Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some statistics that made me stop a minute....

Some statistics that made me stop a minute…so, naturally interested to see what you think

America controls nearly 20 percent of the world's wealth. There are around 6 billion people in the world, and there are roughly 300 million people in the US. That makes America less than 5 percent of the world's population. And this 5 percent owns a fifth of the world's wealth.

1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water, while the average American uses 400 to 600 of liters of water a day.

Every 7 seconds, somewhere in the world a child under age 5 dies of hunger, while Americans throw away 14 percent of the food we purchase.

Nearly 1 billion people in the world live on less than 1 American dollar a day.

Another 2.5 billion people in the world live on less than 2 dollars a day, while the average American teenager spends nearly $150 a week.

40 percent of people in the world lack basic sanitation, while 49 million diapers are used and thrown away in America every day.

1.6 billion in the world have no electricity.

Nearly 1 billion people in the world cannot read or sign their name.

Nearly 100 million children are denied basic education.

By far, most of the people in the world do not own a car.

One-third of American families own 3 cars.

1 in 7 children worldwide (158 million) has to go to work every day just to survive.

4 out of 5 American adults are high school graduates.

Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods.

Now, when many people get a glimpse of how the world really is, whether it's through travel or study or reading statistics like the ones we just cited, it can quickly lead to guilt. We have so much, while others have so little.

Guilt is not helpful.

Honesty is helpful. Awareness is helpful. Knowledge is helpful.

Guilt isn't.

-An excerpt taken from Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile, by Rob Bell and Don Golden (122-123)
-Most of the Statistics are from UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, World Bank, and The CIA World Fact Book

Me, A Farmer?

Farming, or tending my own garden, is just one of the many skills I never realized I'd learn and utilize in Peace Corps. Among others skills I've learned are: cooking, expert bucket bather, and learning how to say no to people even though I'm a people pleaser by nature (crucial skill). Where did I acquire this great knowledge about farming you might ask? At none other than a two-day permaculture training led by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Peter Jensen, who is introducing permaculture farming all over Eastern Africa for a number of reasons. His primary reason is that people living with HIV and AIDS often do not have a steady or adequate food source, which is apt to diminish more after they get sick because they cannot go to their gardens and work. In Mozambique, machambas are big gardens that can be located far from the house and difficult to tend. Using permaculture farming, families affected by HIV and AIDS can have gardens in their own homes that produce a high crop-yield. But this farming technique benefits any family, not limited to ones plagued, by sickness. Abby and I are planning to start a permaculture garden in our home in fact.

There were 10 PC volunteers at this training with 10 of our co-workers and we worked hard during the training to build our own permaculture garden. We composted, we dug an irrigation system that caught water from the nearby house gutter and directed it into the garden, and we planted all kinds of vegetable at the end. Though I must say, one of the most exciting moments was when the cows escaped after we gathered manure near their pen! It was a riot watching some PC boys run around trying to corral them in, when they clearly had no idea how, yelling about how they were Billy Crystal right out of City Slickers. The main goal of the training though is to take what we learned back together and incorporate it into our project designs so my co-worker, Paula, and I plan to teach orphans how to do permaculture gardening in a rural community our organization partners with.

*So what exactly is permaculture? Here's a very brief synopsis of what a bio-intensive permaculture garden is in case you're interested. And if you're really interested, I encourage you to look more into it. Permaculture is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture and refers to how permanent pathways are built into the garden beds to capture and direct water. The project is bio-intensive because it incorporates an efficient

Lunch with Abilio

Today I had a memorable lunch. A couple months ago I did a home-care visit to a really sick little boy with HIV, which I blogged about already. I thought he was 6 or 7 at first glance, but after a closer look realized he had to be much older because his skull was really developed. He is 12, it turns out, and he and his grandmother both became infected with HIV when they went to the hospital for blood transfusions a long time ago. His mom abandoned him as a baby and he lives in a poor family.

Just a tragic life and he just sits there listlessly obviously hurting all the time. When we went back to visit Abilio today, he was much worse, laying under all these blankets, coughing, even more emaciated. I went with my co-worker and an HIV+ activist too, and we were teaching his grandmother how to cook nutritious food for him so we stayed about 2 hours grinding up peanuts and green leaves. The poverty level was astounding, and they only spoke dialect. But anyway, when the food was ready, they insisted that I eat with the little boy, even though I'm sure the food could have been better off with one of the other family members who don't get enough to eat. So Abilio, literally a living skeleton of a boy, and I ate porridge side by side. He was so sick we had to lift him up to eat, and then my co-worker spoon-fed him. They cared for me like they cared for him, but my, we could not have been dealt more different cards. The best way I can process and reconcile my lunch is to believe that this life is not the end because their physical suffering was so great. But in spite of all that, the entire family was laughing and smiling as we cooked (minus Abilio). They asked me to come back next week, so hopefully I'll make it a regular thing because although I can't do much, at least I can go be with them, and to them, that's something. It was powerful to witness this circle of care in the midst of this broken family, everyone caring for one another out of necessity.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Food Availability and Preparation is a Whole Other Ball Game Over Here

Dinnertime is at the top of my list for favorite times of the day. Abby and I have become pros at making tasty things out of the same five vegetables, the few fruits that are in season, eggs, beans, rice, and pasta. There you have it—a list of our entire average diet.

In spite of the limited options available, Abby and I actually eat really healthy, delicious meals. So far this week, we have had eggplant ratatouille, homemade hummus and tortillas with fresh veggies, and a curry rice stir-fry. We eat like vegetarians, and even though I am not one, at times I catch myself wondering if that will be something I continue when I get home. But only just for a second until I think of a tender, juicy steak prepared by Granddad Uffman. And then I laugh at the absurdity of the passing thought because my mouth starts watering as soon as I picture the steak. However, I do think that I will take home some of my new dietary habits to the States. I do not plan on eating meat at almost every meal, as I was accustomed to doing before joining Peace Corps. Partially, this is due to the fact that I have learned to live on more vegetables and less meat out of necessity. Also, thanks to Abby's advocacy, I have learned it is better for the planet to eat less meat. The following arguments have also contributed to my decision to eat less meat. So much more land is wasted growing crops for the animals we raise to eat, than if we just ate the crops ourselves. The meat processing industry has a bad reputation for being cruel and unclean. The transport to ship meat is expensive and all the fuel wasted in transport is bad for the environment. Also our bodies do not need as much protein as many of us usually intake in the States.


Yesterday I was feeling really proud about all the wonderful meals we have made, and thinking about how well I am eating. That is, until my family called, and my sister Sarah and my dad decided to describe the dill sauce they served over salmon with all sorts of fancy side dishes, none of which are available in Mozambique. I will only find salmon over dill sauce in my wildest dreams for these two years! Oh, and on down days, Abby and I start playing this cruel game about all the foods we would like to eat but cannot. On the top of our list are: good cheese and wine, pizza, Taco Bell (Abby), ice cream, waffles with real maple syrup, a berry of any sort (blue, raz, straw, or black—we'd take any), Granddad Uffman's steak (Abby too), whole wheat bread, crème brule, cream cheese bagels, New England clam chowder, North Carolina barbeque, Mexican food, and deli turkey sandwiches. We literally did a dance of joy and tears of happiness welled in our eyes when Heinz 57 Ketchup and Parmesan arrived, thanks to my aunts. And where oh where are all the condiments? Far away are the A1 Steak Sauce, salsa, barbeque sauce, raspberry vinaigrette, and blueberry syrup. All I can say is spices have been our saving grace, our supply of which is rapidly diminishing! Basil, garlic powder, spice blends, black pepper, thyme, dill, and turmeric—we use them like our life depends on them, or at least to work magic with our 15 ingredients. Abby is giving me spice lessons, if she were not around then I would probably survive on fried bean curd sandwiches. (Seriously, some Peace Corps volunteers who live alone eat fried bean curd sandwiches as their main staple. I eat bejias sandwiches pretty often myself, I promise they are better than the name sounds)!

While cooking the other day, we started talking about how insane it will be to prepare food back in the States. Besides not having many of our favorite foods available, it is weird not being able to just drive through a fast-food restaurant or pick up something quick at a 24-hour grocery store when you do not feel like cooking. Also, we follow these routine precautions and extra steps daily:
1. Always boil or filter water.
2. Peel and/or wash and bleach fruits and vegetables.
3. When you prepare rice or beans we have to pick out rocks, and then rinse it thoroughly before boiling it.

It is going to be amazing to just turn on a tap and get a glass of water rather than fetch it from a barrel, filter it, and then drink it. It will be nice just throwing on the instant rice or beans, and eating them without crunching on a rock you did not see. Sometimes I complain about the lack of foods available here, but I am so grateful to see how lucky I am to have such a diverse and abundant food selection at my fingertips in the States. I think I will be able to appreciate our food availability and not abuse it anymore in a way I have never been able to when I return. I will be able to appreciate it more because I miss it. When I say not abuse it, I will not overeat meat or eat so many processed foods that are bad for me just because they are everywhere and good. Since we have to prepare everything from scratch, I have come to love eating fresh fruits and veggies and discovered it just as tasty as that processed-bad-for-you food. I will be frequenting my local farmers market and starting a vegetable garden when I get home.

P.S. Yes, I think I've done it, managed to write a blog entry that makes me sound like the quintessential tree-hugging Peace Corps type.

Come One, Come All to REDES!

Abby and I had our first successful REDES meeting on Saturday. It was our third attempt to get the ball rolling because it takes things longer to get started here, which is so frustrating at times! Just have to keep on truckin' and tryin' I try and remind myself. Our first two meetings only a few girls showed up, and late at that, because it is hard to get the word out and well, bathing takes precedence over all here. When the girls finally showed up on Saturday, some apologized for missing the first attempted meetings, stating their excuse was they had to take a bath, ha! They literally take 3 a day, no wonder why my host family tried to bathe me… So who comes to our REDES meetings? The meeting is for high school girls, technically. In the US, that would be a pretty easy group to define. It would be girls aged 14-18, all English-speaking, all literate, and probably all fairly free of serious responsibilities. Well, here is a little different. It is more difficult to classify what a 'typical high school girl' is as illustrated by our attendance at the first REDES meeting.

Abby and I have the REDES meetings at our house. We lay out straw mats for the girls to sit on our front porch and wait for them all to arrive. We had about 15 girls show up to the first meeting, and one might say it was a diverse bunch. Some girls rolled up in fashionable outfits looking very groomed. Two others carried their babies on their backs, and before the end of the meetings the babies had fallen asleep and were cat napping on our porch as we sung and danced and let the teenage mothers enjoy their kid role again. We invited a few girls from our neighborhood, and although many of the REDES girls come from poor families, these girls were a different level of poor. They came barefoot and although they were the same age as most of the other girls, they were far behind in school progress and one was actually unable to understand and Portuguese. This took Abby and I until the end of the meeting to grasp hold of, after we had asked her to stand and talk about things she had liked to do. When she was silent, we just assumed she was shy. It turns out that this child, Rita, is an orphan who had dropped out of school in fourth grade. We had a few 19-year-olds in the eighth grade although the majority of eighth-graders who came are just 15 just to give you an example of how varied the ages in the same grade were. I point out all these differences not to look down on the teenage moms or the 19-year-olds that are taking a longer time to complete their studies than is average or even Rita who does not know how to speak Portuguese. Rather I just want to highlight that in the developing world, neither school nor much of anything follows a routine schedule as it does in the developed world. These girls have to overcome a lot of challenges we do not in the developed world in order to finish their studies—among these challenges are poverty, gender inequality, being required to do a lot of housework from a young age, and not having much or any parental support. I was excited that each of these girls showed up to our REDES group and cannot wait to see their progress if they decide to stick with the group.

The goal of our REDES group is to empower young girls and teach them important life-skills. During our meetings we are going to not only discuss how to realize a bright future, but also we are doing a number of projects. Our major three projects this year are going to a dance and theatre group, a mini-basketball league, and a sewing project. The girls chose the projects and we are going to do HIV and AIDS-related performances to educate the community in the dance and theatre group. Our basketball league will emphasize the importance of exercise. The sewing project is going to be an income-generating project and the girls will sell the clothes and purses they make in the community. Here's to hoping REDES takes off in Chibuto! These girls have so much potential, and we are hoping REDES provides an outlet to develop it.

Why Bringing Music into the Classroom is a Good Idea and Why ABC Alone

True or false: learning is fun. I admit there were plenty of days in school when I thought false despite all the cheesy posters with rainbows and smiley faces in my school hallways promoting the 'learning is fun' slogan. Yeah yeah, I wasn't convinced. Sometimes the subject did not interest me or the teacher would drone on in a monotone voice giving some dry lecture. I was bored and was not enjoying learning. I did not want to be there.

But the truth is that learning is fun, especially when both students and teachers put effort and creativity into learning. Students need to realize what a blessing it is to have the opportunity to learn while teachers need to find a way to connect and engage the students. A few weeks ago I went to be the teacher at a seminar, but I ended up doing a lot of learning myself. I learned how powerful it is to combine the passions of music and learning. I was invited by my friend Katie, an English teacher trainer to her school for a project kick-off. Katie is partnering with Lima, an English teacher, who started a children's music school a few years back. Lima has been using his musical gifts to create songs and lyrics that teach children to important values such as being hard-working, promoting peace and unity, and having pride in heritage. Recently Katie and Lima have decided to expand their project vision, by training more teachers to use music in the classroom, and by incorporating health messages in their music. That's where I came in.

A few Saturdays back I was invited to be a guest lecturer at their project seminar to share health knowledge on HIV and AIDS, malaria, and cholera. The seminar was for students in their 20's and 30's who will be English teachers next year. They go to a boarding school and learn English from sunup to sundown, and when I say sunup, I really mean it. Bells awaken these students at 4:30 am to start morning drills; they have to walk in a courtyard before English classes start everyday! Intense, huh? At any rate, I was nervous about giving my one-hour talk in English because I worried the students would either be bored or not understand the content. However, my fears proved unfounded. They blew me away with their understanding of the English language and with their sheer hunger for learning!

What was supposed to be a one-hour lecture turned into a 3-hour-question–and-answer session about HIV. I presented a great deal of biological information about the disease that they were hearing for the first time, which sparked the questions. I was so encouraged by this because Mozambicans hear about HIV so much they stop paying attention because it's often the same old thing, "Practice abstinence, be faithful, always use a condom." I am not discounting the importance of these messages, but I think they should be accompanied with a more in-depth explanation of what HIV is. After almost 8 months in country, I can tell you that just spouting out the ABC message against HIV is not effective. Not a lot of people are abstaining, being faithful, or using condoms – but maybe they would be more inclined to if someone actually explained to them what happens inside the body when a person is HIV positive or if they had a clearer understanding of how HIV is actually transmitted. I took advantage of the opportunity to offer a biological explanation on HIV, working to draw out charts and graphs in terms they could understand (I, myself am no biology expert after all). The graphs and charts successfully peaked their interest and the questions started flying. On and on I plowed. Question after question they asked.

My original worry that I would not explain the information well or that it would stump them was thrown back in my face when their brilliant questions eventually stumped me! The students started asking questions outside of my area of knowledge; I later had to send them additional documents to fully answer their questions. It was so refreshing and rare to teach a group of students so eager to push the envelope and learn. But what was even cooler is that they are taking this enthusiasm for learning, and will share it with their students next year! This will be made even more powerful through the use of music in the classroom…

After my health lecture, Lima and some of the other students gave music performances. They strummed the guitar and sang, animated and talented. I left that day on Cloud Nine, glad I was able to be part of the project take-off and looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The REDES Girls are an Anthem of Hope

The REDES Girls are an Anthem of Hope

A little background first

Five years ago, the PCVs in Mozambique decide to start an extracurricular club for young women in high schools across Mozambique. The PCVs named the project Raparigas em Desenvolivimento de Educacao e Saude (REDES), which translates to Young Girls in Development of Education and Health. What started as a small project has rapidly expanded into a nation-wide project with more clubs starting every year and more girls participating.

In a few sentences, REDES is a group to adolescent girls mold their own lives and to create more options for a brighter future. The girls are actively involved to think about challenging solutions that they face everyday in the school, at work, in interactions with the opposite sex, and with gender roles. The girls are encouraged to take control of their futures and taught they are responsible for the decisions they make. We talk about topics such as health, family relations, education, work, community involvement, marriage, having children, and human rights in our groups.

We are working to start a club at the high school in Chibuto, which starts officially next week in fact! The clubs vary in size and anywhere from 15 to 16 girls regularly attend. Usually a PCV facilitates with a Mozambican professor, but many clubs that have been ran for a few years have been transferred solely into the hands of Mozambicans. The PCV and Mozambican facilitator partner bringing their collective strengths and abilities to the table, but eventually the Mozambican professor usually takes the reins allowing the project to be more sustainable. After the project is off the ground, PCVs take more of a supporting role.

This year Peace Corps put on three REDES Conferences in Northern, Southern, and Central Mozambique, which is funded by PEPFAR. There were 50 students participants and 20 teachers at the Southern conference this year. Each school brought 1 PCV, 1 teacher, and 3 students who take what they learn during the conference back to share it with other group members. The 3 students usually take their enthusiasm back and develop into group leaders.

REDES Conference 2009
Last week I helped with the 5th Annual REDES Conference. When I decided to do Peace Corps, before I left many people asked, “Why I decided to join?” Depending on my mood the answer varied because it was hard to give just one concise answer and truthfully I did not fully know why myself, but I found a concrete answer this week. The concrete answer came when working with these young girls. Participating in this conference was one of the most memorable weeks of my life. One of the most challenging, yet inspiring too.

Memorable
I said this week was memorable. How can I even put into words how fun it was to watch many of these girls who have never been on a week-long vacation respond to the conference? The first day many were shy and unsure of themselves, but man were there transformations impressive. They absorbed information like sponges, spoke with more confidence each passing day, encouraged and respected one another constantly, and naturally, danced like there was no tomorrow. I’ll give a few examples.

• We had a 2-hour session on public speaking where the girls were advised to be confident and have strong contact with other while speaking. This is huge because girls often look down when speaking to you because it’s what they learn in their culture (women are taught to defer to the men and be submissive to authority in general). REDES teaches girls to be assertive and that they are equals. The girls loved the public speaking tips and did an activity where we gave them the chance to be in the 60 Seconds Hall of Fame. In order to be in the Hall of Fame, they had to talk without stopping for 60 seconds about whatever they liked in front of the group as public speaking practice. Many failed at first, but each girl bravely tried. Eventually, most succeeded, some refusing to give up even after 3 or 4 tries, all the while cheering on one another. At the end of the week, many of their feedback comments said things like, “Thank you for teaching us about public speaking. It was the first time I have ever heard of it,” and “I did not realize I could be an equal,” and “I will speak with more confidence in the classroom.”
• Three women living with HIV came to share their stories and afterwards the girls were able to ask questions The HIV positive women had just given their testaments: one had been disowned by her family, one young mother had recently lost her husband and had not yet told her young kids of her status, and the last one experienced a lot of discrimination. The room was somber even though the HIV positive women were insisting that their lives had continued thanks to proper treatment and that knowing their status had saved their lives. They were HIV activists. After the first few questions a young girl named Regina raised her hand to ask if she could get up right then and there to kiss and hug these women for their bravery. She did just that in front of this room of people and others followed her example. Regina was the good Samaritan, unafraid to touch the sick. I am normally “Miss-I-don’t-cry-in-movies-or after-I-lose-my-valuables-or-for-much-of-anything,” but I was moved to tears by her compassion.
• At the close of our first day, the girls changed into their swimsuits and ran straight for the ocean. The conference theme was “Eu Sou Eu” (I am who I am) to encourage them to love themselves and realize they are capable of reaching their dreams. You couldn’t help but see that this week they were getting a chance to take this message to heart when they bounded into the ocean freely, modeling and asking for pictures in their swimsuits. You’ve never seen girls so excited to be in the ocean – they were so full of energy and seemed so empowered!

Challenging
•Hmm…the conference went great and all the girls loved it and got a lot out of it. Of course, I’ll spare you all the logistical challenges, but will say there were additional challenges. I was a camp counselor with another PCV named Sarah for 10 girls. We all stayed in a cabin and did various activities together during the day and then reflections at night. Very much like most conferences I’ve attended in the US. However, Sarah and I were responsible for leading these girls in Portuguese, which was nerve-racking after only 6 months of speaking it. We just went with it, and did the best we could. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say everyone got a kick out of our condom demonstration on a cucumber in less than perfect Portuguese!
• Also, it was harder to initially connect with the girls because of the dual language and cultural barriers. Generally, carrying on conversations with people I have just met comes easily, but it was work at times as a counselor. This is for a number of reasons:

o 1. It’s harder to say what I wanna say in Portuguese and have them understand me.
o 2. Often American culture dictates that we carry on a constant dialogue while in Mozambique they’re more comfortable to sit in silence and enjoy each other’s company.
o 3. We have less similar experiences due to different cultures and opportunities. That’s not to say similarities don’t exist, because fundamentally we’re the same, sometimes it just takes a little more effort and digging to realize it.
•In order to overcome these challenges and connect with these girls it just took some patience, creativity, and resolve to make it through some awkward silence during meals and miscommunications. I had to be patient because it just takes the girls a little more time to warm up to you. I found that connecting with the girls using things like music, dance, and sports (we played a lot of beach volleyball) works like a charm, which is probably one of the reasons I like those activities so much. I put on Beyonce the first night in the cabin and the girls started singing along in a cross between English and jibberish, ha…and then we started a dance party, which loosened up both me and the girls. Eventually, the creative ways to connect opened up conversation.

Inspiring
You always seem to read about all the colossal problems the world faces such as poverty, suffering, gender inequality, and illiteracy. I definitely see my share of these everyday. But despite all of that, I see bright futures for these 50 young girls. They fearlessly asked questions on women’s health and reproductive systems, gaining so much knowledge last week. They stood up eloquently sharing their dreams and goals to be lawyers, business owners, and singers. They were very self-sufficient and responsible all week-long (skills they have to learn at a young age out of necessity). They were full of energy and enthusiasm. Not only did they sing an anthem of home all week literally about how they would make something of themselves, but they became an anthem of hope to me promising to be a ray of light for Mozambique, for Africa, for this world.

Easter Mass in Mozambique

Easter Mass in Mozambique

One of my least favorite parts of this transition into adulthood is not being able to be with your family and take part in your favorite traditions because of work on holidays. But as my parents always tell me when I try to tell them my sob story, and whine about how life gets harder as an adult: to first of all, stop over-dramatizing. Perspective, honey! Then comes the sensible advice to find a way to enjoy the holiday in the place I am with the people I am with no matter where that might be in the world. So that’s precisely what I tried to do today.

My friend Vic, a devout Catholic, invited a group of us to attend mass at his church and then cook a big lunch and dye Easter Eggs. I enjoyed attending my first mass in Mozambique for many reasons. It was interesting to compare to the many different kinds of churches (Catholic, Presbyterian, Universal, non-denominational) I have attended in each of the three countries I have lived where Romance languages are the official languages (Mexico, Spain, Mozambique). I believe participating in the worship services has enhanced my travel experiences significantly.

The Easter mass was noteworthy because although the liturgy, rituals, and traditions were the same as the Catholic churches I have attended in the US and Spain, the feel of the service was different. When I went to mass in Spain with my host mother, I could appreciate the Catholic tradition by listening to the powerful organ sounding hymns and admiring all the beautiful artwork and architecture that reminded me of another world. Although, truthfully, I found the services a little dry for my taste. In the US, I have fond memories of attending my friends’ first communions and weddings in the Catholic Church. But never have I been to a mass so full of energy! From the moment it started, barefoot women dressed in heart-patterned sarongs processed down the aisle dancing to the famous hymn “Glory Alleluia” presenting those who were to be baptized. The whole service followed like that – traditional hymns and prayers, but the Mozambicans had tied in their culture. It was apparent in the songs and by the random whooping noises from the congregation, ha, which really livened up the service.

At one point all 5oo people in the congregation joined hands and we swayed side to side singing “Glory, glory, glory, is peace among all men.” Touched, I leaned over to Vic, half-joking “It’s like we’re acting out He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Here we were on Easter Sunday, actually on the other side of the world, sharing the same faith with the Mozambicans, singing in their language we are learning, being graciously welcomed to join them, black and white arms literally linked. Yes, another sappy, yet wonderful moment in this experience!

I still would prefer to be with my family during holidays, but I have learned that you can find a strong community and good people anywhere. So in the end I felt fortunate to spend Easter 2009 dyeing Easter eggs with my Peace Corps friends who are my family in these parts. Oh, and how much I have enjoyed going to church services and seeing how people all around the world worship!