Elephant tracks in Angoche district

When I was little, my grandma always told me that elephants are a sign of good luck. She always had elephants in her house and I grew up wanting to keep the tradition going of this woman that I loved and admired so much. I now have a collection of elephant trinkets from all over the world that remind me of her. So this week when we got word that an elephant was making its way through Angoche district in Nampula province, I knew this was a sign that 2012 is going to be a good year. This is incredibly rare (and pretty exciting) so I got to go out and trace its path. We talked to people across several communities who had seen it and they all had the same reaction of shock and fear. They´ve never seen an elephant before- only pictures in childrens´ books. I´ve seen more elephants in zoos and on safari than they have, and now one is walking through their fields. We tracked it by observing footprints and talking to communities all the way across the district where we determined that it entered Potone Forest. It´s still in the area so we´re hoping it will make its way down to Gile Reserve where it will be better protected and maybe find the company of other elephants. Exciting perks to working for WWF and CARE!

Looking at a Farmer Field School in the community of Namizope

Unfortunately these kinds of things don´t happen every day, but my normal work schedule has been interesting. I´ve been visiting farms to observe Farmer Field Schools (teaching new farming techniques to improve crop yield, introduce disease resistant strains of cassava, show how planting nitrogen-producing legumes benefits other crops, etc.) and determine what we need to do to improve our monitoring of these kinds of activities. I´ve watched meetings in Potone Sacred Forest about land titling, sat down with communities in northern Sangage to listen to their plans of replanting mangroves, and visited proposed sites of new marine sanctuaries on the coast. Now I´m trying to take everything I´ve learned in the field and create new forms that will help us capture all the information we need about the work being done. I´m learning on the job, but I can´t think of a better place to do it than in Angoche.

 It´s amazing to think how much my life has changed after moving to Angoche. I moved into my new house last month which is twice as big as my house was my first two years in Moz in Mopeia. I have running water and an incredible shower (no hot water but it´s rarely needed). I have ceiling fans. I have internet at the office. There is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world within walking distance. There is a bank in my town. There are other Peace Corps volunteers in Angoche. And volunteers not from Angoche come here on the weekends to get away and relax. A year ago I was sitting in Mopeia isolated and bored, had read over 100 books, and was looking forward to the several hours drive to get out to see my friends and relax in the city. Now I never want to leave Angoche.

On New Years Eve, there were 16 volunteers from all over the North in Angoche and I realized that after a week of sleeping on a matrix of mattresses all over the floor, doing too many dishes, and living in close quarters with people I barely knew, that I never wanted it to end. It was one of my favorite weeks ever. And when we heard the dj doing the countdown on December 31 from the local discoteca (the power was out but they were running on a generator so the entire town could hear it), I thought “This is going to be a good year!” Granted the countdown went a little something like this: “59,58,57,56, oh- Feliz Ano Novo!” Not quite the buildup that you usually look forward to during the last seconds of the year, but it didn´t matter. I was with friends and I was happy.