Born a Backpacker – Nia Chauvin, Mozambique 2007-09
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Nia Chauvin served as an English teacher in small northern town in Mozambique from 2007-2009. While serving, she fell in love with her now husband and fell deeper in love with traveling. Now, Nia continues to travel the world with her husband and their young son. Through her website Born a Backpacker, she wants to show other parents that they can continue to travel with children, especially to countries where Peace Corps Volunteers call home.
Photos from Nia’s Story
Nia Chauvin’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I served as an English teacher in Mozambique from 2007-2009. I lived in the Northern Region in a small town.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
There are far too many and they range from the times when I felt like I was making an impact on my students lives, and the times when I would get together with other Peace Corps volunteers, or when I would walk way out to the bush to meet and stay with friends’ families. But oddly, what’s sticking out right now for some reason is my daily routine of waking up at 4:30am (when all the other women would get up), fetch water with them, sweep my front dirt, hand wash my laundry, clean the floors with a rag like I watched all the Mozambican women do, and then be ready for the day at 7am. I guess it’s the little things sometimes.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
In the first few months of being at my new home in Mozambique, I found a female friend, my first real friend. How I met her was unfortunate, but nevertheless it brought us together. One day her husband came to my home asking for money for milk for his child. Being new and not jaded at that point, I talked to him a little bit and decided I would give him money for milk on loan if he paid me back by the end of the week. He never came back. I don’t remember how, but I found his home that next week to ask for the money. When I arrived to his home, he ran. His wife, a 22 year old who was pregnant with their 4th child started talking to me. She was so confused why he ran, and I played it off like I had no idea. We started talking about our lives and who we were. As we were talking, she had mentioned that her husband went out the other day to try to get some money to get milk for their youngest child, but he wasn’t able to (which means he spent my money on something else which means he’s scum). Over the next few weeks, we became closer. I was the only person she was allowed to hang out with (per her husband’s rules), so she would stop by often, as her pregnant belly got bigger and bigger, and we would walk through the market and just chat. I realized she was who I would be if I were born in Mozambique in her situation, and it was my first dose of understanding my privilege. One day I was in the marketing buying some bread. Her husband walked up to me and in the most casual, nonchalant voice he said, “Tu amiga ja faleceu” (You’re friend is dead). Thinking that I misunderstood, I asked him to repeat himself. In the same casual voice he said, “Tu amiga já faleceu”. I made him repeat it 3 more times in disbelief, and every time he said it with a smirk and without the reverence that that statement deserves. He told me that she died during childbirth and the baby was in a town a few hours away with her mother, then he walked away as I stood there frozen. I never saw him again. I never got more to the story, I couldn’t find where the funeral was, I couldn’t find her mother to offer her help. That happened early on in my service and I had a hard time bouncing back from that. It was an introduction to the reality of Mozambique and the developing which I was not prepared for.
What do you miss about Peace Corps?
Being completely integrated into a community and culture so different from my own. My time in Peace Corps was the most formative, and two of the greatest years of my life, so it’s hard not to just miss it all–the good and the bad.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
That the most inexpensive food is sometimes the most delicious. Shout out to the 30 cent meals in the market and the mamas making them.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
Estamos Juntos meaning “We are together”
Born a Backpacker
Nia met her husband in Mozambique where they were both Peace Corps volunteers. As she says it, their “life together started with weird diseases, odd experiences, unfortunate mistranslations, and adventures that seem a lot more fun in hindsight.” Traveling is the foundation of their relationship, which they now happily share it with their baby.
“I kept landing on forums with people shaming parents for traveling to the more rugged places, saying how terrible of an idea it is, and sarcastically writing”good luck”. No no noooo. Didn’t I learn anything after reading pregnancy forums? Forums just kinda suck and seem to always make me feel like I’m about to die. I got no useful information from them, and instead, it just embedded a seed of doubt and nerves that didn’t subside until we started traveling. So, I created this blog with the goal to normalize traveling with a baby and demystify it for any parents or parents-to-be that are hesitant to take the leap.” – Nia Chauvin
For more about Born a Backpacker, visit: www.bornabackpacker.com
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