Once again, all photos in this post are by the lovely Lauren Morrow. Thank you!
Monday, March 15th
We spent more time at an orphanage run by Corrie, a woman who has been in Mozambique around 20 years, dedicating her life to this work. We started the day playing songs with the children, but with the language barrier quickly moved on to games. Lauren, Kate, and Cassie did activities indoors with the young children while Kyle and I played soccer with some older boys out in the yard. I have never been so hot and dirty and not cared about it.
These children are so incredibly cute. It felt so good to play with kids— to really play. Being in a place where technology is out of the question makes every interaction so much more genuine. The kids are still kids-- climbing all over your body, the human jungle gym. While a young girl would not leave my arms, the only little boy who wouldn’t hug me walked right up to and wrapped his arms around Kyle’s legs, squeezing his head in between his knees. All you need is love.
Tuesday, March 16th
On Tuesday morning, we all piled into the Love Van and Cassie’s father, Don, drove us to Tan n Biki, a beautiful Mozambican beach. It felt like our own, with only one couple near us and a fisherman paddling around setting up a fishing net. Don and Kyle set up their beach chairs facing the water while myself and the other ladies set our capulanas on the sand facing the sun. After 6 days straight of training teachers and playing with kids, it felt so good to just take in the African sun... And water! The water was so, so, soooo warm. The first thing I did was swim, and I didn’t want to get out!
After soaking up all the sun we could, we headed back to where Cassie and her parents were relaxing by the pool for an incredible dinner.
Wednesday, March 15th
Waking up for the first time without an alarm was wonderful. I’ve spent my late nights and early mornings out on the Larson’s second story veranda, looking into the street and up to the sky, just breathing in the calmness of the night and colors of the morning.
After breakfast we went to Berta’s project. Berta is a beautiful Mozambican woman and dear friend to the Larsons. She lives in a Sunshinehouse with children, but also runs a preschool for dozens of children supported by this project.
We waited on the dirt road outside of Berta’s project for about 10 minutes while the children finished preparing for our visit. Outside the walls of the project, children ran to “Mama Terri” and stared at each of us with wide eyes and big smiles. Once inside, we could see why it was taking them so long...
We were greeted by children singing, standing in self-made costumes, and were presented with hand-drawn and colored welcome signs, personalized for each of us. Berta then lead us through each class, each with a new song for us. By our last “station stop,” children performed choreographed dances for us, and then pulled us up onto stage as well!
Berta is an amazing woman. I am so thankful to have even just met her, and to have witnessed her project in the works.
Around lunch time we drove to Sunshine Nut Company for a tour of the factory. Don took us through the entire process so we were able to see the work that goes into each bag of cashews, and meet some of the workers. (Read about the philanthropic work of the Sunshine Approach here.) Don and Terri have given their lives to this work, and the outcome is truly remarkable. They aren’t just putting a band-aid on the poverty in Mozambique, they’re giving opportunities to children and adults that will help them succeed with what they have. Thank you for everything, a million times over.
Thursday, March 16th
We spent Thursday morning waking up late, eating French Toast made by Lauren, and packing our things (our flight home was Friday morning). Don and Tarryn (a beautiful young woman from South Africa who works for the Larson’s and lives in their home, but also hangs out with us and makes us tea because she’s so kind) were at Sunshine Nut working, but once they were back at home we left for an evening in the city, Maputo.
We pulled up to the Craft Market, and Don gave us instructions on what to do and what not to do. We perused the various vendors, each trying to sell us a “banana deal” for whatever they were selling, whatever that means. Needless to say, everything was cheap and everything was beautiful. I finished my gift shopping, but also got my hands on a pair of flowy, colorful pants I had been eyeing for days.
The Craft Market was absolutely overwhelming. We were all so proud of the bargaining we were able to do by the end of it, something we never have to do at a mall in America. But what left a sour feeling in my stomach was exactly that. Why was it so important for me to bargain, in the end? For me, the difference in $5 is nothing compared to what it is for these people. I’m going to keep processing that one for awhile.
Anyway, because this was our last night, Don and Terri took us to a beautiful ocean-side restaurant for our last dinner. We stopped for caprihinas first— the best mixed drink I have ever had. Terri had introduced a few of us to these earlier in the week and I had been eagerly waiting for another :)
Dinner was delicious. The restaurant served Italian dishes, so I was happy to be eating pasta again. Having a night to sit and eat together with the ocean breeze on our necks was the perfect way to end our trip together.
Friday March 17th- Saturday March 18th
We travelled together for around 40 hours straight. I won’t elaborate on that. But as sad as I am to have left, I am still happy to be home.
I’ve just spent 2 weeks with four other teachers from my school— Four other teachers who are, like me, so busy with this school and it’s grueling hours, among grad school and all of the other second and third jobs we each have.
March break is a great time for teachers like us to take a breather or to get things done we never otherwise have the time for. For us, the week leading up to break was stressful, knowing we would be yes, in Africa, but in Africa working for most of our time there. Wifi was limited, so there was not much time to get work done outside of the airport.
I know from my other travel experiences how close you become with the people you travel with. However, I have never travelled with people I know before, and it was so cool to get to know each of my colleagues/friends on a new or different level-- To know what makes each of us happy at different times of the day, and to know what makes each of us sad, too. Going out of your comfort zone with other people brings you together in a way that “real life” cannot.
As for my experience in Mozambique… Well, I think I’m going to be thinking about it all for a long, long time. The last time I travelled and did service was when I was 17. Sure, it impacted me in a big way then, but it impacted my 17-year-old self. Then, it made me care less about what brands I wore to school or how much money I had in my pocket versus the girl with the locker next to mine.
As an adult living paycheck-to-paycheck, often cursing my salary every time it’s cutting it too close, the impact this time around was so different. Despite how much I may or may not have in my savings account, I live in a clean and somewhat spacious apartment with a bathtub and two people who love me. I have food to eat whenever I want it, whether it’s a can of soup or a full chicken dinner. I have a family just an hour away who hosts spaghetti dinners for their friends every single week. I have multiple pairs of shoes. A MacBook and an iPhone. A car. A degree. A family. A family. A family.
In Mozambique, boys live in the streets, girls are forced into prostitution, and children live with HIV and without parents. This might not be everyone’s reality in the country, but it’s enough. It’s enough for two people to give up their comfortable lives and move across the world just to help others, starting Sunshine Nut Company. It’s enough for one woman to devote her life to creating Project Purpose, a place for the children of prostitutes to eat, bathe, sleep, and receive an education.
So maybe there’s more than this.
Maybe there’s more than going to college, getting a job, getting married, having kids, and raising them to go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, and so on.
For my whole life, I’ve had a plan. I’ve always known what I wanted out of life, and have used each of my strengths to get to a place where I feel comfortable living. But maybe I'm not supposed to just grow up and be comfortable. Maybe it’s about finding a different kind of comfort inside of each area that’s outside of my own comfort zone.
I guess I’ve always thought that I know exactly where I’m going. I’ve always been blazing the trail and running towards Plan A, always knowing that I have a Plan B just in case. But what these two weeks have taught me, if nothing else, is that there is a whole alphabet of Plans waiting for me.
Thanks for listening.
You can buy Sunshine Nuts at various supermarkets, or online at SunshineNuts.com