to earn a living. The market in Carmano provides some hope, but he’s a little too old to regularly complete all the required physical labor to make headway for a budding small business (at one point he was having to bike 50 kilometers each way to Molócuè and back to buy supplies at a reasonable rate). At one point he came up with the idea to jerry-rig a broken-down bicycle with a metal-cutting saw blade to sharpen knifes and machetes, but once the contraption was replicated by several other area young men he was out of a job again. Nowadays, Biriati just sells tea and bread in a little grass hut at the market’s fringes, hoping and praying for someone to give him a job - not something too different than how many feel in today’s U.S. job market, I guess….

Fernando Jamal and others at the entrance of Morgado’s old house

Morgado’s living room is now a dining hall

The hallway is home to idle women and children trying to escape the sun’s rays

The kitchen is still one, but more of a self service cafeteria

A look at the back of Morgado’s house with his water tank to the right


Med man from Malawi
Dolling out ambiguous amounts of unmarked pink and white pills by the spoonful, he is the rural African pharmacist. Sometimes not even meeting the actual patient, but rather having to diagnose an illness based on another family member’s account, he also acts as their physician. He is their alpha and omega… the only one in the market who is providing this service and possibly the only one within 50 miles who has this product.

He’s in a hurry. The waiting line is already big and it’s growing.

Impatiently, the medicine man, casually outfitted in jeans and a faded brown jacket with a navy blue baseball cap, listens to the symptoms being rattled off by a patient’s husband. Pretty soon though he’s compelled to interrupt in order to complete the lightening-fast consult quicker. “What exactly is your wife feeling?” A cough, stomach and head pains. “Does she have fever?” No. “Has she taken any other meds?” No… Okay, that’s enough information.

He reaches for the supposed antidote, quickly scribbling basic dosage instructions on plastic bag that are barely legible, then the patient is taught how many pills to take (1 or 2) and when to take them (morning, night, or both) – not for how long, mind you. That part is understood no matter what anyone else says… you take them until you feel better. If you were to take any more afterwards, that’d be a waste of medicine (never mind issues of resistance…).

Obviously there is no credential verification process involved with these transactions and that is no problem for anyone who is lining up at his table. Thing is, medicine isn’t highly regulated in Mozambique anyways. You and I can go to a pharmacy and ask for whatever pills we want (without a prescription, mind you) and as long as the meds aren’t intense pain killers (which they often don’t have anyways) you’ll get what you are asking for if you have the money to pay for it (generally not too expensive ~$3 USD or less).

That’s just it though, there are no set prices in this black market. Since he’s the only one in the area, he can charge an arm and a leg if he wants. “How much will it cost?”, the customer asks. Long pause. This is always a tense moment because the medicine man is sizing up how much the guy wants it and how much he’d be able to pay. In this case, it’s two packs for 20 mets. Whew! There is an air of relief among all parties as the desperate husband is able to pay for the medicine for his ailing wife.

My inquisitive presence at the stall worries the buyers and seller alike because even though everyone at local level knows people go to other neighboring countries (i.e. - Malawi) to buy large quantities of medicine to sell here, it is still illegal and high up government officials might have to act if things go public. Admittedly, no one at the booth has any formal training, but there’s a paradox because people in Nauela need a regular supply of medicine.

And we all know the hospital isn’t providing it!

For example, if all you avid blog followers remember, just this past Christmas the granddaughter of the owner of my house in Nauela died because there was no medicine available to treat her. This problem is not uncommon and thus people come to the market and stock up in case of emergency because, not sonly are the hospital’s medical supplies sporadic, oftentimes when one is sick it is most difficult to go seek medical treatment.

After witnessing the ever-lengthening line here at the impromptu clinic, it now makes a little more sense to me why my friends and neighbors here always ask about my family’s health… it’s because theirs’ is always in doubt.

Understandably, the medicine man from Malawi is really worried about me taking pictures. It took a lot of convincing just to let me take this picture of laid out meds on the table... Notice that two of the more prominent medicines pictured above are birth control and malaria treatment pills, definitely needed, but hard to find here in Nauela.

Monday May 9th, 2011
Today I’m finally feeling a little better so I decide to go to Mihecane to meet up with Pastor Vicente. It’s a Monday, which is always a stretch to meet with him since he is normally working both Saturdays and Sundays, but I don’t have anything better to do and I could always use the exercise on my bike. I arrive at Mihecane finding the church office’s doors shut and no one being much help in answering my questions. Before turning around and calling it a day though, I decide to take a breather and read some.

Sitting in front of church office for an hour or so, I discover the Mihecane primary school to seemingly be in permanent state of recess… which is understandable in some ways because teachers don’t get paid that well and, more often than not, the school directors aren’t there to provide any supervision. My unexpected presence in Mihecane eventually makes the teachers scurry the kids inside where they’ll wait until I’m gone to at least put up the façade that they were educating these children (it’s always like this when I arrive and Vicente isn’t around)…


Later that afternoon I get into an interesting discussion with Velosa (the owner of my house who is also a primary school teacher in Nauela). She explains to me that nowadays school is public and the government runs it. Back in Portuguese times, however, the Catholic mission ran all local schools in Nauela. At that time, even the select few Mozambicans who were really dedicated to getting an education only attended school till 3rd or 4th grade max. Oftentimes, however, those students left with a better education than many kids nowadays who study until 8th, 9th, or 10th grade.

She can’t emphasize it enough: back then, only the people that were really motivated to study went. Nowadays almost everyone goes.

In Mozambique this stretches financial and personnel resources incredibly thin and severely limits the amount of student-teacher time that can happen since class sizes often range from 80-100 students. In many ways, the class dilemma mirrors a societal problem that starts with the family. Nearly every family has 6+ kids so there’s very little 1-on-1 parental coaching. Although many of the younger generation’s parents didn’t study what these kids are learning (due to collateral damage to schools during the civil war and thus would be much help with the advanced curriculum), even the lost non-academic individual learning experience must be critically detrimental to a young child’s future.

As an example of the learning struggles, a few weeks back I went to a 9th grade Portuguese language class and several students couldn’t correctly spell elementary words such as “Por favor” (please) or even “Não” (no): very discouraging to say the least!

I’m not saying that the teachers, students, or anyone for that matter are at fault. But I also refuse to accept the lame argument that this is just a matter of growing pains, that things will simply get better over time. With the current system teaching blanket curriculum to an incredibly diverse population of individuals across Mozambique who have markedly different economic resources, and thus future possibilities, I think many rural students fail to see any applicable nature in their education and simply go to school because it’s mandated, free, and something to do. These kids pretty much only want to play the day away and disrupt the class’s academic education plan as a whole. On the other hand, those select few who do excel academically and continue on into 11th and 12th grade in Molócuè, Gurue, or Nampula are much less likely to return to benefit rural areas, such as Nauela, where there are no salaried jobs available.

I think that instead of force feeding everyone a general education, the government should try to recruit and retain small numbers of motivated students to teach them very basic math, science, reading and writing skills and then go to a technical education (agriculture or animal midwifery) afterwards if desired. The other mandated curriculum (i.e. – advanced physics, biology, chemistry, etc) that most students never grasp and/or are never even interested in should be available, but taught as a higher level elective instead.

I haven’t made my mind up on all this, but it’s just my two cents as of now…


More Technology = More Pornography?
My neighbor Ditosa comes up to me on front veranda today as I’m fidgeting with my phone in one hand and happily states “Let’s watch the pornography on your phone!” Wha-wha-what?! is my obviously stunned reaction. “Yeah, this phone has it right? I’ll show it to you… every fancy phone in Mozambique comes with pornography on in it.”

After showing her that my phone definitely DOES NOT have pornographic videos on it, I try to get into a conversation about the subject with her since she brought it up, but understandably she gets embarrassed and runs away. Throughout the day I speak with several other friends about the thought process of it and ultimately it appears that it’s not really about the content at all. It’s more so about just being able to experience the technology of watching a video on your phone… and pornography just happens to be the most widespread video content available in Mozambique… imagine that :-/

Thursday May 12th – Tuesday May 17th, 2011
Even though Peace Corps doesn’t know this yet, Amanda’s and my Peace Corps days are now officially numbered. May 15th was the commitment date for medical school and even though I’d long since decided in my mind that I’d be returning home “early” to start medical school at the University of Florida this Fall, now it’s official. So that’s not really news for most of you out there who know me, but what is news is that Amanda will be joining me in leaving early to go visit California for a month or so before moving to Gainesville and starting her state residency process with the goal of going back to grad school in Fall 2012. I’d been eyeing July as my end date, but since she’ll be leaving in early June for her timeline… I figured, hey, why not leave with her?! Right now we’re looking at June 6th as the date to call Peace Corps to start the leaving process (only 3 weeks away!), but that could always change…

With that new leave date in mind, Amanda came to Nauela this week to say goodbye to my neighbors and her almost (because she’s been here so much!) second PC home. Although her final visit was brief (I’ll explain why in a sec), she went out with a big bang because she gave thoughtful presents (her lightly used clothing) to all of the girls and women who she had grown close to during the past year and a half. While it’s still up in the air, tentatively it looks like I’ll be going to Morrumbala at the end of May (~2 weeks from now) to say goodbye to her friends and neighbors there who I’ve gotten close to.


I feel like a broken record saying this, but life can become very unpredictable and difficult when having to rely on public transportation in Mozambique. Take, for example, today. Amanda and I are ready to leave my house for Gurue at 11am (a drive doable in 2 hours), but not a single car passes during the whole afternoon. We remain vigilant though and are finally rewarded for our efforts with one slow moving truck that passes at dusk. Glancing at one another for a moment, searching for a sign of approval, we decide to jump on knowing that we might not be able to fit the hike up Mt. Namuli in our cramped schedule if we don’t leave Nauela tonight.

It’s not until very late that night that we arrive safely, albeit tired, in Gurue. Despite our exhaustion, we remain determined to stay on schedule and start hiking to the base camp the following day. After making some frantic midnight phone calls to our guide (Rambo – same guy as last year), we coordinate a midmorning start time without discussing any other logistics.

The late start allows Amanda and me to scurry around Gurue buying supplies: sugar, xima, and gin to appease the mountains spirits as well as some peanut butter and bread to fill our stomachs. (Lost in all the hubbub is me remembering to bring the money to pay for a license to hike up the mountain… luckily, I decide to bring my wallet and whole travelling allowance with us rather than safe guarding it in PCV friend’s house in Gurue... it turns out to be just enough, whew!) Also, randomly, an expat we meet right before we leave town lends me a GPS device to carry along with us to map the trail route … it’s an interesting little gadget… He says he wants to put the trail’s GPS info up on Wikipedia or something… and if he is true to his word he’ll give me credit for it! That’d be cool, but I’m not hold my breath :-)

Although Amanda might scoff at this, in my opinion the first day’s hike from the city of Gurue to the mountain’s base is a lot quicker and easier this year. Last year Noemi, Yohko and I hiked the trail during the rainy season where one must stick to the main road rolling up and down along the mountain’s highlands. This year, on the other hand, Amanda and I are able to make a short cut through the low-lying valley on a relatively flat path - almost cutting 2 ½ hours off the first day’s journey. To make matters even better for me, for whatever reason, the tendonitis in my right knee that plagued me for most of the hike last year never acts up throughout the entire journey this year. Yay!

Having just made it through the tea fields, Amanda and I are ready to head up to the first mountain pass on our way to base camp

Just look at her, she loves it! Amanda taking a break with her sugar cane in hand...

The cloud-covered Mount Namuli as a rewarding backdrop for a good morning's hike

Amanda precariously crossing a river as we take the much-advised short cut to the lowlying valley path

We arrive to base camp at the foot of Namuli (pictured above) just as the sun is setting

Arriving to the Macunha village, where the Queen of the mountain lives, not much has changed since the year before. From what I could tell, no new houses had been constructed and no new faces had appeared. One thing that is noticeably different, however, is the food availability. Last year even though we arrived in the middle of the lush rainy season, no real produce was available yet; everything was still growing in the fields so we ate xima and dried fish. This year, however, arriving at the start of the dry season, we eat like kings: xima with pinto beans… a pleasant surprise and a definite step up!

Despite her general hospitality, the Queen doesn’t have many blankets to offer up to keep us warm during the bitterly cold, windy night - only one in fact, an extra small twin blanket for Amanda and I to share and a mere bedsheet for our guide…. Needless to say, we all suffer. Even though we are dead tired, the brutally low temperatures and a never-ending, subconscious battle over the blanket keep Amanda and I awake for most of the night. As we fade in and out of sleep, our bodies’ instinctively grasp and tug for more covering. Unfortunately, the blanket couldn’t fully wrap around us unless we were both on our sides and tightly spooning (very uncomfortable on the woven mat sprawled out across the bumpy, dirt floor) - and even then not really that well.

At one point during the night, I give up on the fight over the blanket, roll away from Amanda and welcome the cold in. Unbeknownst to me, she’s wide awake and deeply hurt by my gesture, even shedding silent tears. I don’t entirely appreciate the gravity of the situation, but mentally recover enough to understand that I need to retreat back to embracing Amanda in our moment of frustration. A few hours later, desperately wanting to be warm again, I anxiously peer out of the hut hoping to see some sign of morning light. Checking my watch, however, I’m brought crashing back down to reality: it’s only 12:45am so there’s still plenty more cold to endure before any having relief.

The next morning we all practically run out of the hut at the first hint of light. We aren’t necessarily organized for that day’s mountain hike yet, but know we are ready to be out of that cold death trap. Before we can ascend though, we have to complete a ceremony to appease the mountain’s spirits and ask for our safe passage. The ceremony was simple enough, the queen and a local male leader saying some words in the local dialect as they offer up two plates of freshly-ground corn mill we brought from Gurue.

After the ceremony wraps up, we start the assent at a leisurely pace. After hiking for an hour through an overgrown path of tall grass and starting up the exposed rocky mountainside, we ask our guide if it’ll take us much longer to reach the top, being generous I suggest two more hours… it’s just right there after all. He smiles. “It’ll be more than two hours for sure. We still haven’t done anything yet.”

I doubt his assertion, assuming he is just trying to play some mind games with us (Why? I don’t know…). But in the end he was dead on. It would be another three hours before we’d finally summit. When we reach a point after having climbed for two hours, already having had to crabwalk/crawl across smooth, slippery rocks with impending death below, our guides inform us that this is only the halfway point and the hardest part is what lies ahead of us. “Are you kidding me?” At this moment, Amanda and I second guess ourselves and the whole trip in general. “Maybe we should just stay down here... no one will know if we say otherwise.” Eventually we convince ourselves to at least try the final climb (literally vertical at points) remembering that other PCVs we know have made it up. We continue upwards, me, however, all the while silently thinking “Supposedly! But who’s to say they REALLY made it to the top?!”

Seriously though!

Amanda at the half way point… with the hardest part yet to come!

I can’t emphasize it enough: the final two hours leading up to the mountain summit are relentless 60-70+ degree inclines with no artificial handholds or safety devices. It’s only us and nature. Gazing out at the surrounding countryside it makes it look even more frightening than it probably is, but still… Our primary saviors, the only thing between us and tumbling down the mountainside, are these steadfast strands of long mountain grasses that somehow have taken hold and burrowed deep into the centimeters of dirt sporadically across the large rock face. If the plant gives way at the root or the individual grass leaves break under our weight, we will be sliding down the slope towards who knows what. We aren’t even to the top yet and in the distance I can already pick out the unique mountain peaks located just outside of Alto Molócuè, a good 70 kilometers away.

Here, you really are looking down on the Earth from the heavens.

During the last stretch it’s actually scarier to think about going down than it is to continue going up. So you must stay in the moment and keep climbing ever higher. The final main obstacle is a rock crevasse where one must boulder 10-15 meters almost straight up wedging oneself in small cracks and grabbing on to any rock out pouching with all one’s life force. You are almost done. Tired and wasted, but motivated strongly by the desire to reach the final destination after having come all this way.

The final stretch, just have to shimmy up that vertical crevasse...

Then suddenly you’re miraculously there. The crevasse gives way to a pleasant walking assent to the summit’s highest point. You are welcomed in grand style: the mountain rewarding its determined pilgrims with a natural water source that doesn’t ever leave the mountain top. Cold fresh water never tasted so good!

We can’t stay for long on top. We enjoy the moment, the view, the conquest of a real challenge. 2419 meters or 7936 vertical feet, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story because there is also the 60+ kilometers going and coming from Gurue that must be overcome on foot. Wow! We take pictures, snack, chat, and laugh. Listening to the various myths about the mountain from our guides while looking out across the lowlands, it’s not hard to see why this spot is so scared in Northern Mozambique’s folklore. “This is the spot where locals place offerings to the spirits, down there are fossilized footprints of ancient human beings and animals (we weren’t permitted to go over and see them), during the rainy season one can see mysterious gnomes who live on the mountain, Mount Namuli is the starting point of all civilization, etc… one mountain, but the stories go on forever and ever…

Amanda and I embracing at the top! So pretty!

Jumping for joy! Yay!

Nothing above us but clouds…

Heaven under our feet :-)

The “hike” down the mountain doesn’t really happen per se. No, it quickly morphs into more of a scoot down on our butts and all fours. Trying not to look too far out or down at the daunting task ahead of us, we inch our way down almost as slowly as we came up. My jeans, already stitched up in the back from a previous accident, break fully open again and are left hanging down for the remainder of the journey home. Before we know it though, we are at the bottom of the mountain and that which lay ahead of us doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as the thought of spending another night in the cold mud hut. It is 2:30pm and despite our guide warning us that we’d arrive late into Gurue, we quickly scarf down lunch (some more xima and beans) and head out back towards town.

Amanda and I with the Queen of the mountain after the climb

Amanda’s hip had begun to bother her during the descent from the summit and as we are on our journey back to Gurue a pain in her outer right knee has her thinking she won’t be able to make it. That was before we had even hit the mountain pass – still a three hour trek from the Gurue city limits when you are going at a good pace. Amanda, with some encouragement, makes it step by step down the dark, rock filled path bearing the terrible pain for seemingly endless hours. As we approach the final stretch through Gurue’s famous tea fields, we telephone Joe, an American friend of ours working in the area, and he is able to arrange a last minute tea field rescue mission for us. Although it is dark and the paths in the fields are numerous and largely indistinguishable, we are eventually found and whisked safely back to the comforts of Julia’s house.

We spend the entire next day recovering from our adventure then go our separate ways – her to Morrumbala and me back to Nauela. In so many ways the trip, although extremely difficult, was a great success! That said, I’m not sure if Amanda will ever forgive me for this one ;-)

Thursday May 26th, 2011
Upon my arrival back in Nauela, I start spreading the word to inform people in surrounding communities that I don’t see daily about my quickly approaching departure date. Sadly, this includes Pastor Vicente in Mihecane and Fernando Jamal in Malapa, the two individuals who I’ve worked most extensively with during my year and a half in Nauela.

Looking at my remaining days in Nauela, I reason to go out and visit Pastor Vicente today in order to say goodbye to all the church leaders and community before leaving for Morrumbala. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect of it, the farewell trip turns out to be way better than I ever could have expected it to be. Everyone who I’ve worked with in Mihecane during my time in Nauela is there, all the pastors, the mothers who helped with Art Therapy, and even the head carpenter for the carpentry project.

I take several pictures with church leaders and they prepare an impromptu goodbye luncheon inside the old missionary house just for the occasion. Before the meal’s blessing, Pastor Vincent gives an extended thank you to me recounting all the things, to the best of his memory, which I’ve been involved with at the church and then asked me to say a few words. It was all very genuine and touching… Definitely one of those heart-warming, “Glad I did Peace Corps!” moments :-)

Friday May 27th, 2011 - Gaining the Competitive Edge
Normally, I think it would be a good thing to promote some healthy competition into the business markets in Nauela. That said, turns out that when you do it with chapa drivers it is a very distressing experiment! Imagine this: two over crowded, large vehicles speeding down a winding, bumpy dirt road constantly leapfrogging one another as the other stops to pick up passengers. It’s all enough to make my balding head lose a few more hairs, GAH!

Another interesting observation regarding competition in transportation is that people which are normally the foundation of passengers on an open-back chapa (i.e. – people with a lot of baggage or produce) all of a sudden become marginalized because they now are considered to take too long to load up. Meanwhile, others who are often neglected are now gold mines, women with children – the babies can be noisy and annoying, but oftentimes the women don’t tend to openly complain, are quick to jump on board, and pay 1 ½ price.

All of this competition is due to a new kid in town – an enclosed mini bus daily running the Alto Molócuè-Nauela-Gurue route. The enclosed bus is generally much preferred by passengers and veteran local chapa drivers are having to get creative to out maneuver the new competition.

Although I’m not sure how I feel about the Nauela 500 that is resulting, I (think) would like to see more competition in other businesses in Nauela. Right now, practically everything here is a commodity good. There’s absolutely no differentiation between any products. Markets, for example, routinely look like this: five tables set up next to each other selling the exact same salt, crackers, and vegetables. One of the only differences is the quantity of product that a vender has available to sell. It really is a testament to their patience that business owners are able to stay open for any length of time. I know I could never do it! That said, some progressively-minded individuals are starting to use solar-powered music systems to lure people in to drinking establishments and sell their commodity goods on the side… good initiative, just wish the effort could be used on something more beneficial to the community :-/

Saturday May 28th, 2011
This weekend, a movie crew is in Quelimane to finish shooting Tatu, an artsy European film that depicts a love affair back in colonial Africa. The film crew has actually been shooting in Gurue for the past three months or so, but for this last scene they needed a lot of white people for a colonial-era party scene. After dancing our hearts out and having a lot of fun the director informs us that they hope the film will debut in the 2012 Cannes film festival. Can’t wait to see if I actually get any screen time! :-)

BTW, you can check out this website for more info on the movie http://www.komplizenfilm.de/e/tabu.html

Monday May 30th – Wednesday June 1st, 2011
After being star struck by the possibilities of the glamorous movie life ;-), I reluctantly pass up my Hollywood calling to go to Morrumbala in order to say goodbye to Amanda’s neighbors, the Save The Children office staff, and the local missionaries. I’m not there for long unfortunately because I need to run back to Nauela to get myself packed up, but one of the biggest highlights was definitely going to prayer night with missionaries on Tuesday. We prayed about a lot of things, two of the biggest concerns being Amanda’s ever-present bug problem and my mom’s pending diagnosis about a possible reoccurrence of her brain tumor (*note - in the end, both prayer requests were heard!).

Thursday June 2nd, 2011 - Conflicting signs
I arrived back into Nauela late yesterday afternoon following a GREAT day of transportation. Seriously, all the way from the Morrumbala to Alto Molócuè there was nothing but a whole lot of really good boleias, or free rides... the last one going straight to Mugema (only 14 kilometers from Nauela) so I didn’t even have to wait in Molócuè (that’s NEVER happened before!)

Since I didn’t really get to explore the neighborhood yesterday evening before dark, I wake up today to discover the Vodacom tower having a new addition: a BIG antenna that supposedly will allow the tower to start functioning within the next week. How ironic!?! As soon as I’m about to head about to America it’s finally ready to start working! That said, we’ll see if it actually happens or not. Even though it looks pretty complete, people have been saying it’ll start working ‘soon’ for the past several months!

With both these instances, it’s almost like Mozambique is saying, “No Michael! Please don’t go! I’ll be nicer” ;-)

On the other hand, the nearest water pump, located just across the road from my house, broke down during my trip to Morrumbala and they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to fix it without outside help. Luckily, there is another water pump located just 100 yards down the hill from me (comparatively not THAT far away). Unfortunately though, one must carry the water UP the hill after pumping it... Nothing better than having to cart a lot of water up hill on a post-travel laundry day! Gah!

Maybe it IS time for me to get going after all…

After washing my clothes, I start taking down, cleaning up, and packing all the things that I’ll be bringing back with me to the States. Because of Amanda’s persistent bug problem, we’ve decided to move up the date to call the Peace Corps to Friday instead of Monday so I’m a little crunched for time. I eventually need to rest though so I stroll down the road to my cell phone spot in order to talk with Amanda and check the internet.

It’s crazy how much an instant can change everything.

Moments before arriving and checking my phone, I vividly remember happily meandering over to the cell phone spot while making chitchat along the way with friends and neighbors. As I passed the crew working on the Vodacom tower, I hoped out loud that it would be functional before I left site in a few days. At the same time, I was worrying about calling up Kristie, my Peace Corps supervisor, the following day to tell her that Amanda and I were resigning. Eyeing my post-PC future, I contemplated whether it would be smart to try and invest in a condo when I got back to Gainesville and, of course, what med school life would be like especially with Amanda joining me in Florida :-)… my mind was scattered everywhere and although there was some worry it was a whole lot of excitement!

Then I turned on my phone and checked my email.

The inbox was fuller than normal and the first message that caught my eye was from my friend Carmen because she doesn’t usually write me. Scanning her email, I was confused… “Wait, my mom isn’t sick…” then it hit me, there had been another email that I had skipped over because I thought it likely was just a “Hey! How things going?” email... It wasn’t. It was actually my mom informing me that her primary care physician and radiologist had tentatively determined that her brain tumor from over 30 years ago was reoccurring and she needed to be transferred over to see a specialist.

Standing next to the infamous pole in front of Nauela’s primary school (my current go-to location for cell phone calls) I suddenly broke down sobbing as the possible ramifications of the message hit me. “Will my mom undergo chemo? Is she going to have to have surgery? If so, what’s the chance she’ll suffer nerve damage from the procedure? Is there a chance that she’ll die?” all these and more are questions that weighed heavily down on me. While a few onlookers gawked at my public display of emotion – no one, especially a man, cries in public - I stood hunched over, leaning on the pole totally unaware.

After having experienced that feeling, I now confidently say that there must be few things in the world worse than that overwhelming helplessness of being too far away to reach out and comfort your loved ones in their time of need… it just plain sucks!

In an instant, I call Amanda to tell her what has just happened and inform her about what I’m going to do. I need to get home as soon as possible and am going to tell Peace Corps that now. Hysterically, I call Kristie and before I even know what has happened, it’s done. The wheels are now turning and, although we haven’t left our sites yet, we’ve already officially begun our journey home.

Details are fuzzy, but initially it appears that Amanda and I will be busing to Nampula on Saturday to do our exit medical exams and then flying to Maputo on Monday before eventually heading back home some time later next week. Not sure of the exact schedule yet, but I hope to surprise both of my parents when arriving back in Gainesville! I really hope it lifts my mom’s spirits… especially after reassuring her that I didn’t leave early just because of her. I can’t believe it! Literally, it was the day before I was going to call Peace Corps anyways… Crazy!

Saturday June 4th, 2011
And that’s it. I look through my emptied house and I can’t even begin to grasp what it means. For as long as I can remember I wanted to serve in the Peace Corps and now, having lived here for over a year and a half, this part of my life is over. Although I’ve long since considered a career in international health, even then who knows how close I’ll ever come to living in rural context quite like this, building intimate relationships with neighbors that largely consider me an equal.

It’s these precious relationships that I’m going to miss the most.

Fittingly, the owners of my house and Wiado’s family are there at the end. I swing open my front and back doors just as the sun begins to overtake the horizon. It’s not that I’m in a hurry to get away, but I must catch the first chapa out of Nauela to assure that I get to Molócuè in time to meet Amanda on our way up to Nampula. Inviting Janeiro and Velosa in, I hand back over their house, relinquishing the keys and giving them instructions about a few items I had promised to give to individuals and have left behind.

As the sputtering sounds of the chapa near, everyone stops their morning routines and comes to give me a final hug goodbye. Janeiro, Velosa, Dulce, Wiado, Olympio, Sara, and Machel are all there – the only one missing is Salimo who is hiding behind his family’s house crying. I don’t go after him. I simply way goodbye as he sneaks a quick look around the house’s corner. If I did much more, I believe that it would just cause him more trauma… even his dad leaving to go to the market for the day causes a stir with him so I can’t imagine what he is feeling now. In fact, general speaking, people in rural Mozambique are not used to saying farewell. Even if someone happens to leave the area, they almost always do so with a plan to return home soon.

After I’ve loaded up all my luggage, two suitcases and a backpack, the driver informs me that he’s actually heading back to Nauela’s marketplace to get a few more passengers so I can delay my departure a few minutes if I’d would like to. I elect to stay on though, not only to avoid having a long, drawn-out goodbye but also because I’m ready. I came to Peace Corps to do many things: serve to the people of Mozambique to the best of my ability, gain a cultural appreciation of the way people here live, learn another language, travel, gain perspective guiding my future career endeavors, building friendships, etc and those expectations were not only met, but in many ways exceeded.

As I hunker down in a comfortable spot on top of some sacks of corn in the back of the truck, I wave goodbye to the people I’d grown so close to over the past year and a half. Up until that point I had surprised myself, caught up in the logistics of the morning, by not having been too emotional. Seeing Velosa tearing up though as the car started to move, I completely lost it. My eyes began gushing, not out of sadness of having to leave this all behind, but because of a huge joy welling up inside of me of how wonderful it has been. Despite the general hardships and conflicts over work issues, I loved the experience and wouldn't trade it for anything.

My last memories of Nauela were somewhat a highlight reel of my experience as a whole. The victory lap set in motion by the chapa carried me back across the length of the village, allowing me to witness, for the last time in the foreseeable future, the houses of my friends (Janeiro, Wiado, Albertina, Joakim, Nunes, Ali, Fernando Jamal, Portugal, etc) where I had spent many an afternoon hanging out, Milevane where the Catholic priests and nuns hosted Amanda and I, Mihecane where I fell in love with a church community, the marketplace where I regularly scrounged and bartered for food, Mount Nauela, Nepo and Tutu which I all climbed, the water pumps where I carted all my crystal clear water from, the health post, schools and administrative buildings where I regularly held and attended meetings, the pole and the mango trees where I struggled daily to telephone from, the Vodacom tower that never was, and one last glimpse of the bamboo-fenced in house that I called home for my entire Peace Corps experience.

Appropriately, as the chapa finally drove by my house on the way out of town, everyone had already jumped back into their morning work and things seemed normal again. Although I know my presence will be missed by those that had grown close to me, I also realize, and am happy, that I was no savoir for any one individual or group and that no one will now be unable to continue doing what they’ve been doing without me there. I see so much promise in the people of Nauela and wish nothing but the best for all those here that I’ve grown to love and care for so much. I can’t wait till I return one day and rejoice in their successes.