Peace Corps Blog

This is a blog of my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, working in South Africa. My job title is a capacity builder, which means I help increase the effectiveness of a local NGO that does AIDS/HIV related work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Holidays in Mozambique

This past holiday season, a number of my fellow volunteers and I made a trip to Mozambique. This was my first significant trip outside of South Africa. We traveled north to a village on the beach, which also is a common destination for tourists (ranging from the increasingly popular volunteer-tourists to the guests of luxurious island houses with a private airstrip). From our beach-front hostel, we looked out to a scattering of moored boats, which often made early morning fishing excursions or day long trips out to the archipelago of islands. One of our days was spent taking a dhow (a type of sailboat) out to one of the closer islands, where we went snorkeling and had a lunch of calamari stew, crab and lots of fresh fruit.

The trip provided a fascinating glimpse at how much South Africa’s history of colonialism and apartheid have shaped its culture, values and society today. Once outside of South Africa, one becomes keenly aware of the racial tension that exists in and weighs on much of the country. In South Africa, much emphasis and attention are placed on skin color and a racial or tribal identity group, but while in Mozambique, such divisions and groupings are less apparent and less important. Riding around in the “chapa” taxis (much like the South African version, although often with many more people squeezed in), I felt less people observing me and less people questioning my presence and role in the country and society.

In addition, people demonstrated a remarkable level of hospitality and generosity. One evening, I went walking to a corner “shabeen” (bar), where a number of young men were sitting outside eating, drinking and talking. I was immediately offered a chair, as well as the calamari the men were already eating. As we sat, they kept encouraging me to eat more and one man ended up buying me several sodas (he was disappointed that I turned down the offer of beer).

Other highlights of the trip included:

  • Going sailing with a group of local fishers, who took us up the coastline and even let me steer the boat for a while. It was fantastically beautiful and peaceful on the water.
  • Traveling in buses filled with everything from chickens to televisions across roads like Swiss cheese (so many potholes). At one point, the road was washed out because of heavy rain, so we all had to get out, ford the little river and find a new bus on the opposite side.
  • An amazing meal at a little café south of where we were staying, which included homemade butternut squash ravioli topped with a sun-dried tomato parmesan pesto. Delicious!

All in all, it was an enjoyable trip and a great opportunity to see a different side of Africa, where commercialism has a less established grasp on the society. I have posted a handful of photos from the trip in my gallery.

Happy new year and I look forward to seeing friends and family on my upcoming visit home!

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At February 2, 2009 9:33 PM , Blogger Michael said...

I really like your blog. I am considering the peace corp and its great that there are blogs like yours out there to help people see if it is right for them. I wrote a little article on my thoughts of the peace corps at and I put a link to your page so anyone interested can check it out

thanks, Mike


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