IICD Massachusetts

The Official Assignment

I've finally received my exact placement. I'm off to Inhambane, Mozambique.I'm excited. It's the area in Mozambique I wanted to go to. I'll be right on the beach, the South Eastern coast overlooking the Indian Ocean.  I'll be able to work on theatre projects with the kiddies. Yay!

Tonight is our going away party. Tamika and I are also leaving the mountain tonight afterward. I can't believe this chapter is closing. Our training is over and we will soon be leaving. It's been a long seven months of training, studying, meeting new friends, fund-raising, and walking Berkshire hiking trails with black bears.

Wrapping Up

We had a big meeting today. Sunday will be the August Teams last day on the mountain. We leave for Mozambique on the 17th of February.We're flying South African airlines with a layover in Senegal and then onto our destination in Johannesburg.From Johannesburg, South Africa we'll take a bus to Maputo, Mozambique (12 hours- the scenic route).

We're literally wrapping up by finishing courses and having lots and lots of meetings. On Thursday, I have a Portuguese language test that I must pass in order to go. MERDE!!!!!! (At least I know all of the curse words!) Saturday night we have our going away party! Then, ate logo mountain! ciao, ciao, ciao...

Getting Ready

I've been in the library studying Portuguese for the past two hours, and I just can't shake the image of tarantulas feasting on my sleeping body.I will explain. Last night, after watching Hostel (which is another story altogether), a group of us (girls only) headed up to the lodge for a candid discussion of what it would be like to be a female in Angola or Mozambique. Three volunteers just returned from their posts in Mozambique and we sat around the fireplace snacking and listening to their cautionary tales. I have made a list of things to watch out for in Mozambique.

SOJOURNER'S FEAR LIST: 1) Poisonous snakes (referred to in Portuguese as cobras- not helpful) 2) Tarantulas (yes- Mozambique is literally home to giant hairy tarantulas that enter our huts through the cracks between the mud walls and the thatched roof). 3) Poisonous spiders (Not only do I apparently have to fear tarantulas, there are a host of poisonous and deadly spiders just waiting to feast on my sleeping body). 4) Scorpions (If a scorpion bites you, you've got a few hours to get to the hospital or else...) 5) Centipedes (Apparently centipedes like to hide out in peoples socks) 6) Flying cockroaches (Not only do they fly, but they are enormous, the size of birds) 7) Getting into a chappa accident (Chappas are large vans aka. public buses, that are overcrowded and in terrible condition. Chappa accidents are very common as the drivers apparently soar at astronomical speeds. A few Development Instructors have been injured. We just got news this morning that one of the Project Leaders in Angola was killed when she flew through the windshield of one of these lovely vehicles.)

That is my fear list. Those of you that know me, know how crazy I get when I see a regular sized roach/spider/centipede. For the next six months, I will be facing my fears head on, literally. eeeeehhhhhhhhhh...

Almost Finished

I just held my first morning course and it went very well. ;0)

I talked about pedagogy and learning styles and how to effectively teach teachers to be better educators. I was able to draw directly from my teaching experience in New York and of course good ole' grad school notes.

Yesterday I went to the Salvation Army and held an art workshop with troubled youth. My specialization tasks are flying by (In order to go to our placement we have a series of 37 assignments to complete).

I am so ready to go...go....go......to (and i'm still adjusting to this notion) Mozambique!

Malawi or Mozambique?

Oi!I'm back on the mountain after my fifth fundraising trip. AND WE'RE FINISHED! NO MORE FUNDRAISING!!!!!!

Thanks so much to my good friend Liza who held a benefit concert in Rochester on behalf of the August Team.

As excited as I am to be finished with my fundraising, I'm having a series of small heart attacks. I will not be able to go to Benguela. No Angola for me! We are having too many worries when it comes to our VISA situation. Now I must chose between Malawi and Mozambique. I know nothing about the placements in these countries yet I've got to make a decision by tomorrow. Aaaaaggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

Becoming IICD Development Instructors

It's still warm and pleasant outside. The snow has almost completely melted. Let's hear it for global warming!We got our vaccinations today. I actually was already up to date on all of my shots thanks to Ghana so I got my malaria pills and dysentary pills from the Travel Clinic and laughed at my teammates who had sore arms. Tonight we will sign our contracts with Humana People to People and it will be official. We will be Development Instructors. We have survived the training! (almost...)


The weather is warm!It's finally warm, really warm (60 degrees more or less). Very odd considering it is January, but I'll take it. The sun is out, the snow is melting, we're about to re-apply for our VISA's to Angola. Hopefully everything will work out. I've decided to give myself until March. If I don't have my VISA by March I will opt to go to Mozambique. I have also decided to do my camp future (follow-up period) in New Delhi India as opposed to my original idea of Brazil and then my secondary idea of South Africa. Things are slowly coming together. I will go to Maryland next week to finish my fundraising. I've got about $700.00 dollars left to fundraise and it's completely possible.We've all been told to divide and scatter and do what we must to make goal. I'm going to go home to my mother and grandfather in Maryland where I can fund-raise in front of a few local Safeway grocery stores and return to DC.

Back on the Mountain

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Tamika and I arrived back on the mountain last night and it's COLD! We're having the coldest day of the year today (- something or other).

Late last night when I was about to go to bed I discovered a present. Mouse droppings! Lots and lots of mouse droppings all over my bed! Yes, not only was our room freezing to the extent that I could see my breath, but a mouse, or mice or rats or who knows decided to use my duvet as a latrine.

So I spent the night curled in a ball wearing layers and layers of clothes with no sheets or comforter.

At least I can say things are pretty much getting back to normal. Oh, it was nice to be home for two weeks.


So I've survived fund-raising trip number four...barely.Unfortunately this is not our final trip because we are approx $17,000 dollars below goal. So joy of all joys, it seems as though we'll be back out on the icy pavement in January. I can't wait! Truly I can't think of anything I'd love to do more.

Today is VISA preparation day. I'm in North Adams at a coffee shop waiting for a physical so that I can get a letter declaring that I am in good health. The Angolan visa is so difficult. It's taken so long to schedule all of our tests and paper work. At least Tamika and I were able to get our criminal record reports earlier today, so hopefully we're on the right track and will be saying tchau to the US very very very soon.

Our final day of fund-raising in Boston was a bust. Tons of people were on the streets but nobody felt the need to stop or donate any money. Shopping was first and foremost in every ones mind. The people in both Boston and Cambridge were extremely rude and snotty. I think we made only $60 dollars on Saturday there. Yep,, it sucked.

Yesterday, on a up note was fantastic. We had yet another winter storm which dumped snow on our mountain to the extent that we couldn't fund-raise or do anything so Tamika and I stayed in our warm little room and watched movies all day. Our film festival included : St. Elimo's Fire Children of a Lesser God Bridget Jones' Diary and A Fish Called Wanda

Yes, our choices are somewhat limited considering we have an old VCR player and can only chose movies from the IICD video library. This afternoon and into the evening we will resume our film festivities.

Okay, it's cold!

Severe Snow Advisory

The snow won't stop falling.It really won't stop!Let's recap the day...

We began with a team meeting at 9am in the Bella Vista common room. After a long discussion regarding an impending storm we decide not to go to Boston because a severe snow advisory had be posted. Our supervisor walks in and asks us why we're not going to Boston, we explain that going to Boston today would be risky. After getting a lecture about the importance of fundraising we are told that we must go out today. We decided to go to Albany again since that city only had a snow advisory, not a severe snow advisory.

So according to the national weather service, the snow was supposed to fall by noon and would be heaviest between four and six. We decided we would head into Albany (40 mins) and then leave Albany by 3pm to be back on the mountain before the severe snow. Our supervisor was not happy that we were cutting fundraising short, but that was the plan because clearly we were the only people looking after our own best interests and well being.

We head out. All is well. The roads are clear, we are talking and making plans, then suddenly and without warning, the sky turns dark and snow begins to blow everywhere. The wind is getting crazy, the snow is accumulating and it isn't even eleven am. By the time we skid into Albany, there is already a few inches of snow. The snow is falling steadily. Not a good start!

We break off into teams and begin our door to door/ business to business work. After a few minutes we are all covered in snow. I had snow accumulation on my eyebrows, above my lip, on my eyelashes and I was soaking wet. I had on two shirts, two sweatshirts and a coat and I was wet. I had on a pair of pajama pants, a pair of sweat pants and some jeans and I was wet. We were all soaked and we couldn't figure out what was going on.

Finally, after all of the stores started closing (about an hour into our fundraising and only fifteen dollars later) we decided to head home. At this point there is about a foot of accumulation and beneath the snow, was ice, lots and lots and lots of ice. Cars were spinning out around us, the sky was dark, there was fog, the wind was blowing and we couldn't see, I'm talking zero visibility. All around us cars are pulled off to the side of the road, trucks are stuck, buses are stuck, it's chaos. Then we slide of of the road and get stuck.

Tamika is driving and the rest of us get out to push. It takes so long because we have no tread, we are pushing a van on ice. It's terrible. But miracle of miracles the van gets unstuck and we get back in and continue on our fateful journey.

We are on interstate 90, and as we drive underneath an overpass a huge avalanche of snow from a plow above comes down. This causes a white out which causes people to swerve and panic. A nasty accident unfolds directly in front of us. Two cars, collide and fall off of the side of the road onto a shoulder, but we couldn't stop because we'd get stuck so we kept on going.

A few moments later, rounding a steep curve (we are going maybe 15 mph) we spin out and we are just twirling and zig zagging and luckily we stay on the road and there were no other cars around us. So we continue.

By now, we have driven for about three hours and we're still in New York and the windshield wipers are frozen and our windshield is frozen and Tamika has her head out the window as we drive and I've got my hand out the window trying to de-snow and de-ice the windshield. It's just too much and we decided we can't handle it anymore.

We pull into a gas station and call our supervisor to see if we can get a ride. We are told no and that we would get a call back. We wait ten minutes, nobody has called, we call again and we are told that they are unable to make it down the driveway of the mountain to get us. We're all fuming, but have no choice but to continue on our unsafe path.

We get back on the road, we're driving extremely slowly and it takes us about thirty more minutes to get back to the base of the mountain. As soon as we pull off of route 43 onto the driveway we spin into a snow bank and get stuck. So out we go again, pushing and pulling and heaving and hoeing and nothing. We give up. Once again the car would be abandoned until the morning.

Eventually, after three out of five of us call consecutively to request assistance, we are picked up at the bottom of the mountain and driven to the top and are asked "oh, it's not really that bad out there is it?" We were fuming.

This place is getting too crazy for me. I can't wait to break for Christmas. Three more days of fundraising left, three more days! Just put my ticket to Angola in my hands and let me be off!!!!!!

Shooting Stars

We have the most beautiful starry night today. Walking up the cold mountainside, it was hard to be bitter because the sky was so beautiful. I even caught a glimpse of a shooting star. We were trail blazers today! So sick of inching up the icy mountainside we created our own path through the woods. It was dark, it was cold, there was a stream that we almost fell into, but we made it and we didn't slip or fall.

And now, I am in a warm lodge with a cat purring on my lap ;0) bliss....

How Much More Can We Take?

Day number two of internet on the mountain :0)Day number two of taking an ice cold shower first thing in the morning ;0(

With every victory comes defeat!

Today we will go to Albany, New York to fundraise door to door. First we are all scheduled to receive HIV/AIDS tests at a free clinic outside of Albany so that we may apply for our visas to Angola. Angolan visas are very difficult to obtain. We have a long list of things that we must do in order to be able to apply.

We are still in the middle of a massive ice storm. Last night, we pulled our white van approx one foot up the 1/2 mile mountain driveway expanse before it gave out and began spinning back onto the street. We were all so tired from fundraising that we just got out and left it. It took us so long to work our way up the mountain. The path was pure ice. Imagine walking on ice in slippers at a 90 degree incline, that's what it was like. We were all holding hands. I was the first to fall. I took two steps outside of the van and landed flat on my face in the snow and ice, it was fantastic!

We called for back-up to see if anyone with four wheel drive could drive down to get us and no-one could make it down the mountain. So we were left to our own devices, or left for dead depending on your perspective. Luckily, after twenty minutes of inching forward, arms linked in a human chain, with hail striking at us like missiles from the sky, our director pulled up in her jeep and was able to drive us the rest of the way up the mountain. Everyday is a new adventure! Today, who knows?

After the traumatizing events of last night, I had a dream. I hardly ever remember my dreams, but this one was vivid. Tamika, Makiko and I were in an unspecified country in Africa. Somehow we were all together without any luggage in a massive airport terminal where nobody spoke English, Portuguese or Japanese and there were no signs so none of us could communicate. Then we were outside on this long dusty road. It was hot and windy, red dust was everywhere. We didn't know what to do so we walked and walked and walked. Finally a person tells us to turn right at the bush and we're like what bush? Then there is an enormous tumbleweed-like biblical bush and we turn right. Right in front of us is a small hut. We enter and a lady is inside, she welcomes us to our project and takes us to a tiny dark room with one window and two cots and says this is where you'll be staying and disappears. We all look at each other and she leaves. Makiko and Tamika claim the two cots as I stand staring at the window that has no screen. What about me? I ask and they say, oh you'll sleep on the floor. What! There are scorpions, I'm not sleeping on the floor in the bush! So they push the rickety, dusty cots together and the three of us hop on and stare at each other. There is no screen in the window, we're going to die of malaria Tamika states matter of factly and then the dream was over. Yep! Good times!!!!!!

Stormy Weather

I woke up this morning to the sweet smell of sewagethe septic tank (located near my door) has had a malfunction. I'm not sure how much more free-spirited humor is left in my frozen system. Once again, we are in the midst of an ice-storm. The dogs were sliding all over the place this morning. We'll head into Bennington, Vermont today, Albany tomorrow and then Boston for the week-end. That is if the weather permits. We've got a new plan. Hopefully one that will bring in enough money to sustain our projects in Africa.

Ice Storm

My fingers are stiff purple sticks as I type this. It’s FREEZING! Really. I just finished my six hour shift standing in the freezing cold on North street in Pittsfeild Mass. Nope, I didn’t make goal today. None of us did or even came close for that matter. We are in the middle of an ice storm. I opened my front door today, took a step and slid right off of my porch about three feet and came to a natural slow halt. It then took me 15 minutes to make it about twenty feet to the dining hall.

Where I could, I walked over icy snow that cracked beneath my steps. The dogs were sliding all over the place. Everything was frozen. I literally had to crawl on my hands and knees over one particularly icy patch. All this just to get breakfast. After breakfast we slid down our half mile long driveway, narrowly missing trees, and headed into Pittsfeild to have a questionable day of street fundraising. There were like five people out and about today and there were four of us standing on the street trying to collect money. You can do the math. Once again, I had encounters with outpatients from the mental health clinic across the street from where I was attempting to fundraise. We were all just standing out there chatting it up. Me because, well, I had no other place to go and couldn’t get away, and they, well, who knows why the chose to yammer on and on at me? I am so sick of fundraising. Five days left to go until this is all over (theoretically), I hope we make it!

Fund-raising Blues!

It's freezing cold. We're in a cafe in Pittsfeild MA. Fundraising is not going well today. We spent the entire day going business to business and door to door and we haven't even made one hundred dollars. It is so difficult fundraising during the holiday season; almost everyone says they don't have the money to contribute, as if we are asking for hundreds of dollars. If everyone just gave a dollar or a quarter, how much better things would be. Even pennies are magical.