Marine Corps Marathon Training – Week 1

I got into Marine Corps through the 2018 lottery. After running the Green River Marathon from Vermont to Massachusetts last August, I sustained a bizarre pelvic injury. I actually ran the entire marathon feeling like I was in early labor with a massive pressure bearing down on my pelvis. Needless to say it was not my best marathon. I had felt it a little the week before, but didn’t really think anything of it. I continued to train for Marine Corps until the third week of September when I finally identified that the pressure and dull pain only occurred when running. Three doctors were unable to diagnose a specific cause for what I was feeling. I was basically told to just rest and let it heal. Thankfully I was able to defer my entry to Marine Corps to 2019.

A week prior to the Green River Marathon, on a whim my husband and I went to an open house around the corner from where we lived in a nice quiet neighborhood we have always loved. Two weeks later we sold our house and less than four weeks after that we moved! Talk about a whirlwind.

In the midst of our move my son started 6th grade in a new school and I began another graduate class. My job began shifting into high gear as well. I was working from early in the morning until it was time to go to the library in the evening to do school work.

I went from a 20 mile training run in mid-September to zero! It was devastating, but it had all become just too much and something had to give. The injury (or whatever it was) was a clear sign that I would have to give up the intense training. Without dwelling on my regrets at this juncture, I just want to say I really wish I had not completely abandoned all physical activity. Inevitably I gained weight, lost flexibility and endurance over the course of the next 6 months. What is done is done.

By mid-winter I was feeling better and ready to move again. My running partner was also coming out of a lengthy running hiatus due to illness. We started slow, really really slow with walks. By early spring we were running again, a little bit, but building up to more regular runs and eventually a 10K in early June. We ran the Amica Iron Horse 10K in Simsbury, CT. It was a beautiful day, quaint area, and a really well organized race. Oh and cute medal! In all honesty, I felt like crap. I am out of shape. But I have the best running partner in the world. She does not care how fast (or slow) we go. She talked me through some of the challenging parts of the race and we ran and talked the entire way.

I wish I could say I have taken the bull by the horns, jump out of bed every morning at 3:30AM ready to workout, make my green juice, and tackle the hard road ahead. April threw a massive wrench into my plans. These aren’t excuses just reality. I work in the private health insurance industry for a senior care plan that is essentially overseen by my state’s Medicaid program. Long story short, the state needs to save money. We were required to remediate charts and revise entire sections of documentation from February on by the end of April while still doing our current work. We also endured multiple trainings at our headquarters out near Boston to learn new assessments and how to complete current assessments to comply with state requirements. In order to arrive for the 9AM start time, I had to leave my house by 6AM because the traffic is ridiculous the closer you get to Boston. We were not mandated, but strongly encouraged, to work overtime to get our work done. I was working almost around the clock between my job and another graduate course.

I was losing my mind and I was joined by every nurse case manager in my company across the state. Some of the nurses quit and I am sure there will be more as more changes continue to be made almost on a weekly basis. I wanted to quit and cried almost daily. Let’s be real though. I have a mortgage to pay, bills to pay, and a child to care for. I would love to follow my dreams and passions (this certainly isn’t my dream job), but I also have responsibilities and obligations. This job may not be ideal, but I work from home and therefore I get to be present in my son’s life. He can enjoy summer at home hanging out at our pool with his friends while I type away from the patio or our beautiful granite topped island in my kitchen that overlooks our backyard. This is what kept me hanging on my the remaining shreds of fingernails I managed not to bite off during the intense upheaval of my professional life.

Days went by and my training plan got pushed further and further out. My plans to lose that winter snowsuit were overshadowed by emotional eating. Oh dear god it’s like a vicious cycle. Through the chaos I tried to move as much as possible even if it was just a walk or a short run. But I was exhausted (and if you know me you know this is not a word I use – ask my husband and son). On a couple of occasions when my son slept at a friend’s house in the first couple weeks of his summer vacation, I could not bear the thought of waking up and getting out of bed to face my work computer. I ignored the alarm. I tried to shut off my brain. I buried myself under the blanket. Finally at the latest possible moment, I would get out of bed feeling the heaviness on my body and mind. I was depressed (another word I do not use lightly).

No time to wallow though. There was a ticking deadline that I could not ignore. I have already paid far too much money for the Marine Corps Marathon between the entry fee and deferral fee. Plus I want to run again and having a lofty goal like a marathon is probably exactly what I need to get my rear in gear. I knew that as of July 1, 2019 training had to officially begin, but until then I would give myself some freedom to do, feel, think, and eat however I pleased.

I have started reducing the overtime at work over the last few weeks. I am taking a break from graduate school for the summer. I am trying to be more mindful of what I eat and have started tracking my food again on My Fitness Pal.

My Marine Corps Marathon goals are:

  • to have fun and enjoy running
  • to forget about pace
  • run by time rather than miles
  • return to a vegan diet for the training cycle
  • incorporate stretching, yoga, hills, speed work, and a variety of activity to keep my body moving

Below is my plan and what I really did for the first week:

PLANREALITY
Monday 7/1 – 30 minute run 

Tuesday 7/2 – Strength, Cross
training (bike, walk, hike), Stretch 

Wednesday 7/3 – Speed workout (2×400, 2×800, 2×400, 1×800, 1×400) 

Thursday 7/4 – 45 minute run 

Friday 7/5 – Yoga, Stretch, Core, move (12,000 steps) 

Saturday 7/6 – long run 

Sunday 7/7 – Core, Move (12-15,000 steps minimum), Stretch
7/1 – Pre-run stretch, 5 minute
walk, 35 minute run with cool down walk – Total 4+ miles 

7/2 – Walk, HIIT video, Groin
stretch 

7/3 – 45 minute run 

7/4 – Walk, rest 

7/5 – Walked just over 15,000
steps, groin stretch, yoga for
neck/shoulders video, Barre core 
video

7/6 Rest 

7/7 – 60 minute run

So the groin stretches are for another weird issue. One morning over a month ago, I woke up and my right leg shot up in the air spontaneously. I felt a shooting pain in the groin area and have felt it the tightness radiating to the knee ever since. I consulted two physical therapists and was given some exercises to do. I was told it should heal over time. It does not bother me at all when running and does not feel worse after a run. My running is slow and I have been trying to keep up with the stretches as often as possible.

I would say all in all I feel good about how the week went. I think week two will be even better.

Seasons Change

I write daily blog posts in my head. I am often sorry I missed the boat on becoming a professional blogger. I don’t think pursuing that now would be all that sustainable or financially lucrative for me.

Fall is nearing its end. It’s my favorite season. Yet for much of it this year we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather. I’m not complaining, but now we seem to be entering winter weather a bit prematurely.

Since my last post my life looks like this:

  • Wake up at 3:30/3:40AM, go to the gym to be home by 5:15 when Orlando has to leave for work. I have been participating in a Step Bet challenge so I use this morning gym time to get my steps in on the elliptical while reading my school assignments. It’s been a super productive hour or so.
  • Get ready for the day, pack Carlos’ lunch, make Carlos’ breakfast, prep patient visits or other work tasks.
  • 7:35 stop at Cumberland Farms for much needed giant coffee. I’m not a coffee snob and for 99 cents you can’t beat it. It stays super hot in my stainless steel travel mug for a good two hours.
  • Bring Carlos to school for 8AM.
  • Usually I see one to two patients starting at 9AM.
  • Home by 11/11:30AM. Eat something. Do some laundry.
  • Noon – 3PM paperwork
  • Some days I will take a break for a 30 minute – 1 hour run
  • 3:15PM pick up Carlos
  • The afternoon varies depending on Carlos’ activities. I typically do not plan on any work productivity between 3-6PM. I make work phone calls, cook dinner, and do some things around the house. It’s not a time I can use to do any focused work.
  • Most nights between 6-7PM, I head to the Mount Holyoke College library to tackle school work.
  • I have been committed to getting to bed by 11PM most nights. Some nights I actually make it earlier.

Then I repeat it all the next day. On October 1st, I began a new role at work as a Clinical Liaison for my team. So far I’m not so sure it was a great decision. Although my caseload is being lowered a bit, it has not had an impact on the amount of work in the present because the patients I have given up were not due to be seen for a month or two. I have the same amount of patients to see right now with the added responsibilities of this new position. I will be training new RNs on our team eventually, and I have already started leading WebEx trainings for new nurses across the state.

Work has been stressful for another reason. Last December my boss was let go. A nurse on my team took her place. She’s wonderful, supportive, approachable, and really reasonable. Our team is made up of two sections of Massachusetts. I work on the Western Mass portion of the team which is small in comparison to the Worcester portion. In the spring a nurse from my area became our supervisor. There was never a clear understanding of her role yet it became quickly evident that she was essentially managing the Western Mass staff. She’s the complete opposite of our manager. She is cold, unapproachable, task oriented, inflexible, and demanding. It has placed an unbelievable amount of stress amongst our group. One of my colleagues has taken the brunt of her wrath. The worst part is that her behavior is totally unnecessary and it is going to drive some great staff out of the job which will mean nothing to her, but will increase the work demands for those of us remaining.

I decided to return to grad school at the end of August. I had two more core courses to complete before I can begin the actual program specific classes. I was dreading these two courses – Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice. My fears were quickly realized. Each course is 8 weeks. I did get an A in Nursing Research, but I work my tail off to earn that grade. Not only was the course demanding and pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone, but the professor was absolutely no nonsense. I turned in a paper 37 minutes late and lost 20% on the grade. It was my own fault. I owned it and I didn’t offer any excuses. She was completely unforgiving and made a comment on my next paper to “watch those late assignments” as though I turned them all in late. It was just the one!

These courses I am taking are all online and follow a very similar structure. The course begins on a Monday. We have a discussion post due on Wednesday night by 11:55PM Eastern time. Between Thursday to Saturday we are expected to respond to two of our peers for a minimum participation grade, but if we are Type A overachievers and want the full participation grade then 4-5 responses are needed. The discussion post and responses are not a short blurb. Research is required and we must include references. For both the research class there were two extensive papers due midterm and at the end. We also had an actual midterm and final exam, timed online. The evidence-based practice class I am taking now also requires two larger projects, one of which is due tomorrow night by 11:55PM. I am nowhere near done, completely lost, writing myself in circles, and frustrated. Will it get done? Yes. Will it get done well? I’m not so sure on this one. It is like nothing I’ve ever done and I honestly don’t know if I am on the right track with it. This course ends on 12/15 and I am counting the days.

I ran the Zooma Half Marathon in Falmouth at the Cape in early October. I was there as a Zooma ambassador. I met some wonderful women and ran a lovely race with new friend Heidi. We chatted and chatted until I could see that she was picking up steam around mile 11 so we parted ways. My legs weren’t quite as perky at that point, but I was pleased with the race I ran nonetheless. I have no other races planned. I am not training for anything. I just run when I feel like it and for as long and as fast as I want. I am beginning to think about possible spring marathons.

Carlos, his best friend Tyler, and I did our annual Halloween spooky attraction. This time it was the Rails to the Dark Side haunted trolley and haunted trolley museum. The night was awesome!

Carlos and I are on a flight from Florida right now. He had Thursday and Friday off this week. I had a ton of time off to use before the end of the year. We also had Jet Blue vouchers to use before they expire. We planned a quick trip down south to visit my dad and sister. I used the opportunity to get some work done on my paper due tomorrow and to catch up on paperwork. Working in the sun by the pool made it much more bearable. The weather was gorgeous.

Time to land!!

Bridge of Flowers 10K 2017

Morning came too quickly. I got up hoping to see a message from my friend, Michelle, informing me she couldn’t run that morning. It wasn’t there. The sun was out, but the air was cool. I knew we would be running. I have run the Bridge of Flowers 10K six times since 2010, missing only 2014 after injuring my Achilles. My heart and body did not feel in it this year. I began the summer killing my training plan. I was feeling amazing. I had a specific pace goal and I was nailing my training runs. Then it fell apart.

The downward spiral began with a dental procedure at the beginning of July. I needed to have skin removed from the roof of my mouth to graft to the gums below my two front bottom teeth. I am no stranger to dental surgery, and I pride myself on being able to tolerate discomfort and pain to a high degree. When my dentist described the aftermath as akin to what it feels like when you burn the roof of your mouth only much worse. Well that was an understatement.  For two weeks, I was unable to eat or drink anything except a well-blended smoothie and tepid water out of a straw while tipping my head to the left side. Even that  caused me to cry. After a week of excruciating pain, I returned to the dentist certain something was terribly wrong. He assured me I was healing well, but was experiencing heightened sensitivity due to the exposed nerve endings.

While this was going on, work issues escalated for the nursing team and we were put under an enormous amount of pressure to clean up messes that we did not create. I was hungry, exhausted, and frustrated. Some personal issues crept into the mix as well. My stomach was empty and tangled with worry. I worked sun up to sun down while trying to be sure my son’s summer vacation was not affected. Running all but stopped. I tried to run a few times, stupidly in the high heat of the day because it was the only time I could go, and inevitably the runs were demoralizing.

I emailed my coach and told her I had to stop.  Something had to give and this time it had to be my training. I didn’t want to stop moving my body. I just wanted to stop the structured training plan. I was walking daily and doing some yoga at home when I could fit it into the day. Instead of being tied to a schedule I began doing whatever I felt like with my own self-imposed goal of moving for at least an hour every day if not more. I took a Barre class, did two OrangeTheory classes while visiting family in Florida, ran without pace goals, walked, rode my bike, and I swam. It was refreshing. My mouth eventually healed. Work is still insane and a bit unhealthy. I don’t want to say too much because the obvious response from people seems to be “if it’s so bad maybe it’s time to find another job.” I can’t argue with that point, but it’s never quite that black and white. Personal matters ebb and flow, but through the teachings of Sharon Salzberg, meditation and self-reflection, I continue to grow, accept responsibility for my own short comings, and in the end I will emerge a stronger, better, and happier person. I know things will be ok, but my patience and ability to give space to the issues is being tested. Historically, I am not a patient person. I like quick resolve, but that will not help things this time. Deep breaths!

My training fell apart for Bridge of Flowers. In the week leading up to the race I had the most horrendous work week of the summer. My hormones were also wreaking havoc as I retained water and felt like my body had become as wide as the Goodyear Blimp. I was in absolutely no mood to conquer Crittendon Hill this year. My friend, Michelle, texted a few days before to make a plan for race day. I knew I would run the race, but I wouldn’t like it! Race day came and surprisingly I woke up feeling better than I had in previous days. I did all my pre-race rituals. The weather outside was perfect. I was relieved that we would not have to deal with the stifling heat and humidity we experienced at last year’s race.

We arrived in Shelburne Falls with 45 minutes to spare, but the road to the parking area was already closed for the short 3K race. We waited in a line of vehicles for the road to reopen.  People were getting antsy, but I felt calm. Even if the race started without us, and I knew it wouldn’t, we would be joined by everyone in the car line. We eventually parked, picked up our bibs, and used the bathrooms before walking about 5 minutes to the starting area. As we left the packet pick up area, I heard a volunteer signal to someone on her walky talky to hold the start 10 minutes.

We took our time to the start on the Iron Bridge.

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As soon as we settled into middle of the pack, the national anthem began, the gun sounded and we were off. I knew instantly that I would run the race with my heart and soul. This is my race. I know this course better than any other. I know the tangents. I know the hills. I know where I can let it all out and I know when to hold back. The old familiar feelings welled up inside and I knew I made the right choice to run.

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Bridge of Flowers is my current 10K PR though it is a pre-Achilles injury feat. I am far from running that kind of pace right now. I wanted to run it in under an hour and my A goal was to beat my 2015 time in an attempt to begin working towards getting back to that 10K PR pace and beyond. I ran hard and pushed pace more than I thought I would be able to, but it wasn’t enough to meet either goal. I finished in 1:00:23. I finished the last mile with gusto. My feet were on fire. I was neck and neck with another woman, and I made a private competition out of it, pushing myself above and beyond my comfort zone in the last half mile. I pulled ahead of her so far she couldn’t catch me. It was exhilarating. This was all in my head obviously, but it made for a fun and fast finish for me. As I rounded the corner back onto the Iron Bridge my feet felt as though they were lifted off the ground. I was beaming. The bridge is always lined with spectators cheering wildly. It’s my favorite part of the entire race. I paused my headphones so I could hear my name being announced as I crossed the finish line. I get a charge out of it every year.

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I’m not disappointed with my time or my performance. Running is not just a passing phase in my life. It’s a part of my life and has been for many years now. I love running. It brings me peace and clarity.  I also love training for races. I enjoy the challenges running goals create. However, one crucial thing I learned after being injured a few years ago is that when my body or mind signal that I need a break it’s imperative I listen. I have come to trust that taking a break from running does not mean it’s the end. When I am ready to return, I do it gently and from a place of love. I don’t watch my pace or the minutes I’m out running. I simply run.

This won’t be my last Bridge of Flowers. It is my race. The course may be the same each year, but it challenges me in a different way every single time. It frustrates me sometimes. It makes me smile too. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter what my time is at the end, I have always run my best race and each finish makes me proud. Until next year!

Monterey and Carmel

We were up and out early on Saturday. We took the scenic route to Monterey along the coast. Monterey is as lovely as I had imagined. We went straight to the marathon expo at the Portola Hotel. It was not difficult to find, just follow the Boston Marathon jackets and race tech tees. There was a line of people waiting to get their photo taken in front of a Big Sur International Marathon sign. I thought, what’s the big deal? Well I didn’t realize at first that the sign had the names of all the runners. Of course I jumped in line. Thankfully the names were in alphabetical order. Carlos gets his photography skills from me!

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We wandered down to the wharf in Monterey. We took some photos and saw a few sea lions.

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We had time to kill before we could check into our hotel so we decided to drive to Carmel to scope out the finish line area. We found the finish area easily and then went straight to the beach. It was beautiful out, but a bit chilly. Carlos and Orlando played soccer. Carlos made friends with JD the black lab.

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I lounged and watched people perfect their selfies and social media posts. You cannot believe how long it takes a group of four women to coordinate a simultaneous jump for joy and have it captured on camera. It actually takes less time to do that than it does for boyfriend to photograph girlfriend throwing her scarf in the air, over and over and over again. How cute??!

We discovered we were very close to one of the entrances to the 17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach. If you are into gorgeous scenery, slow drives, and imagining what it would be like to live in stunning homes then this is well worth the $10. Orlando and I loved it. We dream of one day building our own seaside home on our land in a small beach town in Mozambique. Of course it will be nowhere near as grand as the homes we saw. We stopped at many of the landmarks on the ocean and that gave Carlos the opportunity to climb on the rocks so he was happy too.img_2532-1

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Back in Monterey we checked into the Munras Inn. The room was lovely, but we would have preferred a vacation rental that offers a little more space. Lodging is expensive in the Monterey/Carmel area. For anyone planning their trip to the area specifically for the marathon, plan early and check out VRBO, Home Away, etc. in Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Carmel. Had I started planning a little earlier we might have found a property at a more reasonable price, although these areas are pricey in general. Our hotel was a little less than a mile to the Marriot where I would catch the bus for Big Sur on marathon morning. It was an easy walk and with so many runners out I wasn’t worried about being alone. My family was very appreciative that I didn’t wake them at 3:45AM to drive me.

I thought about attending the pasta dinner, but the only seatings were at 4:30 and 5:30PM, but we were still out in Carmel. We found a local Italian place. I had a sub-par dish of spaghetti. It was a bit disappointing because running a marathon is really my only excuse to enjoy a big bowl of pasta.

There is a ritualistic process that takes place the night before a marathon. First I lay out my clothing for the race. I always put the safety pins in the bib unfastened. I set up all of my necessities. Most importantly I set as many alarms as I can especially when a race requires a 2:40AM wake up call. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up on time for the race.

Then I was asleep in a matter of minutes once I got into bed. It was a beautiful, relaxing day, but I was excited and anxious about the marathon.

 

Loving it

I have a serious accumulation of draft posts including this one that I begin and never finish. I may have started this one months ago, but I am still loving these things.

This spring I bought myself a new pair of everyday non-running sneakers. They are Brooks Vanguard in Grey. They are extremely comfortable and a little nicer than the Converse I’ve been wearing around for far too many years.

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Reusable Mesh Produce Sacks because I really hate using so many plastic bags at the grocery store. According to my son I’m a little too excited about these bags. Maybe I’m not saving the planet, but I feel a little less wasteful.

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Quart Size Ball Jars to make some of these:

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Clear Apple iPhone 6S Case because I really like the look of my phone and hate seeing it all covered up by a bulky phone case. This case is thin, goes on easily, and seems to provide adequate protection.

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s still my favorite coffee from one of my favorite cafes so I don’t mind mentioning it again. I love this Mexican coffee from Esselon Café in Hadley, MA. It’s one of my favorite restaurants as well. The menu is small but it accommodates a plant based diet.

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Running: After months of marathon training I am still in love with running. It was an awesome training that I really want to write about soon. The Chicago marathon is on 10/9/16. I am in taper right now and ready as I’ll ever be. I came to a really profound decision through this training that although it is great to have time goals ultimately I really want to cross the finish line feeling physically well, uninjured, and smiling. This is not the year for a PR. It simply is not and that is ok. I went through a rigorous training, got some of my fitness back, and I am beginning to develop a clear idea of where I want to go from here.

Music: My running playlist needs a serious overhaul. Here are few new tunes I’ve added recently –

  • Renegades – X Ambassadors
  • Wild Things – Alessia Cara
  • Drinking from the Bottle – Calvin Harris feat. Tinie Tempah
  • Cheap Thrills – Sia feat. Sean Paul
  • Hymn for the Weekend – Cold Play

Reading:  Healthcare Policy and Ethics, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)… Jealous?!!

Watching: We don’t have cable and I don’t have much time to watch shows or movies, but I tend to pick one series to watch while I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing mundane computer work. This summer I watched 6 seasons of Pretty Little Liars. Yes I did! Don’t judge. It was so addicting. There is a 7th season, but it’s not on Netflix yet thank god because I don’t have time for that right now.

Podcast: I love podcasts. They make a long drive more fun. They are great to pop on while cleaning or cooking. Like television shows I tend to sort of binge on one or two podcasts at a time. This summer I discovered the One Part Podcast by Jessica Murnane. It’s an eclectic mix of guests along with Jessica’s enthusiastic and genuine interest for their stories.

However, can I just say I really yearn for a podcast that features people more like myself. Most of the podcasts I listen to highlight people who make their living online or in a non-traditional way. Many of the guests have left less desirable careers to follow their dreams. As enticing and enviable as that is, it is often not financially feasible or responsible. Maybe I will start my own!!

 

 

 

Waterville Valley – Memorial Day Weekend

We spent a wonderful Memorial Day weekend at Waterville Valley in NH. Orlando and I had been once before a couple of years ago. The entire time we were there we kept saying, “Carlos would love this.” We were right!


Waterville Valley is a really easy 3 hour drive from our home. It is a beautiful area nestled in the White Mountains. The area is beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge. We had a very spacious room with a separate bedroom, living room and kitchen. The hotel was located close to the Town Square where you can find shops, restaurants, and activities. 

I got up early and enjoyed  a couple of long solo hikes. Carlos and Orlando opted for swimming and soccer. It is a laid back environment with so many things to do; kayaks, paddle boats, tennis, golf, and biking. You can even go ice skating year round in the indoor rink. Outside of the resort I had no cell service at all. It is really nice to disconnect every now and then. It was a perfect short getaway. 

On the way back we stopped in Hanover, NH for lunch and a walk through the Dartmouth Campus. My husband and I are both enamored with New England college campuses. It was a gorgeous day to take our time getting home.

There is one thing I loath about weekend trips and that is having to go grocery shopping when we get home. Not this time! I put in an order for Peapod grocery delivery because I had a code for free shipping. I had time to unpack, prepare for the week, and clean up the refrigerator.  Around 8pm my groceries were delivered right into my kitchen! An easy end to a great weekend. I will most definitely be doing that again.

The House in Chokwe

Orlando and I are the proud landowners of two plots of land here in Mozambique. We are  financially unable to purchase land in the US, but given the relatively low land prices here in Mozambique it was a wise decision to invest in land here.

Our first purchase was a simple square of land high on a hill overlooking the lagoon of Bilene. We opted for the spanning view of the crystal blue water over a waterfront plot on the backside of the lagoon. We are both drawn to expansive views. The waterfront land was isolated and offered a lovely sight of the water, but it abutted land already owned by a resort. That signaled potential future issues namely a busy flow of people bringing with them noise and litter. After touring the waterfront land we were driven to the land on the hill. I think we both knew instantly that it was our land. I would have accepted any decision Orlando made because this is where he is from and I wanted him to feel most connected with the choice, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt when I saw the land on the hill that it was his preference too.

These are older photos from when the wall was going up around the land. The photos obviously don’t do the view justice.

Orlando worked hard to secure the purchase of the land in Bilene after our 2009 visit to Mozambique. I admire his tenacity. Like most processes here in Mozambique buying property is no easy task, complete with a great deal of bureaucracy, red tape, bribes, and paperwork. My brother-in-law assisted with the transaction, but the sale was not concluded until we next visited in 2011.

The land has a mandatory wall surrounding it, a specially made sign designating it as ours and some fruit trees. There is a family nearby that is paid to care for the land and the fruit trees. One day we will build a home there.

After renting homes in Chokwe during our visits in 2009 and 2011 we had talked about the possibility of building a small “dependencia” on my in-law’s land. A dependencia is a small house which is typically devoid of a kitchen and bathroom as those activities are usually done outdoors. Cooking is done over a coal stove and many bathrooms are still outdoor latrines. My only stipulation was that our dependencia have a functional bathroom indoors. At some point Orlando was confronted with the opportunity to buy land in his hometown of Chokwe, where I also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The plot was in a newly developed area which was once vacant land housing an old ruined stadium and a newer soccer stadium. We had seen the development on our visit in 2011 and I didn’t need much convincing that it was the right place for us to build a home. Orlando worked through his brother to secure the land purchase. I think it went a little more smoothly than the first time he bought land.

Orlando got the land cleared and started the ball rolling for construction to begin during his solo visit to Mozambique in February of 2015. He returned from his trip motivated and energized by the prospect of having our own home in Chokwe. The first order of business was to build a dependencia for my brother-in-law to live in so he could also guide the construction of the main house. I’m happy to see that his dependencia has a small kitchen inside and an adjoining bathroom which is much fancier than a latrine. I know Orlando feels a sense of security knowing that his brother is watching over things.

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Our house was initially meant to be a small two bedroom home to provide us with a comfortable place to stay when we visit. I stay a safe distance from decisions affecting the land here. I am included in discussions and dilemmas surrounding the building process, but I tend to be less opinionated about it than I am about other issues. Orlando made a sacrifice leaving his family to relocate to the US and although he has carved out a successful life there, I know he misses home. I want this home to feel as though it is about him. After some thought and conversations with his brother and friend here he decided to make the home much bigger than originally planned. We now have a three bedroom, two bath home complete with a large open living room/kitchen space, and a garage. I’m not demanding and I actually prefer to live in simple surroundings, but my one request again was that I have a nice functional bathroom for my visit in December.

I was assured “my bathroom” and the bedrooms would be ready for our visit this December. Unfortunately I know Mozambique all too well and like most things here construction is also slow. We have walls, a roof, windows with screens, doors, bare bedrooms, and some semblance of a bathroom. It turns out the bathrooms were built too small and they furnished one bathroom with the basic equipment to function for our visit, but once we leave it will all be ripped out. The two small bathrooms will be joined to form one large bathroom and there will be a second bathroom installed on the other side of the house.

We spent the first night in Chokwe in a hotel so Orlando and his brothers could prepare the home for our stay. The bedrooms had beds, a reed mat and mosquito nets that we brought with us. After a couple of days I requested a strong rope be strung up in the closet and hangars so I could move our clothing out of the suitcase. I also bought a plastic shelving unit to house toiletries, under garments, socks, and some books I brought. Surprisingly that was enough to make me feel settled.

We lost water most days from morning until late in the afternoon so I took a few bucket baths. That I can handle. When I did shower in my half done cement bathroom it was no shower curtain, but given the heat the water felt refreshing anyway. Carlos actually opted for bucket baths in my brother-in-law’s bathroom. He has no interest in the “weird” cement shower. Considering some of the bathrooms I have had here in Mozambique this one, although not my dream bathroom, is not the worst I’ve had to use.

Orlando has spent a great deal of time discussing future plans of the house with the construction crew. He is not thrilled about how some of the process has gone, and he would like to rectify that as the project moves ahead. His immediate goal is to finish the house and rent it until we return for our next visit. There is an abundance of need for rentals in Chokwe because of all the aid organizations working in town.

I’m proud of what my husband has done. It is nice to have a place to come home to that we can call our own. It grounds us and connects us always to this place where we first met, fell in love and got married.